Indoor environment quality: Inert. Insulation choices may have IEQconse-quences, as will finishes applied to exposed concrete. Waterproofing materials on the exterior may contaminate soil/ groundwater.
Foam insulated concrete forms are similar to the cement-bonded wood fiber ICFs detailed above, except the forms are made from one of three kinds of foam insulation: expanded polystyrene, extruded polystyrene, or polyurethane. Though often sold as a “green” material because of their reasonable degree of energy efficiency, they are incompatible with several sustainable criteria:
Ecosystem impacts: The full “chain of custody” for foam products needs to consider the wide range of ecosystem impacts of oil exploration, extraction, shipping and pipelining, refining, and processing. Foam building products typically contain flame retardants that are very dangerous to soil, water, and the human nervous system.
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Embodied carbon: Foam insulation will contribute significantly to the carbon footprint of your building.
Indoor environment quality: Off-gassing of foam products is a contentious topic. Many independent researchers have noted issues of strong concern; the foam industry says there is nothing to worry about. The precautionary principle reminds us that we have often underestimated the dangerousness of chemicals we create and use that industries and regulators have deemed “safe.” At the very least, the flame retardants in foam building products are known to have demonstrably ill effects on human health. Waste: During the construction phase, the cutting and shaving of ICF blocks can generate a high volume of foam particulate that is difficult to contain and typically ends up polluting the ground (see concerns about flame retardants). At the end of life, these types of hybrid materials (foam, concrete, steel) are very difficult to separate and are likely to add substantial volume to landfills. .0. Resiliency: Foam products used below grade are susceptible to serious damage from ants and termites, and this damage is very difficult to notice, assess, and repair. Though at odds with the majority in the construction industry, the author believes that the use of foam-based building materials is antithetical to the basic criteria of sustainable building, and strongly encourages you to consider other options. Rammed earth How the system works
A lightly moistened subsoil mix composed of clay, silt, sand, and aggregate is compressed forcefully to produce a dense and strong material. Traditionally tamped manually, much modern rammed earth is tamped with pneumatic machinery. Some type of formwork is used to contain the earth mix while it is being tamped, and the mix has an initial strength equal to the compressive force used for compaction and develops additional strength as the binder dries or cures.
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