Insulating concrete forms and structural insulated panels were found by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to be among the best building practices to reduce greenhouse gasses and waste generation from residential construction. In conjunction with the Oregon Home Builders Association, Quantis and Earth Advantage Institute, the Oregon DEQ recently completed the second phase of a new report, titled “A Life Cycle Assessment Based Approach to Prioritizing Methods of Preventing Waste from Residential Building”. The report rates best ways to reduce
greenhouse gas and waste generation from the residential construction sector. The goal of the project was to identify and characterize building practices that are likely to prevent waste and to determine which of those practices provide the greatest environmental benefit.
Of the 25 practices evaluated, ICFs and SIPs were ranked third and sixth for their energy efficiency benefits. Building multi-family housing and building a smaller home claimed the top-rated spots. The fifth spot went to “design using salvaged materials.” Strawbale construction had a slight advantage over salvaged materials and came in fourth.
The study examined energy use and waste from all stages of a home’s life;
construction, use and occupancy, maintenance and remodeling, demolition, and end-of-life disposal. Use and occupancy contributed in excess of 80% of the total climate change impact over the projected 70-year life of the home. The materials production stages (including original and replacement materials) contributed 12% overall, followed by transportation of materials and workers to and from the job site at 4%.
The best scoring practices were dominated by those that affect a home’s energy use. These included the use of alternative wall materials such as ICFs, SIPs, and strawbale. The report stated that many of the limitations of wood-frame construction are overcome by using these alternative systems. Additionally, the report found that because of the radical reduction or elimination of wood framing and the associated thermal bridges, the overall performance of ICFs exceeded the base case by a considerable margin.
According to the Oregon DEQ, unless one wants multi-family housing, a smaller home, or walls made of straw, ICF’s are one of the best ways to go. Contact the ICFA for more information on this report.