ROY — In addition to getting a nicer facility to learn and teach in come fall 2020, students and teachers at Roy Junior High in Weber School District will be meeting in a safer, quieter, more energy-efficient building.
All of these benefits come from using well known materials — concrete and styrofoam — in a more efficient way.
The new school building’s walls are being built using a product called insulated concrete forms. The new Roy Junior High building will be the first school in Utah to be built with this product.
In traditional construction, concrete is poured into a form or mold that needs to be removed after the concrete has hardened. Insulation is then added afterward.
Insulated concrete forms (ICF) turn the form into a permanent part of the building. Made of styrofoam, the specially designed forms actually become the insulation after the concrete hardens, serving a dual purpose as form and insulation.
“In most places, (builders) want to have what they call a wrap on (the building), which is a moisture and air barrier. Foam and concrete create that, so really we knock out five trades in one move when we do this,” said Mike Schwab, regional sales manager for Fox Blocks, the company that creates the insulated concrete forms that are being used in the new school’s construction.
Because the approach builds several steps into one, it also saves time on construction, Schwab said.
The concrete is reinforced with rebar, which is inserted through the concrete before it hardens.
Schwab said that rebar is inserted horizontally and vertically, allowing the building to “flex” in the event of an earthquake rather than collapse.
The method also reduces sound transfer between rooms, which is why it has been used to build Larry H. Miller Megaplex Theaters in Utah, Schwab said. Similarly, the walls are more likely to keep band practice from drifting down the hallway and disrupting other classes.
In addition to these safety and sound benefits, the product comes with cost and energy savings.
The concrete stays about the same temperature day and night because of the insulation.
Schwab said that on average, buildings using ICF have 46–60% energy savings compared to conventional buildings.
According to Concrete Decor magazine, Warren County School District in Kentucky has built several schools using ICF and has already reaped significant savings.
The district has saved $682,000 annually on just one school, South Warren Middle and High School, since it was built in 2012 by using ICF in combination with other energy-efficient systems.
While ICF can’t make a building “net zero” (meaning a building produces as much renewable energy as it consumes), it plays an important role in helping a building reach net zero, in combination with other elements.
One of Warren County’s schools, Richardsville Elementary, has reached net zero and was built using ICF.
Weber School District may be the first district in the state to use ICF in one of its school buildings, but other districts are following suit. On Thursday, representatives from Davis, Box Elder, Logan, Tooele, Granite and Jordan districts visited the site. Some of these districts already have building plans using ICF underway.
Ogden School District will be incorporating ICF into its new addition on Wasatch Elementary, according to Stephen Williams, project architect on the Roy Junior project. Williams works for Design West Architects.