ICF Construction: 50 Years in the Making

March 20, 2017

The ICF block began with a day at the beach.  A young German contractor, Werner Gregori, had immigrated to Canada and was vacationing on the coast in 1966.  As he looked at his surroundings, he noticed the foam plastic cooler chilling drinks as well as children building castles.  Suddenly, Gregori had an inspiration.  “When I saw kids on the beach playing with the sand, I realized that if concrete blocks could be formed using that foam plastic, many construction costs and hours of labor could be eliminated.”  His simple idea would become a revolutionary product: Insulated Concrete Forms; one that is still changing the construction industry fifty years later.

Within a year of his idea, Gregori had developed the first ICF, known as “Foam Form.”  It measured 16″ high by 48″ long, had a tongue-and-groove interlock, metal ties and a waffle grid core.  Following receipt of patents from both Canada and the US, Gregori met with BASF, the German company who invented Styrofoam.  The use of EPS bead and Portland cement refined his idea further, creating the first composite ICF in 1971.

Meanwhile, the ICF market expanded to North America, but interest had nearly phased out by the early 80s.  Even still, a handful of committed tradesmen continued to redesign ICFs and move the idea forward.  By the late 90s, the industry was back on track, with sales volumes doubling every year.  Rapid growth continued during the building boom of the early 2000s, only to be halted by the economic crisis that same decade.  The economic downturn, however, proved to have a silver lining, forcing many of the smaller ICF brands to cease production and the industry to consolidate.

Conditions for growth appear to be more favorable than ever, given the wide range of ICF Construction benefits.  Advantages such as energy efficiency, structural safety, comfort, fast installation and low waste make this building system one of the fastest growing alternatives to traditional stick built homes.  Stay tuned for one of our upcoming articles, ICF Construction: A Full Benefits Package, where the extensive list of attributes will be covered in detail.