ICFs are allowing producers to sell more concrete and more of everything to their customers. Since the mid-1990s, many producers have found an exciting new market niche by selling insulating concrete forms (ICFs) for above-grade concrete construction. Successful producers have used ICFs as a means of selling not only more concrete but also more pumping services--increasing concrete's share of the residential construction market in the process. The industry's response to this technology and strategic marking approach has been overwhelmingly positive.

With more than 19,000 concrete homes built in 1998, the Portland Cement Association projects this figure to exceed 100,000 by 2003. Based on 1998 PCA numbers, producers supplied a total of 1,039,500 yards of concrete in homes that otherwise would have used wood framing. By 2003 PCA projects this new market to grow to more than 6.5 million cubic yards.

Having actively promoted ICFs since 1996, general contractor Aphis designed a two-story, 6,000-square-foot, stucco concrete home called Rainier with concrete roofing tile and a stamped colored driveway, patio, and sidewalk. Voted best in show at the Clark County Home Builders Association's Parade of Homes, the home also won best concrete driveway honors.

Dave Frentress, director of marketing and business development for Aphis, says, "Our new [Rainier] scheme focused on educating and building public demand for concrete housing."

This innovative 27-year-old company solved the problem of a lack of ICF builders by taking ICF construction training courses from its ICF manufacturer. Having trained about 100 people thus far in ICF construction, Aphis currently has a list of architects, engineers, and 20 builders with 10 preferring to build concrete to stick-frame homes.

For 1999 Frentress estimates the company sold more than 10,000 yards of additional concrete for ICF residential homes alone--at about 200 yards per house.

In an industry of peaks and valleys, Frentress stresses that when the housing market goes down, ICF homes will keep the percentage of concrete per house at a higher level than previously.

In 1997, Transit-Mix Concrete Co. Inc. of Johnson City, Tenn., began pioneering ICF technology in northern Tennessee. Transit Mix introduced concrete pumping to the area 25 years ago. To date, Transit-Mix has completed 30 ICF homes of between 2,000 and 6,000 square feet and two light commercial buildings.

Given the market and the mindset, Ernie Walker Sr., president of Transit Mix, expects a 5% to 6% increase in the next 2 to 3 years for ICF sales and a 10% to 15% increase in pumping sales.

The most obvious benefit to the producer who sells ICFs is the potential to sell more concrete--with the help of contractors who learn a new building method.

Tom Dillenbeck, vice president, Thousand Island Ready Mix Concrete Inc., Lafargeville, N.Y., reports that customers have been very pleased with the product. "We're in a cold climate," says Dillenbeck. "ICF is probably more popular here than in other places. The more ICF gets publicized, the better off it's been."

The article includes sidebars on knowing your ICF mix, a list of manufacturers, and creating the look of stone with ICFs.