When Dr. Victor Amend moved to Toronto from Russia in 1998, he wanted a concrete house. Toting a PhD in Building Science, Amend understood the benefits of concrete over traditional home framing materials and asked his real estate agent to find him one. When his agent got back to him saying his only options were wood and steel frames, Amend got to thinking. Here was an opportunity to provide the North American market with a sustainable and efficient home building process.

Amend started looking at the insulated concrete form (ICF) market. While he saw that there were a few players in the business, he didn’t see an ideal product. Being a scientist, Amend developed an ICF that would be stronger, easier to use and less wasteful in the construction product. It was in 1999 that he started his own company, Amvic, and debuted what is now known as the Amvic ICF.

From the very beginning, the company experienced rapid success. By June of 1999, Amvic had already established itself in the ICF industry and was producing products for the North American market. Their growth allowed Amvic to open facilities in the United States, as well as increase the product line to include other expanded polystyrene (EPS) products for conventional construction. Today, Amvic is leading the industry in manufacturing ICFs, rigid insulation board, insulated concrete deck systems and packaging materials.

What are ICFs?
ICFs are permanent forms into which concrete is poured.  The forms are made from two 2.5-inch EPS panels that are held together by polypropylene webs. ICFs are interlocking modular units—something like Lego—and serve to create an insulated form for the structural walls of a building.

Before the concrete is pumped into the form, the ICF forms are reinforced with steel bars (aka rebar) to give the resulting walls structural strength. After the concrete has cured, the forms are left in place for thermal and acoustic insulation, space to run electrical and plumbing can be easily cut into the EPS panels, as well the framing for interior and exterior finishes is attached directly to the webs that originally held the two panels together.

Why not just stick to the traditional methods of wood, fluffy insulation and drywall? Because ICFs are energy efficient (they can reduce the energy costs by 30 to 50 per cent), sustainable, comfortable (they provide excellent indoor air quality and exceptional sound attenuation) and environmentally friendly.  

ICFs may not be considered a traditional home framing material yet, but they are gaining popularity. According to Gary Brown, Vice President of Business Development at Amvic, more people are catching on. “What was once used for foundations only, is now being used for full homes—walls, floors and roofs,” says Brown. “We recently used it on a 14-story student residence at the University of Waterloo,” he says. “Really, there’s no limit.”

The Amvic difference
Of course, the Amvic ICF was designed with different characteristics than the products that were already available on the market.  “Our ICF is reversible,” says Brown, “which means it doesn’t matter what way you stack it, you don’t have to turn it around. It makes things a lot easier in the construction phase. In addition, the webs holding the two EPS boards together are six inches on centre, instead of eight or 12 inches. The advantage there is a stronger block with more attachment areas for exterior and interior finishes. Drywall can be attached right on it without extra 2” x 4” strapping.”

Amvic also wanted to distinguish itself by being able to complete the building envelope. That’s why Amend developed a floor and roof system, called AmDeck. The system is a modular, lightweight, stay-in-place form that is also made of EPS. AmDeck is used to construct concrete floors and roofs for commercial, industrial and residential uses. The system uses lightweight steel framing studs that carry temporary construction loads until the concrete gains its required strength and act as furring strips to which interior finishes can be attached. 

For homes that still use traditional framing materials, Amvic created a product to ensure homeowners can still get superior air tight insulation. “SilveRboard is a flat-sheet insulation material made from EPS that is coated with reflective lamination on both sides,” Brown explains. “The rigid board is a higher efficiency insulation material that’s not fibrous, so mold and mildew are not an issue. SilveRboard also provides built-in moisture and air barriers, eliminating the need for house wrap.”

Amvic has covered its bases, ensuring their high-performance product line is diverse enough to apply in any building project.

Green building
By their very design, Amvic ICFs are environmentally sustainable. They eliminate construction waste, prevent air leakage and have a long lifecycle. “Because of the EPS insulation, ICFs make a tight wall system,” Brown adds. “When a building envelope isn’t tight, energy is wasted because our heating and cooling systems have to overcompensate for the loss. Moisture in the leaking air also causes mold and poor indoor air quality. With ICFs, there is no leakage. You use less energy and have better air quality. As for the money you save on energy, it’s somewhere between 30 and 50 per cent.”

Amvic also goes a step further. Its ICF webs are manufactured with 100 per cent post-industrial recycled polypropylene. That means over 60 per cent of the weight of an Amvic ICF block is comprised of recycled materials. In addition, Amvic ICFs can generate as little as 1 per cent construction waste, greatly reducing items sent to the methane-producing land fill. Last but not least, Amvic ICFs don’t off gas any harmful emissions or lose R-value over time.

It’s fair to say Amvic doesn’t greenwash.

If you ask Brown, Amvic has one main priority: to bring high-quality, energy-efficient, fortified and sustainable building systems to North America. “We want to enhance the growth of building products that will contribute to a cleaner and healthier environment,” he says. “It’s something we’re confident we can continue to do.”