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The foundation of homes built in years past have primarily been either formed and poured concrete or concrete block. These types of foundations in their various forms have provided good sound foundation support for structures that have lasted a lifetime and beyond.

Current technology and building processes have changed these basic building components somewhat in the interest of green and energy efficient building. Whether being built to LEED for Homes standards, Energy Star, or simply in the interest of green building itself, these newer foundation techniques will result in an overall superior foundation.

When pouring a formed concrete wall foundation for LEED, the concrete should be made with a Portland cement replacement material. Portland cement is the binder ingredient of concrete made from limestone and clay or shale and it must be mined. If the Portland cement is partially replaced in the concrete mixture, you have saved the planet some mining of an otherwise needed ingredient. But there is even more good news in replacing the Portland cement. Chemically, by using replacement materials, the end product is a stronger, harder, and more sustainable concrete.

Many different Portland substitutes are suitable. One popular replacement is a granulated by-product of the steel and iron making blast furnace process. When mixed with Portland in ratios ranging from 30% - 50%, “slag” (as it is commonly called) makes an excellent concrete foundation. Slag is also considered a “post-consumer” product. When used as a Portland replacement, it makes a significant contribution to sustainable construction and requires little or no energy to “produce”. On a humorous note, you will need to inform your plumber, electrician, and anyone else who needs to drill a hole through your slag replacement foundation walls, since they will need to have a fresh carbide hammer bit, or two, or three.

The most recent foundation technology gaining popularity is what is known as an “ICF” (Insulated Concrete Form) foundation. Using this technique, hollow Styrofoam blocks are specially made per plan and assembled on the building site. The hollow void is then filled with concrete. The end result is a perfectly level, straight, plumb, square foundation. By utilizing the Styrofoam form, the foundation walls also provide an insulation factor ranging from R17 to R26, depending upon the thickness of the wall and the Styrofoam.

This foundation process is our recommendation and provides much in the way of green and more energy efficient building. The foundation walls are very strong, and also provide increased sustainability. The Styrofoam construction adds a superior insulation and thermal barrier to the walls. Finally, since these blocks are custom made per plan, there is no jobsite cutting or waste. Please keep in mind that there can be a significant lead time for the ICF blocks to be delivered compared to a standard poured concrete foundation installation. So, this preferred option must be closely examined and scheduled well in advance of your project start date.

More on Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs) -->

Photos of Insulated Concrete Form Foundations -->

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