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Still Using 20th Century Concrete Block Building Materials in the 21st Century?

By on 1/27/2016



We’re always amazed that architects and designers are still specifying early 20th century building materials well into the 21st century.  We still drive past commercial job sites and observe buildings being erected using CMU’s (concrete block).  In today’s world, energy efficiency, return-on-investment, ease of construction, and superior wall strength should be outweighing any factors of previously used building methods and materials. Today we look at the pros and cons of concrete block construction and give an example of how to save money, exceed R-values, and complete construction in a quicker amount of time using ThermoForm Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF’s).

Commercial ICF Construction for Planet Fitness with TF Forming Systems ICF Forms

The disadvantages of CMU (concrete block) construction are many including the following:

1. The amount of labor needed to erect CMU walls
2. The amount of time needed to erect CMU walls
3. The amount of scaffolding needed to erect and brace CMU walls
4. The lack of lateral wall strength in resulting CMU walls
5. The lack of R-value in CMU walls
6. In freezing weather conditions, the amount of tenting, heating, and dealing with other obstacles

In comparison, ThermoForm ICF construction on a comparable commercial wall offers significant advantages over CMU (concrete block) as follows:

1. Much faster completion times
2. Much less labor required
3. Less scaffolding/bracing required to successfully complete the project
4. Far superior wall strength in poured, reinforced concrete walls than CMU
5. Far superior R-values
6. Freezing weather conditions require little to no modification to construction methods

However, the most important advantage is that these ICF benefits are typically had for the same cost, and in many cases, less cost than traditional concrete block construction for an immediate return-on-investment. 


Building in the cold and snow is no problem if using TF Forming's Vertical ICF System


To help show results, below is a testimonial that we received from Premier Construction Group, Inc. for the Planet Fitness build back in January 2011.


Premier Construction Group Inc. overview of Planet Fitness Project ICF Performance


 As of January 17,  2011 Premier Construction Group , Inc. figured out the majority of the cost numbers associated with the Planet Fitness job located on Main Street in Green Bay.


Total Cost of ICF Including; Labor, Lifts, Bracing Rental, Thermo-Form and other materials to install ICF =  $154,153.00

Total labor of TF System (including TF System Representative on-site time) 1114 hrs @ $35.00 per hour= $  38,990.00

Total Labor of Block Style ICF (Bid out on job but not used) 2,118hrs @ $35.00 per hour = $74,136.00

Thermo-Form eliminated 1,004 man hours from the project.  Installing over 47% faster than the Block Style system, which Premier’s crews were experienced in installing.


In comparison, Premier also had one of their trusted CMU masons estimate the job using 8” CMU (concrete block) without furring out the interior for drywall or the EFIS prep on the exterior (making it stucco/EFIS ready like an ICF would be).  The result was $8.00 per square foot in summer with a 10% increase for winter work. This would have given them a total of $8.80 per square foot versus the $9.34 per square foot Thermo-Form cost to install.  The CMU would then have to have the inside furred out.  The interior would cost approximately $ .94 per square foot per RS Means.  The EFIS prep (i.e. materials and installing the poly) would have been approximately $4.18 per square foot per RS Means.  This would have given the CMU an approximate price of $13.92 per square foot to get the wall appearance, but still would not have given the wall the same performance.  It would only have an inch of poly on the outside and an inch of poly on the inside for an R-Value rating fewer than 10. 

As always, we invite you to find out more by visiting our website at or by calling us at 1.800.360.4634.

Concrete Blocks
ThermoForm ICF


International Headquarters
3030C Holmgren Way
Green Bay, WI 54304

Fax: 1-920-983-9962