Providing a full range of construction services from its base in Ballinasloe since 2002, County Galway, ACM Building Contractors has evolved into one of Ireland’s premier ICF construction specialist. We sat down with founder / proprietor Alan Murray to find out more.
Over the past two decades, ACM Building Contractors has established a proven track record delivering a wide variety of construction projects showcasing a full range of skills from groundworks to roofing, encompassing new builds and housing developments, renovations, extensions and general carpentry.
ACM has always been a modern and progressive building contractor and, in recent times, in conjunction with Thermohouse and Castleforms, Alan Murray’s exceptional operation has been providing rapid-build, high-performance homes and commercial buildings using the energy-efficient ICF construction system.
As a traditional building contractor with a strong carpentry background, Alan possesses an innate understanding of all aspects of the construction process. Once he was introduced to ICF (Insulated Concrete Formwork), he knew straight away that this was the way forward not just for ACM Building Contractors but for construction in general:
“It was back in 2019 that I was first approached to look into doing an ICF house,” the Galway contractor reflects. “I went down to Kerry to meet the Thermohouse team and, having been given a tour of their factory, I was extremely impressed by their product.”
As a result of that trip to Coolcaslagh, near Killarney, Alan built his first home using the ICF system in Portumna in 2020 and hasn’t looked back… “As soon as I saw it in the factory, I knew our lads could do it and a lightbulb went off. It just made complete sense to me and I was completely on board. For that first build, one of Thermohouse’s guys, Donie, came up to Portumna and showed us how to put it all together. We’ve been doing ICF for the past twelve months now and getting busier with it all the time.”
Pioneering ICF techniques have reimagined and revolutionised what construction is and can be. This modern, structurally-robust, complete building solution, which is gaining huge traction here in Ireland, offers a range of benefits over traditional construction methods. These include speed of build, airtightness, energy efficiency, soundproofing and a durable, maintenance-free building, with incredible flexibility in terms of design.
“If you want an A-rated house, this is the best way to achieve it,” Alan confirms. “For U-value and airtightness, you cannot beat an ICF building. I have done the airtightness course and, with ICF, it completely takes away that headache, as the job is done for you.
“What we offer is a complete structural package on a greenfield site – an insulated floor, ICF wall panels and also a roof made from insulated panels. The roof will be completely airtight and no additional insulation is required. The system also cuts out the need for rafters and eliminates any potential issues with structural steel.”
Going forward, Alan envisions that ACM Building Contractors will focus predominantly on ICF contracting: “We will specialise in getting the structural build done, using ICF,” he confirms. “We’ll continue to do some carpentry work as well but are moving away from other contracting now. It’s best to focus on your strengths and I feel I’m better suited now to getting the structure in place.
“From clearing the site to putting the structure in place and fitting the windows, we can do all of that and maintain control. We have a Project Manager working alongside us – Derek – who can take over after us and co-ordinate all the trades if the customer wants. He does all the pricing for me on the ICF and will certainly take on the finish of the building if it’s local. I have also worked with a number of reputable tradespeople over the years and can recommend these to a client, if asked.”
The customer has complete peace of mind as not only will the ICF work be carried out by a vastly-experienced and meticulous building contractor but it is also fully certified. “My structural engineer is a big fan of ICF and he certifies everything for me,” Alan notes. “From the architect’s plans, we can do the full shell and core building – foundation, walls, roof and windows – exactly as specified and fully certified.”
Returning to the manifold benefits of Insulating Concrete Formwork construction – which essentially locks together large, hollow, lightweight polystyrene blocks to create instant formwork which is then filled with concrete to make structural walls – Alan continues: “Speed of build is a huge thing. A standard house would easily take 20 weeks to get to that stage, whereas with ICF we can do it in twelve.
“Structural strength is another big one as you end up with 25 Newton concrete, which you wouldn’t get from two blocks. We already mentioned soundproofing and airtightness, which are obviously very important considerations. Also, with engineers specifying more and more structural elements, which can mean a lot of extra time and money on traditional builds, you are spared a lot of that. As you are shuttering everything, there is no need for lintels or structural steel or specialised steelwork around windows.
“The render that’s fitted on the outside is strong and weatherproof and comes in a huge choice of colours. You don’t have to paint over it and it will retain its colour, which is another saving.
“Another factor to consider is that, with skilled tradespeople scarce, it can be very difficult to get block layers these days, while adverse weather can also affect traditional builds, but none of these are an issue with ICF. Cost-wise, compared to a block house with the same U-value and airtightness, it will work out similar but will be finished in a much quicker timeframe and that’s why it has become so popular.”
After completing that maiden project in Portumna last year, ACM delivered a furniture showroom using ICF and also built an ICF extension onto an old cottage, demonstrating the versatility of this system. At the time of writing, Alan was working on house builds in Frenchpark (Roscommon), Longford and Athlone and was due to begin work shortly on an extension to an existing home in Lucan, with a handful of other projects in the pipeline. All of the above-mentioned projects were originally slated as block builds but Alan persuaded the clients to consider the benefits of ICF and they agreed to switch over.
Generating work for six people full time, ACM Building Contractors can complete ICF new builds, extensions and commercial building structures quickly and to the very highest standards. Even where a block structure is planned, it can be converted over to the ICF system with a minimum of fuss. Alan Murray enjoys the work thoroughly and spends his days on site, running the business in a decidedly hands-on manner.
“I think this is a step up from traditional block building and you end up with a higher grade of build,” he concludes. “There are so many benefits that it makes total sense to go with ICF. I certainly find it interesting, enjoyable and challenging and the lads all enjoy it, too, and really like the work.
“It’s neat and you get a clean and tidy finish. It’s quite technical and takes a bit of planning but we all get great satisfaction out of it. This is something exciting and new and we get a real buzz out of it. You are always trying to improve. No matter how good you are at anything, you learn every day and keep getting better.”
ACM Building Contractors,
Tel: 086 6050020
Email: [email protected]
This article was published in Building Ireland Magazine, November 2021, Vol 7 No 11