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Structural Insulated Panels

SIPs can be used with any style of home
SIPs are the 21st Century Building Material
SIPs are high performance building panels for floors, walls, and roofs in residential and commercial buildings. Each panel is typically made using expanded polystyrene (EPS), or polyisocyanurate rigid foam insulation sandwiched between two structural skins of oriented strand board (OSB), but other surfaces are also available to meet your needs. The result is a building system that is very strong, predictable, energy efficient, and cost effective.

Are Structural Insulated Panels More Expensive?
Building with SIPs generally costs about the same as building with wood frame construction, when you factor in the labor savings resulting from shorter construction time and less job site waste. If you are building a custom home with many additional features, costs can rise.

Other savings are realized because less expensive heating and cooling systems are required with SIP construction.

Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) have become a widely used alternative construction material for homes and other buildings. As an alternative to the foam core, SIPs are available with a core of agriculture fibers (such as wheat straw) that provides similar thermal and structural performance. The result is an engineered panel that provides structural framing, insulation, and exterior sheathing in a solid, one-piece component. SIPs construction allows builders to quickly construct an exterior building envelope that is strong, airtight, and energy efficient.

Panels go up quickly

The basic design concept for SIPs is elegant in its simplicity, and offers several advantages for constructing walls and roofs. Bonding the foam core to the stiff outer skins creates a web-and-flange structural strength (along the same principal as an I-beam) across the length and breadth of the panel. With the capacity to handle axial, bending, racking, and shear loads, properly designed and assembled SIPs not only replace conventional framing, but will withstand high wind, and seismic forces.

Insulation capacity is another advantage of SIPs. There is general agreement that SIPs provide better overall air tightness and practical thermal performance than conventionally framed walls. Panel systems offer a dense, uniform and continuous air barrier with few thermal bridges, and no opportunity for internal convection.

SIPs are used successfully in harsh climates like Antarctica!

Commonly, manufactured wall panels are 4 to 24 feet wide and 8 or 9 ft. high, made in standard thicknesses of 4 ½ " to 6 ½". Thicknesses of up to twelve inches are available for roof panels where greater R-value is needed. The core material of thicker panels usually corresponds to standard lumber dimensions, so that board stock may be used for splines and plates. Panel lengths can vary to accommodate higher ceilings or roof spans up to 24 ft.

Some manufacturers now offer special variations in SIPs products, such as a high-end panel made with an injected polyurethane core, and vertical joint connectors featuring eccentric cam locks that draw the panels tightly together and assure proper alignment. Manufacturers can also produce curved walls or other customized architectural features.

SIPs homes can use curved panels
SIPs generally contain higher R values than a similarly sized wall, improving thermal performance. By being very airtight, they also allow little infiltration, adding to the thermal performance.

Initial Cost
Some manufacturers offer prefabricated SIPs home packages at costs approaching those for conventionally framed structures. However, the cost of producing and engineering panel layouts may drive up costs for custom designs.

U.S. Code Acceptance
Currently there is no specific prescriptive language in building codes addressing SIPS. However, prescriptive guidelines and code provisions are being developed. The majority of manufacturers provide technical design and support services to ensure code acceptance.
Benefits and Costs
Several benefits have made SIPs a viable and popular alternative to conventional construction methods. The ease and speed of assembly makes it possible for houses to be placed under roof within days rather than weeks. While basic carpentry skills are required, assemblers need not have the skill levels of conventional framing crews, which can further reduce costs to builders. SIPs structures are highly resistant to wind damage, and suitable for areas with stringent wind shear or seismic codes. The thermal performance of SIPs may significantly reduce costs for heating and air conditioning, one of the major expenses of home ownership.

Use of SIPs panels can help conserve scarce timber resources, since they provide good structural performance using significantly less dimensional lumber. The lumber used for manufacturing OSB comes from fast growing trees that can be planted and harvested in just a few years. Reduced energy use from the efficiency of SIPs insulation also translates to the conservation of resources, and manufacturers state that the foam products used for the core materials are environmentally benign.

Copyright 2012 Ronald Sauve All Rights Reserved
This page was last modified on April 06, 2012
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