Innovative Insulated Panels

Build better using structural insulated panels (SIPs).


| October/November 2005



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SIPs can support loads of many thousands of pounds.


Photo courtesy Steve Maxwell

Among the many breakthroughs in building materials and home construction, structural insulated panels (SIPs) are one of the best. SIPs are rigid foam sandwiched between factory-bonded oriented strand board (OSB). Panels are usually 4 to 8 feet wide and up to 24 feet long, and can be used for walls as well as structural roof sections.

They’re simpler to erect than stud- or timber-frame walls, which means they go up faster, too. But the real benefits of SIPs are their strength — twice as strong as a stud wall — and energy efficiency; insulation values typically range from R-15 to R-45 (stick-frame insulation is about R-12 to R-20), depending on panel thickness and the type of foam core. SIPs increase the total building cost by only 1 percent to 3 percent, and labor and energy savings quickly offset the added expense. A study by Brock University in Ontario showed that, over the course of a year, one home with SIPs used only a quarter of the energy consumed by an adjacent stick-frame house with an identical floor plan (for more about this study, see “The Inconsistency of R-values,” below).

“SIPs have some tremendous advantages in terms of energy performance,” says Alex Wilson, executive editor of Environmental Building News. “They create a tight, well-insulated building shell that doesn’t have the thermal bridges that result from wood studs in conventional construction — and they do this with efficient use of resources.”

I’ve built structures with timbers, logs, stone and studs, and my experiences with SIPs have impressed me enough that I’ll use them again. When I chose SIPs for my latest building project — a 1,300-square-foot, two-story workshop — I knew I was heading into new construction territory. But learning to build with this material proved easy, with results that were stronger and more energy efficient than I was expecting. The structure also went up more than three times faster than a stud-frame equivalent — even though I was working mostly alone. Before I even had heat in the place this past winter, indoor temperatures regularly climbed above freezing on days that were below zero outdoors, despite cloudy skies.

Building Walls and Corners

You can order precut panels for an entire home — or you can cut the panels to create door and window openings after they are delivered to the building site. Some companies even offer panels with interior or exterior finished surfaces. To make walls, simply tilt the panels upright one at a time. The panel edges are shaped to allow joint connectors called “splines” to lock adjoining panels together. SIPs also are made so that 2-by-4s and 2-by-6s can be installed in the recessed edges around door and window openings. When you’re done, all you see is OSB on the inside and outside faces of the walls.

Various SIP manufacturers offer assembly manuals, but all systems are put together in similar ways. Begin by anchoring a 2-by-4 or 2-by-6 bottom plate (horizontal lumber that forms the bottom of the wall) to your floor. Take the time to firmly bolt these plates down because they hold the panels upright as the walls are raised. Be sure to keep bottom plates absolutely straight because all recessed panel edges are sized to fit over standard widths of lumber. As you’ll see, this will be important when SIPs are fastened at the bottom.

vijaytrading
4/26/2013 5:40:33 AM

Building <a href="http://www.insulationproducts.org/">insulation Products</a> are thermal insulation used in the construction or retrofit of buildings. The materials are used to reduce heat transfer by conduction, radiation or convection and are employed in varying combinations to achieve the desired outcome


allison capps
2/14/2009 10:27:44 AM

To run wiring chases on SIPs, just heat a ball bearing to red-hot with a propane torch and allow it to melt its way through the panel. The panel must be plumb to avoid the chase being crooked.


chris kavala
2/12/2009 7:42:49 AM

Steel SIPs provide for a better sip wall and roof system being totally termite, rot and mold proof www.southernsips.com


robert f
2/11/2009 12:26:56 PM

I built my home using SIPs about 4 years ago. It's literally one of the best decisions we made during the construction process. At an elevation of 9,000 insulation is vital and the SIP is a great way of getting it done. I'd highly recommend using this technology to anyone.


suzanne horvath
2/11/2009 9:26:32 AM

Can someone please enlighten me on wiring with SIPS. The article mentioned making cuts for elect. boxes etc. but how do you actually run the wiring? Can SIPS be prewired, where you just have to put in a box and connect the wiring? Maybe I missed this in the article.


ed_19
12/7/2007 1:35:37 PM

I agree, SIPs are a fantastic technology. So much so, that I introduced a modular factory to a SIP manufacturer and convinced them to create a product together. The result will be my house - the world's first SIP / modular hybrid home. Check out www.GouinGreen.com for more information on the project including the names of the manufacturers making this happen at a very reasonable price. Ed


never quit
5/26/2007 8:21:44 AM

Where is the article ? Mother Responds: Our apologies, we will get the article text up as soon as possible.






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