Green Gingerbread Houses: Building with SIPs

Reader Contribution by Staff
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A couple of Saturdays ago, some of the MOTHER EARTH NEWS staff got together to build “gingerbread” houses. Because we’re an eco-friendly bunch, we decided to make them green homes. Here’s a look at the structural insulated panel (SIPs) house built by myself and fellow Mother-Earther Aubrey Vaughn. (For more green gingerbread fun, you can read about the strawbale house two other editors built, and find more photos of our gingerbread houses in this Green Gingerbread Photo Gallery.)




OK, so maybe we got a little carried away with the green theme, because the — literally — green frosting is a bit out of control (see photos at left). It’s all supposed to represent grass and hedges (the yard is surrounded by Rice Krispies treats covered with frosting). 

But in that blindingly green mass of sugar, don’t miss the other ecologically — green features of this house. It’s designed with SIPs, a living roof, and of course, a solar-electric system. Here are all the details:

Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs):The ingredients: Two graham crackers stuck together with frosting to form each panel.
Why it’s green: Building with SIPs creates very energy-efficient homes. Real SIPs are made of a layer of foam board insulation between two layers of oriented strand board (OSB). Because it’s all manufactured as one piece, these panels are structurally strong, provide a high level of insulation and they’re resource efficient, too. Very little material is wasted during manufacturing and construction.
More info on the real thing: Innovative Insulated Panels 

Living roof:The ingredients: Oreos (dirt) plus green coconut (grass)
Why it’s green: Provides additional growing space, vegetation provides insulation and cooling effect in summer.
More info on the real thing: Earth-sheltered Homes (This article includes a section about living roofs, as well as photos.)

Ground-mounted PV array:The ingredients: Graham cracker covered with Fruit Roll-Up, mounted on pretzel sticks.
Why it’s green: Allows you to produce your own electricity from renewable energy, rather than getting it from a power plant burning fossil fuels.
More info on the real thing: Is Solar Power Right for You? 

By the way… On a practical level, we’ve never actually heard of a SIPs house with a living roof, and I’m not sure why there’s so much green grass around a home that looks like it belongs in the Southwest. But what can we say? Visions of gingerbread were dancing in our heads. Wishing you happy holidays, and a very green new year!

Top and middle photos by Alison Rogers, bottom photo by Megan Phelps

Megan E. Phelps is a freelance writer based in Kansas. She enjoys reading and writing about all things related to sustainable living including homesteading skills, green building and renewable energy. You can find her on .