A growing building technique - structural insulated panels (SIPs) - is helping Americans reduce home energy use. Compared to traditional "stickbuilt" construction, SIPs save homeowners up to 60% on monthly utility bills.
According to Premier Building Systems, North America's largest SIPs manufacturer: SIPs are large, pre-made wall, roof or floor sections using high-strength wood panels sandwiching a rigid insulating foam core. They replace the wall studs and fiberglass rolls or blown-in insulation builders typically use. Because SIPs come in large sections up to 8 ft. by 24 ft., they have fewer gaps needing sealing.
"A SIP house has fewer joints, less complicated interfaces between conditioned and unconditioned spaces, and it is dramatically easier to make it tight," says Sam Rashkin, National Director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star for Homes program. In tests using large blowers, the U.S. Dept. of Energy's (USDOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory found that rooms built with SIPs have 90 percent less air leakage than typical rooms.
A tight, well-insulated SIP home saves energy in both hot and cold climates. "It only costs an average of $200 to $300 a year to heat one of my SIP homes," says Scott Bergford, Owner, Scott Homes - Builder of the Year in the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and USDOE's 2009 EnergyValue Housing Awards. "That's anywhere from one-fifth to one-sixth the typical costs for this region," adds the Olympia, Washington-based builder.
"While SIPS have been around for several decades, they are getting more attention as homeowners and commercial building owners are looking to build green," says James Hodgson, general manager of Premier Building Systems. "The energy savings are pretty dramatic, and a SIP home or building costs about the same as wood frame construction."
In addition to saving energy, SIPs help seal out pollutants such as radon, molds, and pollen for healthier indoor air, and reduce construction waste up to 60% by eliminating the need to cut studs, joists and other framing materials on site.
"A SIP home is a true green structure that looks just like any other home," adds Hodgson. "SIPs fit with any architectural style, and virtually any floor plan can be easily converted to SIPs construction. Plus they are far stronger and straighter than buildings framed on site."