No, that is not an ice cream sandwich, that is a SIP. A Structural Insulated Panel that is used for floor, roof, and wall construction in residential and commercial buildings. My current home is constructed of SIP and I have designed several other homes and a small apartment building with them including:
The Courtyard House
The Ghost House
The Lab House
My next house—whenever that happens—will be SIP construction as well. Here are just a few of the reasons:
SIPs are one of the most environmentally responsible building systems available now. Since the panels are manufactured with insulation sandwiched between two facings (OSB, fiber cement, metal, etc.), they provide a building envelope that is extremely airtight, has continuous insulation, and can provide a utility savings of 50% or more (www.sips.org).
Since SIP are manufactured in a controlled environment and are cut specific to the building design, the construction process produces much less construction waste and uses fewer natural resources. Think of the the efficiencies of the air plane or garment industry applied to the construction industry.
According to the EPA, using traditional framing methods, sends one BILLION board feet of salvageable, structural lumber to landfills every year. That’s enough to build 62,000 average-sized new homes.
Speedy Construction Time
SIPs are pretty zippy to build with. The exterior walls and roof of my house (see construction photo below—notice my little daughter in the foreground, she turned 14 yesterday!) was framed in three days. This time savings comes from the fact that entire wall and roof sections can be put up quickly (with the help of a crane), as panels are manufactured in sections up to 8’ x 24’.
Another time savings can be gained during the electrical wiring process. As SIPs come from the factory with electrical chases already through the core panels, there is no need for electricians to drill holes through studs to run wire. Openings for windows and doors are cut during manufacturing, so that also cuts another step in the framing process. These benefits require that time is spent during the design process to make sure the window openings and the electrical plan have be thought through.
According to a study done by RSMeans, an independent research company for the BASF Corporation, a conventionally framed and insulated house would take about 122% longer to erect than one using SIPs construction.
Saves You Money
Shortened construction time saves money on loan financing and labor. We completed the construction of our house in about six and a half months. The drastic decrease in labor time for framing equates to, you guessed it, a drastic decrease in labor costs during framing. The energy efficiency of a SIP building saves on operating expenses over the lifetime of the structure.
Some Things to Keep in Mind
If you decide to build with SIP, keep in mind that panels are delivered to the job site pre-manufactured to very specific measurements, with details like windows and doors already cut, making last-minute changes to the building design difficult. Any modifications to the SIPs once they have arrived on site can be time consuming and begin to eat away at the labor cost savings. Any errors made field-cutting panels could cause long delays while waiting for replacement panels. Because of the tight construction and reduced air infiltration, you will need to include mechanical ventilation (i.e. a heat recovery ventilation system) to help move fresh air in and moisture out. I also suggest fiberglass windows with high-efficiency glazing in SIP construction.
Go On, Have a SIP!
If you want to design with SIP, give me a call (303 442 3700) or email me to talk about your project. I’m happy to answer any questions you have about SIP and tell you about local companies manufacturing and distributing SIP. You too can benefit from the environmental friendliness, a quick dry-in time, and cost savings.