Are SIPs a new construction technology?
The idea of SIPs is far from new. Structural insulated panels have been used for decades in the construction of refrigerated buildings, where enduring thermal efficiency is extremely important. Homes built with structural panels have been tested and monitored since the 1930s by the United States Department of Agriculture's Forest Products Laboratory. SIP pioneers saw enormous potential for these panels in both light commercial and residential construction. In the late 1950s, for example, the National Association of Home Builders used SIPs in their demonstration research homes. In the decades since then, structural insulated panels have proved their viability in thousands of commercial and residential buildings across the country. This has been accompanied by significant advances in the materials and technology of SIPs.
If SIPs have been around for decades, why the renewed interest now?
As long as energy costs remained low, construction schedules were leisurely, labor and lumber were abundant and inexpensive - and profit margins on conventional construction remained high - there was little incentive for architects, owners, builders or contractors to utilize new techniques. Today, all that has changed. Escalating heating and cooling costs have led owners and tenants to demand greater thermal efficiency and improved energy performance in their buildings and homes. Federal, state and local building codes are also mandating improved energy efficiency. At the same time, the building and construction market has become more competitive. Accelerated construction schedules and shrinking profit margins are forcing builders, contractors and designers to look for more efficient and reliable construction methods that reduce labor and alleviate the quality variables that plague stick construction. SIPs provide practical, proven answers to these needs.
Are SIPs safe?
SIP buildings are significantly stronger than standard stick-built structures of similar configurations, and the panels' uniformity and one-piece construction make it much easier to build walls that are straight and plumb. In addition, the two layers of structural board provide each panel with improved stability, a solid nailing base and increased protection against vandalism, break-ins and tenant damage. SIPs have passed rigorous fire endurance tests required by national codes. Their solid-core construction eliminates the "chimney effect" that causes fires to spread quickly through hollow stick built walls.
Don't prefabricated panels limit design alternatives?
Since many of the early pioneers of SIPs were proponents of large-scale, factory-built housing, these panels are often associated with "cookie cutter" designs. While the advantages of factory fabrication - such as improved quality control and assembly efficiencies - are as important as ever, modern SIPs can be custom fabricated to each project and are just as versatile as conventional construction. In fact, the structural integrity of SIPs opens up many exciting new design options - such as timber framing and cathedral ceilings - which might not be practical or affordable with traditional construction methods. These factors make SIPs an ideal system for a wide range of light commercial and residential applications including retail malls, governmental buildings, offices, convenience marts, fast-food restaurants and warehouses to such aesthetically demanding buildings as churches, clubhouses and, of course, single and multi family homes. Insulspan panels are available with optional factory applied interior finishes of drywall or tongue and groove wood. The exterior can be site-finished in a wide range of materials, including conventional siding, stucco or brick.
Are SIP structures difficult to design and build?
The simplicity of design and construction is one of the big benefits of SIPs. However, although SIP construction is easy to learn, there are special techniques that can further simplify and speed up the process. That's why it's important for anyone considering a SIP structure to work with a reputable manufacturer who can provide design assistance, technical support and training as part of the package. To take full advantage of all the extra value SIPs can bring to a project, it is important to incorporate them early in the design process. Insulspan provides all of these services and more.
What Our Customers Have To Say
We are proud to say that we are the only green built home in our town. Our new house was completed in March of 2008 by Jon Morehouse and Darren Harrington of Extreme Structures LLC of Denmark, WI. Our family was seeking to build a new home with many sustainable features, which is what drew us to the energy efficient qualities of Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs) and Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) during the summer of 2007. After completing the custom design and discussing our options with Extreme Structures, we decided that ICFs and SIPs technology was a great option for this project. The inherent energy efficient qualities of the construction and design has proven successful through our first winter in the new house as our monthly energy costs are approximately 2/3 of what they use to be, in a house that is almost twice as large and on two levels. In addition, our summer cooling bills have reduced significantly as well. Our experience in working with Extreme Structures and their partners was productive throughout, the project schedule and execution of design ran smoothly and was completed within budget requirements.
-David and Kristina
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Extreme Structures is working on projects planned for Two Rivers and the Door County area. Watch for updates!