It is vital to understand the need and methods of how to achieve a continuously insulated building. Insulation plays a key role within the building envelope and is paramount to creating and maintaining a comfortable indoor environment. Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) are high performance building panels used in floors, walls and roofs for residential and light commercial buildings. SIPs are made with an expanded polystyrene (EPS) rigid foam core sandwiched between two structural skins of 7/16″ oriented strand board (OSB). When the two are laminated together they create an insulated panel that is 2-1/2 times stronger than a stick-frame wall.
- You’ll need to downsize your HVAC equipment
SIP homes require up to 50% less energy to heat and cool than stick-framed homes, meaning less fossil fuel consumption and fewer greenhouse gas emissions. The efficiency of a SIP building is a result of both the air-tight envelope the panels create, and the substantially higher R-Value of SIPs when compared to stick-framed walls. A high performance SIP building enclosure often allows smaller HVAC equipment to be specified. It is important to work with a qualified HVAC professional that can accurately estimate the low levels of air infiltration in a SIP home or commercial building. Proper HVAC sizing is crucial because an oversized HVAC system will fail to reach the steady operating rate the equipment was designed for. Short cycling HVAC equipment will be less energy efficient and require more maintenance than properly sized HVAC equipment.
- Air Quality
SIPs release no volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Furthermore, because SIP-Built structures are so air-tight, indoor air quality can be closely controlled, a huge advantage for those with environmental or chemical allergies. The air tightness of the SIP building envelope prevents air from gaining access to the interior of the home except in controlled amounts. A controlled indoor environment is both healthy and comfortable. Humidity can be controlled more easily in a SIP home, resulting in a home that is more comfortable for occupants and less prone to mold growth and dust mites.
- Greener Building
SIPs structural skins use oriented strand board (OSB). OSB is made from fast-growing, small-diameter trees that can be harvested from plantations, avoiding the need for cutting old-growth trees. Even the smallest scraps of wood can be turned into OSB, virtually eliminating waste. SIP construction site has less waste because window and door openings are cut at the factory and framed with headers in place. SIP homes demonstrates that by improving energy efficiency, SIPs have a positive environmental impact over their product life cycle.
- Less Labor
SIP homes go up much faster than traditionally framed buildings. A properly trained SIP installation crew can cut framing time by 55 percent compared to conventional wood framing, according to a third party study conducted by R.S. Means. Panels are manufactured as big as 8- by 24-ft., so entire wall and roof sections can be put up quickly, reducing dry-in time. SIPs are ready to install when they arrive at the jobsite, eliminating the time needed to perform the individual job site operations of framing, insulating and sheathing stick-framed walls. Electrical chases are typically provided in the core of panels, so there is no need to drill through studs for wiring.
- Are SIPs accepted by building codes?
SIP construction is recognized by the International Code Council body of building codes, which are used by most jurisdictions in the U.S.
For residential buildings, specific construction practices for SIP wall systems are included in Section R614 of the 2009 International Residential Code. For applications beyond the scope of Section R614, the building inspector will typically require a licensed engineer or architect to approve the building plans prior to construction. An engineer’s approval is always required in high wind areas, high seismic zones and commercial buildings.