Structural Insulated Panels – SIPs, part #1

By Lance Manlove, in Green Product

SIPs, as some call them, or Structural Insulated Panels, are gaining momentum in the building sector.

There are many ways to build a home but one that has been endorsed by the Passive House movement is using SIPS for the exterior walls and roof of the dwelling.  Structural insulated panels (SIPs) are high performance building panels used in floors, walls, and roofs for residential and light commercial buildings. The panels are typically made by sandwiching a core of rigid foam plastic insulation between two structural skins of oriented strand board (OSB). Other skin material can be used for specific purposes. SIPs are manufactured under factory controlled conditions and can be custom designed for each home. The result is a building system that is extremely strong, energy efficient and cost effective. Building with SIPs can save you time, money, and labor.

We are excited to start our 2nd SIP home this week and are using a 10-1/4” thick panel from Sure Tight.  The energy efficiency and simplicity of construction far outweigh that of conventional framing.  I will continue this blog as we make progress on the setting and installation of the SIP panels along with pictures and commentary.

A couple things to point out when using SIP panel:

  1. You must do a great deal of up-front work to ensure the design is correct as there is no easy fixes once onsite
  2. Double check all window and door locations and sizes as the panels come with the openings pre-cut
  3. Verify HVAC and truss design to make sure no interference with structural members or other framing
  4. Ensure your site is organized in such a way to allow for easy maneuvering and placement with an all-terrain lift or crane
  5. Stage the panels on the ground as they will be installed to minimize confusion and installation time on site
  6. Have all the glue, fastening hardware, and installation equipment ready and easily accessible for the team.

I our application we are using the SIPs for the exterior walls and ceiling of the second floor.  The roof will be conventionally framed and we will have no mechanical equipment or HVAC runs in the attic space – only for storage and rarely accessed.  The foundation is a conditioned crawl space with a 2” slab as the crawl floor – the underside of the floor will be insulated with closed cell foam and Blown in Batt insulation.  We hope to minimize the air infiltration of the dwelling and install an ERV for fresh air make up.  Stay tuned…

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