Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs)



Ask the Expert

with Dr. Nabil Taha

Issues with SIPs

Image courtesy of Sipsco

There many kinds of structural insulated panel systems, including the above mentioned vertical shotcrete ones. Instead of cement used as a skin over the insulation, other systems mostly use oriented strand board (OSB) onto which the finished surfaces can be attached. The insulating core is typically EPS or polyurethane foam, but SIP's manufactured with MEPS is preffereable because the process does not emit ozone-depleting gas. The advantages of these systems are that they are air tight, well insulating (dependng on the type and thickness of the insulation) and easy to install. Also the panels can be used as insulated roof components. It is estimated that a SIP building might use 30% less wood than a conventionally framed one.

Image courtesy of Sipsco

One disadvantage of these wood-clad panels is that they don't provide any thermal mass as part of their composition. While SIPs with EPS cores will burn, it has been demonstrated that they remain structurally sound for a lenthy period during a fire and do not emit fumes any more hazardous than those of wood products. Another possible concern is with insects or rodents nesting in the insulation since this can be an ideal habitat for them. One last concern is that a well-constructed SIP structure is practically hermetically sealed, which means that the walls are not breathable; for this reason they require some sort of mechanical ventilation system for healthful habitation.

Here are some links for more information about SIP's in general:
eren.doe.gov discussion of advantages and disatvantages of SIP's.

taunton.com Fine Home Building article about SIP's.

greenbuilder.com/sourcebook This page discusses the environmental advantages of SIP's that use MEPS as apposed toEPS for the insulation.

Below are listed links to manufacturers of SIP's:
greenplanethomes.ca is a Canadian company that manufactrures SIPs with actual bales of straw being compressed, wood ladders added to the top and bottom, and then two coats of stucco applied to both sides. They ship these panels and also construct buildings with them.
OSB/wheat or rice straw
stramit-int.com Recycled paper/wheat or rice straw
r-control.com OSB/EPS
plastifab.com OSB/EPS
winterpanel.com OSB/EPS
foamlaminates.com OSB/EPS
sipsco.com OSB/EPS
murus.com OSB/EPS or PUR
acsys.net EPS with a metal core
rtight.com OSB/EPS
thermasave.us cellulose reinforced cement board/EPS
techbuilt.com sheet steel or OSB/EPS with tubular steel imbedded
southernsips.com OSB/EPS and steel/EPS
energysips.com OSB/soy-based foam/wood studs
kokoonhomes.com makes light-gauge steel/OSB/soy foam custom panels
fischersips.com OSB/EPS custom fabricated SIPs.
elfiwallsystem.com offers steel/EPS panels.
permatherm.net EPS with galvanized or stainless steel
singcore.com makes very lightweight panels for doors, etc. with a honey comb pattern.


Click on image for more information

Building With Structural Insulated Panels (Sips): Strength and Energy Efficiency Through Structural Panel Construction by Michael Morley, 2000

ehouseport.com features an interesting approach to manufactured housing, in that the SIPs are provided as a basic kit without doors, windows, plumbing, electrical, etc. so that much of the work in assembling the house is done by an owner or contractor. The basic SIP cube is then covered by an over-arching "House Port" roof system that is a free-span steel frame with metal roofing.

fischersips.com explains why their SIPs are considered "green."


Modern Santa Fe
Dennis Nelson, Designer

This approximately 2430 square foot modern santa fe style home home could function as passive solar heated in two different orientations (front or rear elevations could face south). It has two bedrooms and 2 1/2 baths, and features a lofted living room as well as a family room. It is designed to be built with structural insulated panels (SIP's).

For more information about this plan, and many others, visit our sister site www.dreamgreenhomes.com, where you will find a wide range of plans for sustainable homes, greenhouses, small buildings, garages, and food storage space for sale. Dream Green Homes is a consortium of outstanding architects and designers, who have pooled their talent and expertise for your benefit.

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I specifically disclaim any warranty, either expressed or implied, concerning the information on these pages. Neither I nor any of the advisor/consultants associated with this site will have liability for loss, damage, or injury, resulting from the use of any information found on this, or any other page at this site. Kelly Hart, Hartworks, Inc.


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