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    June 16, 2014
    SIPs Score for Tennis Court Conversion

    Fond du Lac, WI - Located between Lake Wingra and the West Beltline Highway in Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum features the restored prairies, forests and wetlands of pre-settlement Wisconsin. This 1,260-acre arboretum also houses flowering trees, shrubs and a world-famous lilac collection.

    In a neighboring residential community a special house sits atop on once-used tennis court. It is here we find reclaimed Douglas Fir posts and beams incorporated into a modern, energy efficient home of which the building envelope is comprised of structural insulated panels (SIPs).

    Owned and designed by Matthew Tills, AIA of Tills Architecture, the 2500 square foot home sports recyclable steel paneling and composite SIP walls and roof. SIPs were chosen to enable the home to achieve an Energy Star rating while including generous windows to connect with the natural beauty of the site.

    According to Tills, the large expanse of windows along the south side of the home understandably increases the amount of heat loss. “The SIP roof and walls help to make up for that, since they create such a tight envelope. When I designed the house I was interested in exploring various energy-saving and green technologies.  It’s a slab on-grade house with exposed concrete floors. We integrated a hydronic heating system along with four inches of Foam-Control Plus+ 250 EPS underslab and perimeter insulation to make a really cozy radiant floor heating system. It makes for a fantastically even heat system.”

    “What’s interesting.” he adds, “is that you feel so much warmer in the winter when you are walking on a heated floor—so much so, that you can set your thermostat down a couple of degrees. It tricks your body into thinking it’s warmer in the house than it really is. Conversely, in summer when we turn off the floor heating system, the concrete floors make us feel cooler and we can save a couple of degrees on the cooling system.”

    Tills continues, “Some architects may hesitate to design with SIPs because it requires more careful preplanning. You have to make more decisions in the design phase and do less in-field planning. That said, there was no difference in the way I approached this design and how I would have done so with a stick-framed house. I still had all the design options I wanted—and you don’t look at this house and immediately think ‘SIPs’. Of course, the labor onsite is minimized with SIPs too.”

    Even though architects do more pre-planning with a SIPs home, there’s still room for adjustment in the field. According to contractor Tim Woods, “If I need to, I can easily make adjustments on site. For instance, if the owner wants to add an additional window, I can cut it right there and recess the foam on the edges of the panels when necessary.”

    Woods has been involved in the Energy Star program since 2000. “The shell of a house is the most important part of the energy efficiency puzzle. When I look at the two biggest building envelope problems--air and moisture infiltration--I always come back to SIPs”, says Woods. “The extremely tight building envelope that SIPs create solves both moisture and air infiltration problems. When you use structural insulated panels you get a really tight envelope.  You need to be sure to ventilate with proper HVAC equipment. This particular home needed a really tight envelope to make up for the huge expanse of windows across the south side of the home. Since SIPs don’t have wall cavities like stick framed buildings have, you avoid the whole moisture problem altogether.”

    Woods likes building with SIPs so much he links his website to that of SIPs manufacturer ACH Foam Technologies. “I started working with ACH Foam back in 2000 when I was taking some very good seminars by Energy Star. We have had a good relationship over the past 13 years—they offer an excellent product with exceptional support. Some houses are just plain complicated, with nooks and crannies, turns in the walls etc. I get the architect’s plans, and then send them to ACH. Their SIPs designer does a panel layout, numbers the panels, and ships them to be placed in order on the jobsite.”

    Another green technology Tills didn’t choose to install but may install in the future is an energy recovery unit as part of the HVAC system. These units are becoming popular, because they capture escaping heat (in the winter) and reheat it, rather than heating the colder outside air. In summer, they capture the escaping cool air and re-cool it instead of cooling the warm outside air. Tills adds, “The SIPs aren’t only about the tight building envelope. I really like their superior structural integrity and the fact that they are manufactured offsite, leaving no waste on the site. I like that concept, along with the energy efficiency.” Tills used 2,852 SF of 6” wall panels, 1,872 SF of 12” roof panels manufactured by ACH Foam Technologies.

    SIPs Stands Up to 150 mph Winds at Oklahoma Equine Hospital

    When the 5,000 sq. ft. Oklahoma Equine Hospital was hit with a microburst in the spring of 2012, 150 mile-per-hour winds could have leveled the building—but that’s not what happened. R-Control Structural insulated panels (SIPs) had been chosen for the new building’s walls and roof, which was still under construction during the windy event.

    “The contractor chose SIPs for their energy-efficiency,” explained Frank Kiesecker of ACH Foam Technologies, R-Control SIP manufacturer. “R-Control SIPs were able to withstand 150 mile-an-hour winds during installation.” At the time of the storm, not all of the roof panels were in place, making a particular section of wall vulnerable to the high winds. Kiesecker explained, “That section of wall was lifted from the foundation due to the wind. Surprisingly, the section of wall suffered little damage and was erected again after minor repairs. The rest of the structure, with walls and roof in place, sustained no damage at all.”

    SIPs were specified for both walls and roof to create a tight thermal envelope. 13,884 sq. ft. of 6 ½” SIPs were manufactured and cut to design specs by ACH Foam Technologies. Even though the temperature near the site in Southern Oklahoma reached 108 degrees that summer, the temperature inside the building remained comfortable.

    About ACH Foam Technologies

    For over four decades ACH Foam Technologies has been an industry leader in EPS manufacturing, providing products for construction, geotechnical, packaging, and industrial applications. With locations throughout the U.S., ACH is positioned to offer convenient, valuable, and complete solutions for its customers. ACH recycles 100% of its post-industrial EPS and is actively involved in recycling post-consumer EPS as well.

    Contact us for more information on ACH Foam Technologies and its products and services.