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    June 16, 2014
    SIPs: Thinking Outside the (stick-framed) Box

    Denver, CO—In this decade of emerging technologies that seek to decrease our carbon footprint, Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) have come of age. More and more architects and builders are thinking out of the box when designing with SIPs—creating beautiful buildings that approach net zero energy use—and offering some surprising extras—while incorporating aesthetically pleasing design elements. SIPs have been employed creatively to achieve multiple benefits for the owners and occupants.

    Solar Decathlon Winner for Affordability and Market Appeal

    Start.Home, built by Stanford students with structural insulated panels (SIPs), won first place in affordability and third place for market appeal at the US Department of Energy’s 2013 Solar Decathlon, held in Orange County, CA in October. R-Control SIPs for the winning home were provided by ACH Foam Technologies.

    The SIPs were incorporated in Start.Home’s floor, walls, and roof. According to Stanford Start.Home team’s Project Manager Rob Best, R-Control SIPs were instrumental in the team’s construction schedule and transportation procedure. Best played a pivotal role in bringing the home’s total estimated construction cost under $250,000, winning a full 100 points in the affordability contest. “The Start.Home was designed from the very start to be both technologically advanced and affordable,” said Best. “Through great design and engineering we were able to maintain the cost of our net-zero home at $235,000, remaining affordable in many parts of the country.”                

    Solar Decathlon began in 2002 as a US competition and has since expanded to a global competition hosted by the US Department of Energy to promote solar technology. This year, 20 competing teams selected by the US DOE designed 1000 sq. ft. homes for the Decathlon that were evaluated on ten criteria: architecture, market appeal, engineering, communications, affordability, comfort zone, hot water, appliances, home entertainment, and energy balance.

    Mike Tobin, President of AFM Corporation, said that AFM Corporation and ACH Foam Technologies, manufacturer of R-Control SIPs, have worked on numerous built projects with DOE and the EPA for years in developing the preferred envelope system for realizing Zero and Near Net Zero building designs. “The Solar Decathlon is simply an extension of our work with DOE and the EPA going back many, many years.  We were attracted to the Stanford project due to the fact that these earlier developed Net Zero building concepts are being forwarded by Stanford.”

    By design, SIPs arrive on site cut to size and ready to go, which makes the erection process incredibly fast. The Start.Home construction team was able to put together all the walls of the Start.Home within two or three days. The intelligently designed structure saves time and money for the owner, reduces the environmental impact of the construction process, and results in less resource consumption.

    Structural insulated panels (SIPs) are prefabricated structural elements used to build walls, ceilings, floors, and roofs. Made of foam insulation sandwiched between two layers of structural board, SIPs provide a more airtight dwelling than a standard stud-frame house. This creates a quieter and more energy-efficient interior space.

    R-Control SIPs are two sheets of oriented strand board with EPS foam in between. Building a SIPs home differs from traditional “stick frame” construction because there are no studs in the walls, which means that there is continuous insulation within the wall and no thermal bridging. This creates a more efficient structure.

    SIPs can be made in various sizes and thicknesses to fit building specifications. In most cases, the manufacturer sends the panels directly to the job site. A major benefit of using SIPs in new house construction is the ease with which the panels fit together. Several U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon teams enjoyed this advantage during construction in the solar village.

    SIPs cost about 15% more than standard stick frames. However, the tighter insulation can result in a 40-50% decrease in energy bills. The initial investment usually makes the most sense for new construction efforts.
    According to Rob Best, the home’s Market Appeal distinction came as a great validation of both the livability of this Bay Area home but also the marketability of the Stanford team’s Core concept.  The judges commented:

    “The inside offered great open space and well defined, functional floor plan. The high ceilings made the house seem more spacious. The integration of the indoor and outdoor spaces was exceptionally well done. The detail on user interface and fixtures of control system was notable.”

    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.