Just ask John D. Hensler, who employed SIPs in constructing two developments in La Quinta, California—214 affordable homes in one development and 170 luxury homes in another.
Hensler, president of RJT Builders, says SIPs offer a way to create homes that are stronger, straighter, quieter and more energy-efficient.
“It’s a hell of a system. In terms of cost, I think our overall construction costs were on average about 4% to 5% more (than stick frame). But we’ve had very few callbacks, which is appealing to me because I like to make sure things are done right the first time. Using SIPs was a positive experience overall, not only for us, but for many of the other trades as well.”
This system continues to make inroads with residential builders, most notably those targeting the two ends of the home building spectrum–affordable on one end and the luxury custom on the other.
While this market penetration is small, in the single digits percentage-wise in terms of overall new home starts, it’s one of the fastest growing systems in terms of winning converts.
Central to the system’s appeal is that it combines structural elements, sheathing and insulation into a single step—setting a panel. It’s a deceptively simple yet effective way to reduce labor and increase a building’s energy performance.
“I think a lot of builders are tired of soaring lumber prices and a corresponding decrease in quality,”says Brad Huempfner, owner of Big Sky Insulations (Belgrade, MT). “The price of our product may fluctuate 5% over the course of the year, while the price and quality of lumber can change 100%.”
Those targeting the affordable market, especially inner cities, are impressed with the quick dry-in time when using SIPs, which can reduce vandalism and on-site theft. “You can steal a 2×4 but what are you going to do with a panel?” as one veteran SIP builder put it.
Although individual products from manufacturers can vary, structural insulated panels (SIPs) share the common characteristic of a rigid foam core sandwiched between two exterior “skins.” The concept behind SIPs is not a new technology. Ancient Egyptians developed the art of bonding slices of wood together to obtain superior structural performance, says Ken Franklin with the Dow Chemical Company.
Recent studies by the government’s Oak Ridge National Laboratories (ORNL) confirm SIPs slam the stick framing and batt insulation industry in variety of tests. Testing indicates SIPs perform at 97% of their stated R-value (compared to stick & batt’s 70%) and that SIPs are 15 times better at stopping air leaks. Visit with these companies to get started with this system today.