SIP Briefs – March/April 2004

SIPA Conference Boston Bound May 3-5
Think there’s no better place to plan a revolution in home building than in Boston? That’s the theme for the Structural Insulated Panel Association or SIPA’s annual meeting and conference. A valuable networking event for both longtime veterans and newcomers to the SIP industry, this year’s conference will converge on the historic city of Boston May 3-5.

If you’re a builder, architect, developer or entrepreneur interested in employing SIPs in your next commercial or residential project, you’ll be interested in this conference, which starts out with a full day of educational courses that demonstrate how to build with SIPs. Courses include designing for SIP construction (complete with AIA continuing education credits), engineering requirements, hands-on building techniques, marketing of high-tech building systems to consumers, HVAC design, plumbing and electrical strategies.

The other two days will include seminars on the women’s points of view in home buying, marketing to consumers, building excellence awards, OSB issues, Energy Star programs, mortgage programs for energy-efficient homes and much more.

Plus, you get to visit Boston on this trip, which is a city rich in history, bursting with culture and full of culinary delights. The host hotel for the 2004 meeting, the Omni Parker House, is located in the heart of Boston at the foot of Beacon Hill. The Parker House is the longest continuously operating hotel in the nation. It has hosted world luminaries, from poets to philosophers to presidents, since 1856.

Strong Showing for SIPA Village at IBS
Despite being tucked away in a far corner of the Las Vegas Convention Center, surrounded by tall exhibits that nearly obscured it, a record number of builders interested in learning more about building with structural insulated panels found their way to the redesigned SIPA Village at the International Builders’ Show in January.

“Our leads were up 30% over last year,” says an obviously pleased Bill Wachtler, SIPA executive director.

Further, an educational seminar entitled, “Structural Insulated Panels: Energy Efficiency and More,” on Jan. 21 was well attended, with more than 300 builders and contractors getting the scoop on SIPs from Bill Wachtler, Frank Baker of Insulspan and Jeff Christian of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

“Right after that seminar, the SIPA Village had scores of builders rushing over to sign up. It was very gratifying. The number of builders who want to learn more about SIPs is just increasing exponentially,” Wachtler says.

Traditional 2×4 site builders are willing to give SIPs a closer look, Wachtler says, because it’s only a small incremental change to how they already build. With SIPs, builders use many of the same tools to construct residential homes, SIPs are delivered to the job site just like framing lumber, the building system is easy to understand and it allows builders to enclose structures far faster than traditional framing. “It minimizes their risk,” Wachtler says.

Home by Design Draws Record Crowds
A record number of builders and buyers turned out to tour the Home By Design Showhouse outside the Stardust Hotel at IBS this past January. Designed by famed Sarah Susanka, architect and best-selling author of the Not So Big House series, and construction consultant Steve Easley, the home offered an intriguing strategy for builders to offer more house for less money.

Frank Baker, president of Insulspan (Blissfield, MI), which provided the SIPs for this show home, says this fresh approach to home design allows builders to offer their clients a home that is more efficient and pleasant to live in, for less hassle and money.

“The result of this type of subtle design treatment is the spaces within the home feel larger. Buyers can shift some of their budget to other efficiencies, which allows them to have a better performing home,” says Baker.

In an interview during a press reception, Susanka says this project was the ideal venue to demonstrate many of the principles revealed in her new book, Home by Design: Transforming A House Into Your Home.

“The house demonstrates a new way of thinking about design,” Susanka says. “This is a home that employs the technologies of the 21st century in a way that makes them both accessible and user friendly for a large segment of the home-buying publicÑMiddle America. If you peel away the particular style of a house, there are principles that underlie these surface treatments, each of which deeply affects how we experience our surroundings and how we feel about them.”

By giving names to these characteristics, she opens the possibility for a dialogue between home-building professionals and their customers so the houses they design and build, whether new or remodeled, are as fulfilling and inspiring as their customers’ dreams.

The book, published by The Taunton Press, offers readers a set of design principles to help their houses embody the qualities of home.

Steve Easley, an internationally recognized construction consultant and co-host of the project, says, “We also have designed in ‘home-as-a-system’ solutions to reduce construction defects and callbacks. “SIPs reduce the heat scavenging effects of air infiltration, on-site labor and guesswork because the framing, insulation and sheathing are installed in one labor-saving step.”

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