SIP Briefs September/October 2003

Team, Big Sky Add Hundegger PBA Technology
Think of the difference between making copies with carbon paper and making them with a high-tech, high-speed copier. For two leading manufacturers of R-Control Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs), that is similar to the change they are experiencing.

Team Industries (Grand Rapids, MI) and Big Sky Insulations (Belgrade, MT) have acquired Hundegger PBA machines for each facility. A first-of-its-kind for the Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) industry in the United States, the machines receive dimensional data directly from a computer and then create high-quality SIPs that are precise and low-cost.

Team Industries and Big Sky Insulations are founding members of the R-Control Building Systems, a group of 13 companies who manufacture SIPs for the construction industry. Using EPS, an insulation foam, the SIPs provide strength, stability and consistency that stick frame wood panels cannot.

The German-manufactured Hundegger PBA is the first machine in the United States that converts drawings into computer-readable files and sends them directly to the machine, which consequently cuts the SIP panel according to the exact measurements. Doorways, windows and electrical outlets are automatically cut. This latest version includes additional safety features and a second rail to allow more accurate cutting.

“We’ve eliminated the potential for human error and opened the way for sharing information,â€? says Tim Feagan, Team Industries president.

The two companies will be splitting the jobs based on the geography of the customers. Both companies primarily service the commercial construction industry, as well as their growing residential market. The new machine will cut SIPs for customers such as franchise chains, apartment buildings and other free- standing facilities.

“Customers with several locations, like franchises, will save time and money,â€? says Brad Huempfner, Big Sky Insulations president. “We can share the data for new construction across the country and the speed of the machine contributes to time saved.â€?

The addition of the Hundegger PBA machines comes on the heels of Team Industries acquiring Insulated Building Systems or IBS (Winchester, VA) earlier this year.

Both Team IBS are AFM Corporation primary manufacturing and marketing licensed facilities, which produce the R-Control Building System. The location of IBS, the combination of operation resources, machinery and marketing focus allows Team and IBS to coordinate efforts on the eastern half of the U.S. with its product branding, says Feagan.

Another Suitor Pursues Insul-Kor
The announcements that Insul-Kor (Elkhart, In) was being purchased by a firm in North Carolina were greatly exaggerated. Technology Connections (Charlotte, NC), a publicly traded company, announced the acquisition in the first quarter of this year. Technology Connections installs structured wiring into newly constructed homes. The company also retrofits structures with the same integrated technology. But the deal with Insul-Kor fell through when Technology Connections stock ran into a rough patch.

Now another company is seeking to acquire Insul-Kor, says Morrie Young, president and owner. “After the last go round, I know not to count on anything till I have the signed paperwork,â€? says Young. Young is one of the original SIP pioneers, staring his business more than 18 years ago. “But now I’d like to retire. I’m old enough,â€? says Young.

SIPs Used In Zero-Energy Homes
Remarkable new homes being built by Habitat for Humanity in Loudon County, Tennessee are projected to break new records showcasing state-of-the-art energy efficiency. The high “whole wall R-valueâ€? and nearly airtight construction relies on structural insulated panels to give the houses their unprecedented performance, shattering existing concepts of how energy-efficient homes should be built. The goal for these net-zero-energy dwellings is to be so energy efficient that on an annual basis, the energy usage will not exceed what is produced on site.

Research at the U.S. Government’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory or ORNL has shown that in terms of real performance a SIP wall rated at R-15, with a 3-1/2 inch EPS core, actually out-performs a fiberglass insulated wall six inches thick and rated on paper at R-19. “The comparison shows that a SIP wall system is thermally very well designed,â€? states Jeff Christian, Director of the Buildings Technology Center at ORNL. “The superior design of SIPs demonstrated under identical laboratory conditions at the ORNL shows that SIPs can be 95% more airtight than wood-frame construction.â€? Real time comparison of energy performance shows that the SIP zero energy house uses 1/10 the heating energy than a similar sized wood-framed house across the street.

These new Habitat homes, as part of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Building America and Zero Energy Building programs, are the first structures ever to combine a number of new energy-efficient design concepts and are the first attempts to attain zero energy on affordable houses in the United States. In fact, the homes could be used by the DOE as a concept model for constructing a similar Zero Energy Building Habitat House in each state of the country. Much like the work on the “Freedom Car â€? (hydrogen fueled) under the transportation sector, building zero energy buildings (ZEB) is the “grand challengeâ€? for the buildings sector.

The cost of heating the first zero energy Habitat home, built in the fall of 2002, was 50 cents a day during a colder than normal winter in East Tennessee. Forty sensors were installed in the home to monitor the thermal performance. The near real time data gathered from these sensors can be found at

The second and third homes are being designed and assembled in July 2003 by volunteers through a partnership between the Department of Energy Building America Program, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Habitat for Humanity, SIPA and a number of other building industry sponsors to include Andersen Windows, NOVA Chemicals, Rohm and Haas, Ashland Specialty Chemical, Design Basics, FischerSIPs, Inc., Insulspan, Inc., Weyerhaeuser, Falcon Foam, Archbold Container Corp., the Metal Roofing Alliance and IBACOS, a Building America team.

The first Habitat home was built using Pacemaker Plastics four-inch walls with 1lb. density expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam cores. Insulspan, Inc., using 6-inch walls with 1lb. density EPS foam, will manufacture the second house. FischerSIPs, Inc. will manufacture the third home with 2lb. density EPS foam provided by Falcon Foam. The resin to make the foam for both houses will be donated by NOVA Chemicals, and Weyerhaeuser will be providing all of the OSB.

ORNL will install instruments and monitor each home and provide a report of the energy performance. Research results incorporated by ORNL scientists in the Zero Energy homes include a 2kW solar PV system on the roof. TVA is offering the homeowners through the Lenoir City Utilities Board $0.15/kWh for all the AC solar power generated. The buy back offer is 2.4 times the retail rate for electricity. As a result, new homeowners may soon experience the unusual pleasure of getting a check in the mail for power generated by the system.

Data gathered from these houses w
ill be used to design Zero Energy homes in other locations around the world in the near future. Currently, discussions are underway at ORNL to build one home in Azerbaijan and one in Barbados. Jeff Christian, Director of the Buildings Technology Center at ORNL, says “We hope to learn as we build these houses to ultimately reach the Department of Energy’s goal of affordable zero energy housing by the year 2015.â€?

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