For a house to be sustainable and energy efficient, it needs to be well insulated. It needs high performing windows. Thermal bridges and air-leakage need to be minimised. Ideally the house should have some thermal mass. The house should have good solar access, that is the main thing. The actual roof form or the wall cladding/wall finishes are up to your personal taste.
Having said this, when you are building a ‘standard’ stud frame home the entire home needs to be taped and sealed and hence there is more potential for errors and mess ups.
I personally am a huge fan of SIPs (Structural Insulated Panels) and use them on a lot on our projects.
For those of you who haven’t come across this type of construction. These prefabricated panels compromise an FSC certified OSB3 board on either side and have a highly compressed insulation internally. The panels are load bearing and can be used for exterior walls, roofs, floors and also internal walls.
And it is really important to know: the house can look any way you want it. You can use any kind of material to finish your house; like render, any kind of cladding, timber, metal cladding, brick or stone, there are no limitations. Same goes for the actual build form. No matter if you are after a traditional or an ultra-modern home.
But what is so special on those panels you might ask?
For once, these prefabricated panels are produced off-site in a factory. Meaning there is less wastage and off-cut on site. The panels are also lightweight, which means less money spent on footings, no heavy machinery is required and setting them up is fast as. In fact, a complete house can be up to lock up stage within days.
Although the product itself is more expensive than a standard stud wall construction, the construction is so fast that actual labour cost is minimal. So, in the end, the construction costs about the same as if you would build it the standard way. But you have the added benefit of a much faster construction, which might save you on interest rates and or rental expenses.
On top of this, the panels are highly energy efficient and offer a much better rating than a standard wall. Wall panels have an R-value between R2.7 and 4.0 (depending on the thickness). Due to their outstanding performance sips are regularly used on passive standard homes as well.
By using those big prefabricated sips panels, it gets relatively easy to create air-tight homes, as you only have to seal the joints of the panels.
As mentioned before, building with sips panels isn’t more expensive than building a more traditional brick veneer home. But sadly most builders haven’t come across this kind of construction yet, and due to the fear of the unknown, some of them might put a big margin on top of their fee, to cover the unknown. Because of that, it is easier to use a builder who has worked with sips before and know how good they are and how easy it is to work with them.
As some of you might know. We are personally on the journey of designing a passive house for our family. And we will definitely build with SIPs panels ourselves. We are planning to use sips for the walls and for the roof.
For more about sips or how they can help you to achieve a truly energy efficient home please don’t hesitate to give us a call or drop us an email.