Our company mission is to help others to live a more sustainable life.
And we believe living in a sustainable home can and must be affordable for everyone!
Because of that we are a huge fan of SIPs (Structural Insulated Panels) and use them on a lot of our projects. For those of you who haven’t come across this type of construction. These prefabricated panels compromise a 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. The panels can come as big as an entire wall, complete with all window and door openings.
And really important to know: the house can look any way you want.
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 these 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 fast. 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 reduced. So, in the end, the construction costs about the same as if you were to build with standard std wall. But you have the added benefit of a much faster construction, which could 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 3.3 (depending on the thickness and the manufacturer).
Due to their outstanding performance sips are regularly used on passive standard homes as well. Sips panels are also ideal for townhouse and unit developments and can be used for parting walls as well.
You can also get approved Sips systems in bush fire prone areas, up to a BAL 40 (bush fire attack level).
Building an airtight and highly energy efficient building can be quite tedious and depending on the construction technique you want to use can also be quite costly. 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.
The actual construction/assembly of the sips panels is relatively easy, but I would recommend to always get the panels installed by the sips manufacturer themselves or from someone trained to install the panels.
Unfortunately there is one factor that is often overlooked here in Australia, and that are the structural thermal bridges within the sips panels, especially the thinner panels. Structural timber posts and lintels are integrated into the sips panels. Which means there are areas inside the panels that don’t have insulation, only timber. And heat and cold travels much faster through the timber than through the insulation, leading to a thermal bridge.
What we do in our practice, and what is common in Europe, we add a secondary layer of insulation. Either on the outside, for instance in form of a foam cladding of some sort. Or you can add another stud layer internally to add some additional insulation. By doing this you will be guaranteed to have a truly energy efficient home, that performs as it is meant to be and this will provide you with a very comfortable home that barely needs any heating and cooling, if at all.
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 material 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 knows 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 an energy efficient 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.
If you want to know more about our journey please check out our 20/20 House – The Gruen Eco Design blog about how to convert your dream from an energy efficient home into a reality. 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.
Photos curtesy of Fenster and Panel.