Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) are one of several new unconventional building systems that reportedly improve energy efficiency and resistance to natural disasters.
SIPs are formed under factory controlled conditions by encasing an insulated foam core between two structural facings, typically panels of oriented strand board (OSB). Structural wall and roof sections are assembled, measuring 4 feet wide by 8 or 10 feet long and at least 4 inches thick. The panels are then delivered and ready to finish, which drastically reduces shell completion time.
As one of the most airtight and insulated building systems available, SIPs homes are more thermally efficient than conventional stick-built houses insulated with fiberglass batts. According to the Structural Insulated Panel Association (SIPA), "a SIP test room is 15 times more airtight than its stick framed counterpart." They also contribute to the cost effectiveness of a project due to reduced labor costs and the need for smaller and less expensive HVAC units.
In comparison to other alternative building systems like those formed by concrete, SIPS are more likely to be accepted by contractors who are familiar with wood-based systems, which can be easily manipulated with traditional tools and offer greater design flexibility. They assemble quickly and require no concrete pour or dry time; houses can be enclosed in days as opposed to weeks.
Lindsay Locke is the director of business development for TightLines Designs in Raleigh, N.C. She has ten years of experience in business development and senior leadership in the fields of architectural services and community development. Lindsay frequently lectures on sustainable building topics including alternative building techniques and energy-efficient initiatives and is a LEED Accredited Professional and real estate broker.