PHOTOS: Net-zero energy home relies on steel insulated panels

| by Gary Wollenhaupt
PHOTOS: Net-zero energy home relies on steel insulated panels

Steel structural-insulated panels will be a part of a custom net-zero energy home in southeastern Wisconsin. The home, designed by Chicago Workshop Architects, will incorporate steel SIPs from Hi-Tech Building Systems, a distributor of panels from ThermaSteel.

Typical structural insulated panels consist of expanded polystyrene resin foam sandwiched between layers of OSB wood panels. The ThermaSteel panels use a similar concept, but instead of wood, steel framing surrounds the foam.

PHOTOS: See the steel SIPs in action.

In an announcement about the home, Robert J. Tomczak of Hi-Tech Building Systems outlined the advantages of steel SIPs.

“During construction, the panels are installed on a track attached to the floor, making for a virtually airtight building envelope,” he said. “Because the framing is made of steel rather than wood, the panels drastically reduce thermal bridging and increase the insulating value of the structure.”

Other green technologies for the home planned for the Majestic Estates green development in Twin Lakes, Wisc., include geothermal heating and cooling, solar panels and R-5 insulated windows. The goal is to have the home generate as much energy as it uses over the course of a year.

The average single family home in Wisconsin uses nearly $2,500 in electricity and natural gas each year. Over a 20-year period, with an estimated annual increase of only 8 percent in energy costs, a net-zero energy home can save a homeowner more than $120,000, Tomczak noted.

The home’s exterior design will pay tribute to the Prairie Style common in the region, a reflection of the fact that a home can boast a traditional or historic style and still be considered green or a high-performance home.

“Why haven't more area homeowners taken the plunge into the world of net-zero, energy-efficient home design?” Tomczak asked. “For many, it's the negative perception of a sterile, boxy structure that comes to mind when they think of the ultimate green commitment. We find that homeowners, particularly in the Midwest, are more willing to embrace high-performance building technologies when they are able to marry them with the traditional architectural styles they are used to."

Additional benefits for steel SIPS include:

  • Engineered to withstand hurricane-force winds.
  • Impervious to water, mold and insects.
  • Improves insulating (R-value) by up to 70 percent over alternative building techniques.
  • Provides structural framing, insulation, sheathing, and vapor barrier in one step that can cut weeks off of construction time.

To create the steel SIPs, Hi-Tech Building Systems starts with a standard set of architectural prints and creates a working set of prints, customized for use with the ThermaSteel panels.

The SSIPs, created from recyclable materials, are then cut at the factory to the exact dimensions, including door and window openings, which reduces the amount of jobsite waste. Panels will be used for walls, roofs and floors. Standard drywall will be used on the interior and natural stone will be used for the exterior finish.

“These houses could be built on any street in small-town America and no one would be the wiser,” Tomczak said. “There’s no ultra modern, ‘out-of-place’ structures here; just a wise and comfortable homeowner, loving his or her beautiful and efficient home.”

For more information, see our Building Green Research Center.

What do you think of advanced green builidng technology? Continue the conversation in the comments below!

Topics: Building Green, Insulation

Gary Wollenhaupt

Gary Wollenhaupt is an experienced writer and editor, with a background as a daily newspaper reporter as well as corporate and agency public relations and marketing. He is constantly looking for affordable green upgrades to make to his home in eastern Kentucky.

wwwView Gary Wollenhaupt's profile on LinkedIn

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