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The Benefits of Building with SIPs : Sustainability

October 24, 2011

Written by Dave Stevenson
Follow me on twitter @DStevensonSIP

Welcome again to the Insulspan SIPs’ blog.  Today’s topic will be ‘The Benefits of Building with SIPs: Sustainability’.

As I have mentioned already in previous blogs, there are several advantages to building with SIPs; the big three being sustainability, speed of construction, and factory controlled quality assurance. Each of these benefits can be further dissected into several more directly related sub-benefits such as energy efficiency, reduced site labour costs, and precise CNC fabrication tolerances. The value or importance attached to these benefits is directly dependent on the perspective of each stake holder in the project. For example; the contractor may particularly value the ‘speed of construction’ as it will allow his crew to build more houses in a year, while the architect may be more concerned about the exacting tolerances of the panels; and the home owner, the fact that she is doing her part to reduce the environmental footprint of her new home.

Because of the extensive range of benefits, and in the interest of brevity (I could ramble on for pages extolling all of the virtues of building with SIPs), I will begin a blog series that focusses specifically on one topic at a time: starting with Sustainability.

So what does sustainability in the context of ‘green’ building really mean? Plasti-Fab believes that to be sustainable, we need to do our best to use natural resources at a rate at which they can be replenished.  ‘Green’ building therefore, is the practice of minimizing the impact a building has on the natural environment by constructing buildings that use resources more efficiently, while minimizing pollution that can harm renewable natural resources.

SIPs Save Resources

The major components of SIPs, Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) and Oriented Strand Board (OSB) take less energy and raw materials to produce than other structural building systems.

  • EPS takes 24% less energy to produce compared to fiberglass insulation
  • EPS is 98% air
  • EPS is recyclable; even the ‘off cut’ material from the manufacturing process can be returned to the EPS molder for use in the manufacture of other EPS products
  • EPS doesn’t contain any ozone depleting chemicals; it is inert
  • EPS provides long term thermal resistance; when used in SIP applications, it will save many times the energy embodied in the petroleum used to make EPS
  • OSB is manufactured from fast growing, carefully managed forests
  • OSB does not contain any urea-formaldehyde adhesives

Not only are the raw materials used to manufacture SIPs less taxing on the environment from manufacturing standpoint, but there are actually less raw materials required to build a SIP house. Consider this; a SIP building typically uses about 30% less dimensional lumber because studs can be placed every 48” compared to standard 16” or 24” o.c ‘stick frame’ construction.

SIPs also drastically reduce job site waste. Because the panels arrive pre-fabricated and ready to install, there are no off cuts, insulation left overs, plastic bags, or scrap pieces of vapour barrier to deal with.

So not only do SIPs save resources in production and minimize waste generation, the high R-value and airtight nature of the building envelope also reduces the amount of gas and electricity used in heating and cooling the house.

Finally, a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) conducted by BASF comparing SIPs to conventional stick framing revealed that SIPs have a significantly lower impact on the environment. Not only do they save natural resources and energy, but they also help to decrease carbon emissions. Download the EPS Life Cycle brochure

Follow my next blog as we continue our discussion on SIP benefits and in particular ‘Reduced Energy Consumption’.

Dave Stevenson
Insulspan Division, PFB Corporation

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