Structural Insulated Panels: When are they a suitable choice?
There is an ongoing need to practice sustainable, cost-effective, and eco-friendly construction which is pushing structural insulated panels, or SIPs, back into the limelight. These insulated panels make a suitable alternative to traditional building materials like timber frames. SIP panels not only provide superior insulation but also have a high load-bearing capacity and excellent durability. You might also want to try spray foam insulation as an option.
Choosing SIP panels over conventional building materials is in line with green building practices. But how do you determine if SIPs are the right choice for your construction project?
Analysing cost and construction time
The upfront cost of SIPs is considerably higher per square metre than conventional timber frames, but if you factor in the cost of other materials that you eliminate by using SIPs as well as the reduced construction time, you can come up with a strong case for concluding that SIPs are not inherently more expensive after all.
Perhaps the challenge here is not the cost of building with SIPs, but in finding the right contractor who has experience working with SIPs. Although SIPs have been around for half a century, not many builders have the skills to construct using them correctly. As such, it is vital to consider the viability of finding a contractor first and then dive deeper into the cost-benefit analysis of using SIPs over conventional framing materials.
Choosing the right design and architecture
SIPs typically come in standard sizes. In a way, building with SIPs is a modular method; hence, it is possible to have flexibility in choosing a design for the building. However, in designing a structure with SIPs in mind, it is vital to work with standard dimensions to further reduce the construction time.
Some architects are also exploring the idea of leaving SIPs exposed or untreated to highlight their natural appearance. This technique can add to the savings; however, it is also essential to treat the material with the right amount of care so as not to compromise its structural integrity and durability.
Energy efficiency and sustainability of SIPs
The primary reason most builders choose SIPs is the energy efficiency factor they bring to any completed structure. With superior insulation and airtightness, SIP buildings can remain cool or warm longer; hence, reducing HVAC power consumption. Commercial insulation increases the value of building. Homes built using SIPs also require smaller HVAC equipment with reduced performance.
Health and safety
SIPs undergo rigorous testing to ensure that the skin can protect the insulation core from a fire. Nevertheless, it is still necessary to consult with the builder if additional fireproofing is needed to reinforce the structure. SIPs with EPS insulation are also non-toxic and will not emit volatile compounds harmful to health. By achieving an airtight structure, SIPs help eliminate the need for artificial indoor air cooling, thus improving air quality and minimising dust circulation.
Embracing a new material for building takes time, especially if builders need to gain new knowledge and experience to become experts in using these new materials. There is no doubt that there are many benefits to using SIPs, as long as you can find a builder with knowledge and experience to successfully harness these benefits.