Frequently asked questions

What are SIPs?

SIPs, sometimes referred to as "Sandwich Panels", are high performance building panels that can be used for foundations, floors, walls, and roofs in new construction or renovations. 

Panels are manufactured using cutting edge design and manufacturing technologies.


The makeup of a typical SIP consists of OSB skins laminated to both sides of a solid core of Expanded Polystyrene insulation. Panels are custom made for each particular application. 

How do SIPs compare with conventional construction?

Each SIP acts as both structure and insulation. Panels are made in thicknesses from 4-1/2" (R-17) to 12-1/4" (R-51) and up to dimensions of 8' x 24'. This means that fewer pieces and less time are required to erect a structure. SIPs simplify comliance with U.S. Building codes.

Comparing costs, labor savings and reduced sizes of HVAC equipment show SIPs to be very effective. Long term cost benefits come from reduced demand for energy and save money.

How about environmental impact?

Building with SIPs uses less dimensional lumber, instead using manufactured components that make better use of raw materials. Waste produced in the manufacturing process is minimal and can be recycled. Jobsite waste is greatly reduced.

A SIP structure requires less energy to heat and cool. The reduced demand translates into decreased greenhouse gases being emitted into the environment. The non-CFC blowing agent in the foam insulation does not threaten the earth's ozone layer.

Will a SIP home be a healthy home?

The solid construction of a SIP home reduces gaps in building components which can lead to air leakage, infiltration of dust, pollen and moisture which could allow mold to develop. Advanced HVAC systems may not require traditional ductwork resulting in healthier indoor air quality. All products used in SIPs contain either very low or zero VOCs. 

How do designers and builders look at SIPs?

Builders in general have a tendency to resist change. However, most who learn to build with SIPs are convinced that this is a preferred building system for the future. Architects and designers typically embrace the use of SIPS as long as there are builders who are willing to learn. 

Are there more reasons to use SIPs?

SIPs allow for greater design flexibility. 

Shorter construction period.

Save construction finance expenses.

A tighter envelope allows for the use of more efficient HVAC systems providing a draft free environment and reduced energy costs. Ventilation systems will work as designed, promoting healthy indoor air quality.

More questions, misconceptions and observations

"If these SIPs are so good, why isn't everyone using them?" 

It is more than a couple of times that I have been asked this question. This is a legitimate and simple question but the answer is not quite that simple. One needs to understand that most people, by nature, tend to resist change. They like dealing with things that they know and understand. The same goes for builders, architects and others involved in the construction industry. Dealing with change is not always easy. 

"Building "Green" is fine but it costs too much."

This is a misconception that is often fueled by the cost of many "Green" products that are expensive and fall into a category referred to as "Green Washing". Products of this type tend to use the word green as a maketing tool and have very little to do with resource efficiency and sustainability.

Green building (also known as green construction or sustainable building) refers to both a structure and the using of processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building's life-cycle: from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and demolition.

 Green building is a holistic concept that starts with the understanding that the built environment can have profound effects, both positive and negative, on the natural environment, as well as the people who inhabit buildings every day. In general, green homes are considered to be healthier, more comfortable, more durable, more energy efficient and have a much smaller environmental footprint than conventional homes. 

Building science professionals agree that the single, most important aspect of a "Green" structure is a well designed, well insulated and durable building envelope. This would include the structural building members, windows, and other components that define the exterior from the interior of the building shell. Everything that follows including the heating, cooling and ventilation systems are of secondary importance.

"What do you mean when you say that a home should operate as a system?" 

A home should be more than a place for your stuff. Similar to your automobile, your home needs all of it's components to work together. For your home to be safe, comfortable, healthy and durable, the building envelope, heating, cooling, and ventilation need to function as a system to be efficient. Lighting, "smart" controls and security may also be considered as part of the "System".

 "Energy Modeling and Performance Testing, why is this important?"

An analysis of a building's potential can be determined by energy modeling before a home is built. Using the information provided by the building plans and specifications, recommendations can be made as to the capacities that will be required of the heating and cooling systems. Each home is different and one size does not fit all. Modeling can also compare building and mechanical components to aid in the selection of products to be used.

The primary purpose of performance testing is to evaluate the integrity of a building. Most commonly, a blower door test is performed to measure the tightness of the envelope. The term "Build Tight, Ventilate Right" is a key to a home that is comfortable, healthy and energy efficient. Test results are shown as a HERS (Home Energy Rating Score). The lower the HERS score, the better. Think of this as way to compare performance similar to how miles per gallon ratings are used in the automotive industry. 

"Will an energy efficient home be more valuable to own?

As energy costs have risen, the demand for more energy efficient housing has increased. Unfortunately, the level of efficiency has not always translated into higher resale values. The appraisal industry is currently adopting the use of HERS scores as an indicator of efficiency and assigning higher values to homes with lower HERS scores. 

Building with SIPs is a practical, cost effective way to answer all of your concerns about building a home that is comfortable, healthy, energy efficient, durable and is respectful of our earth's natural resources and the environment in which we live. 

If you have questions, please drop me a line