What Are SIPs?

SIPs are the 21st Century Building Material

Structural insulated panels (SIPs) are one of the most airtight and well insulated building systems available, making them an inherently green product. 

An airtight SIP building will:

Structured Insulated Panel (SIP) Detail
Structured Insulated Panel (SIP) Detail
  • Use less energy to heat and cool
  • Allow for better control over indoor environmental conditions
  • Reduce construction waste

Structural insulated panels (SIPs) are a high performance building system for residential and light commercial construction. The panels consist of an insulating foam core sandwiched between two structural facings, typically oriented strand board (OSB).  SIPs are manufactured under factory controlled conditions and can be fabricated to fit nearly any building design. The result is a building system that is extremely strong, energy efficient and cost effective. Building with SIPs will save you time, money and labor.

SIPs Save Energy

Building with SIPs creates a superior building envelope with high thermal resistance and minimal air infiltration.  A 4-inch SIP wall (nominal) rated at R-14 outperforms a 2×6 stick framed wall with R-19 fiberglass insulation, according to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

  • ORNL blower door tests reveal that a SIP test room is 15 times more airtight than its stick framed counterpart with fiberglass insulation.
  • Up to 40% of a home’s heat loss is due to air leakage.
  • SIPs have demonstrated amazingly low blower door test results when properly sealed. Based on the reliable performance of SIPs, ENERGY STAR chose to eliminate the required blower door test for SIP homes to meet ENERGY STAR standards.

The monthly energy savings cost typically offsets framing cost increase when selecting SIPs framing over conventional “stick framing” and batt insulation .

If you are trying to meet whole-wall insulation factor of SIPs framing with 2x stick framing and batt insulation material and labor cost.

Labor time would be increased to meet SIPS whole-wall factors.  You would have to develop a thicker insulated wall with Higher R-factor batt insulation and add an insulation foam board sheathing to the exterior face of wall  deal with thermal bridging through the wall studs and solid wood headers.  Solid wood framing in a conventional framed structure is +/- 30%.

If you used foam spray for walls and roof insulation, you would need to add the foam board sheathing on the exterior walls and incapsulate the top of the roof framing system to help eliminate thermal bridging.

Indoor Air Quality

SIPs do not contain any VOCs or other harmful chemicals that can affect occupant health. The components used to make SIPs (foam, oriented strand board, and adhesive) meet some of the most stringent standards for indoor air quality.

A SIP home or commercial building allows for better control over indoor air quality because the airtight building envelope limits incoming air to controlled ventilation. Controlled ventilation filters out contaminants and allergens, and also allows for incoming air to be dehumidified, reducing the possibility for mold growth.  Learn more …

Are Structural Insulated Panels More Expensive?

Building with SIPs generally costs about the same as building with wood frame construction when you factor in the labor savings resulting from shorter construction time, better control over framing material, and less job-site waste.  Other savings are realized because smaller heating and cooling systems are required with SIP construction.

USDA Loan Approval

The following letter from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) supports the use of structural insulated panels (SIPs) and other forms of “alternative building materials” that improve energy efficiency for USDA-sponsored loans.