Structural Insulated Panels (SIP’s) are a miracle of smart engineering. In fact, it’s so smart that the result looks deceivingly simple, and it’s easy to underestimate SIP’s.
SIP’s are “sandwich” panels: a very light core, that resists extremely well to compression (usually an insulating material like EPS, PUR, PIR) is sandwiched between two outer skins that resist extremely well to traction – like steel, aluminum, fiber cement board, MgO or even OSB. Actually, most images you’ll find are about SIPs with OSB – but we think other “skins” are often better than OSB.
The magic of this combination? The result is a lightweight panel, easy to install, with superb insulation performance.
Why are SIPs a smart building system?
- very light system, easy to work with, less foundation costs, lighter roof trusses etc.
- allows for very long spans
- can be used for floors, walls, roofs
- extremely fast building: a typical house can be erected by just a few men in a week or so
- large choice of skins – from cheap OSB to good looking materials that will require no
- do not always require heavy equipment
What are the limitations of SIPS?
- The base on which SIP’s are installed has to be perfectly flat. If not, the SIP’s panels will lean left and right, creating problematic gaps. Usually a base plate is installed on the slab (e.g. a wooden plate) that is carefully aligned and levelled before one adds the SIP panels
- SIPs have little mass and do not insulate sound very well – although this can be compensated by adding heavier skins like fibre cement panels
- When made with OSB skins, the OSB has to be protected from water infiltrations
- When made with EPS core – although it is not edible – one must avoid leaving entries for rodents who like the material for their nests. They like comfort too! Other materials are tougher and better but slightly more expensive.