When you talk about Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) many people in the construction industry think it’s a new technology that still needs to be proven over time. However, SIPs have been around in one form or another since the 1930s. Here’s a brief timeline.
In 1937 Forest Products Laboratory began experimenting with “Stress-Panels”. They were constructed using a honeycomb paper core with a variety of skins, including plywood and aluminum. According to Wikipedia, “In 1937, a small stressed-skin house was constructed and garnered enough attention to bring in First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to dedicate the house. In a testament to the durability of such panel structures, it endured the Wisconsin climate and was used by University of Wisconsin–Madison as a daycare center until 1998, when it was removed to make way for a new Pharmacy School building. With the success of the stress-skinned panels, it was suggested stronger skins could take all the structural load and eliminate the frame altogether”. In the 1930s and 1940s architect Frank Lloyd Wright used stress-skinned panels in some of his Usonian design homes.
Fast forward to 1952, architect Alden B. Dow reworked the stress panels using a polystyrene foam core produced by Dow Chemical. This was the first true Structural Insulated Panel, sometimes referred to as Sandwich Panels. Alden Dow’s design for Structural Insulated Panels endures to this day. Because of his breakthrough design his homes were virtually free from drafts and were easy and efficient to heat and cool.
With the oil crisis of the 1970s, construction using SIPs gained ground as an energy-efficient alternative to standard stick framing. The 1980s saw the development of Oriented Strand Board (OSB) which eventually replaced plywood as the main product used for SIP skins.
Many homeowners and builders have recently become aware of Structural Insulated Panels as an alternative building method. However, they have been around in one form or another for 80-plus years. SIPs have stood the test of time and meet or exceed building codes in all parts of the country.
Climate change issues are forcing the construction industry to move towards more energy-efficient building practices. Considering the current evidence showing the energy efficiency of SIPs, they will only become more popular in the future.
With today’s new technologies in manufacturing, Structural Insulated Panels have become a very competitive alternative construction method. SIPs use much less lumber and produce much less waste than conventional home-building methods. With all this information in mind, they are an obvious choice for building “Green”.
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