Tuesday, October 21, 2008

SIPS Construction on the BeauSoleil Home

Solar Decathlon Update: Every two years 20 university teams are chosen, based on proposals, to design an all-solar home and assemble it on the National Mall in Washington DC for public viewing and judging. Check back each Wednesday as the NAV Blog reports on the process of the design and construction of BeauSoleil, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette's entry.

SIPS is an acronym for structural insulated panel system. This system of construction consists of a 5 ½” inch layer of expanded polystyrene foam (EPS) sandwiched between two sheets of 7/16” oriented strand board (OSB). This system is extremely efficient in that it is produced in a factory setting therefore, reducing the material waste generally associated with typical site built construction.

Another advantage of this system is the increased precision of the construction process to tolerances as close as 1/16”. This increased precision allows for a much tighter system in that air infiltration is practically eliminated. This along with the reduction of thermal breaks due to the lack of studs in the system (studs are replaced by the EPS foam) increase the R-value of the panels to R-32 for ceilings and R-26 in a wall application, compared to R-30 and R-13 respectively for typical stick frame construction. The improved insultative properties of the panels will result in a significant savings in the cost of heating and cooling, there by exceeding the approximately 10% increase of initial cost in the initial construction cost.

The BeauSoleil Louisiana Solar Home will feature SIPS as its primary structural component. The modularity of SIPS allows for the ease of mass production and the tolerances allow for the ease of onsite assembly. This along with a structural steel frame in the transitional porch will allow this home to easily make the trip to Washington D.C. and back while remaining structurally sound.

Team BeauSoleil is currently completing the design of the shell of the house in preparation to begin the fabrication of the shell. Team members are working with Louisiana System Built Homes (LASBH) in St. Martinville on the details of this task. Through this partnership graduate students will be fabricating the panels, planning the cuts, programming the machines and assisting with the actual assembly of the shell at the LASBH factory.

This is a great opportunity for students to gain hands on knowledge in this system. The actual cutting of SIPS panels by students will begin in the next couple of weeks with the completion of the shell expected in early January. At that point the shell of the home will be trucked to Lafayette and will reside in the Team BeauSoleil warehouse until the completion of construction. Then it’s on the road again to Washington D.C. for the competition that will begin on October 1, 2009.


James Polk said...

The times I've used SIPs panels, they've always been a bit more cumbersome than imagined. The process of assembly seems to go faster when more hands are on-site. A crane is advantageous but, even still, the more people the easier and quicker things move along.

Most factories can provide them in one of two ways: 1) cut to fit, including openings, and 2) in slab sections correlating with typical sheathing dimensions, meaning multiples of 4 and 8 feet, and you can modify the panels at the site. The former is quicker. The latter is cheaper.

As far as using all waste materials (the panels will generally be formed to the next highest modular dimension anyway) ask the SIPs manufacturer to throw the scraps on the delivery truck and build a doghouse, or a backyard tool shed. They'll wind up in a landfill otherwise.

Scott said...

We are pre-cutting the panels in the factory using a programmable router. This is proving a bit challenging as LASBH does not manufacture odd shaped roofs such as ours. That's part of what makes this so exciting though. We feel like we are really pushing this technology to the limit. Also, we are doing our best to minimize drop and where we do have drops they are large and regular in shape so that LASBH can use them in another project.

HÃ¥ndlister said...

Thank You! I STRONGLY recommend BeauSoleil Home to EVERYONE interested in running a successful!