Exceeding the Strictest Energy Codes with SIPs

Happily, some areas are taking formal steps to increase energy efficiency and ultimately save homeowners money. While some builders struggle to meet the stricter energy codes with the same methods they’ve used for decades, others like Paul Tyrer, owner of Expert Handyman Services, Inc., in Traverse City, Michigan, are willing to try new strategies like SIPs to improve air tightness and lower utility bills.

Paul started with 2 x 6 construction with cellulose insulation blown into the walls. When Michigan adopted the stricter 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), he looked for a more energy-efficient method.

The 1,400 square foot home built by Paul using Thermocore structural insulated panels tested at 1.98 air changes per hour at 50 Pascals—“much better than the current code requires and twice as good as the [new] code will require,” according to the home’s blower door test report.

Now Paul is building more homes with SIPs so he won’t have to worry about meeting Michigan’s new IECC requirements. And why not! Paul said he can finish construction faster. Plus, “There was no added cost to using Thermocore structural insulated panels,” he said. (Read more about Paul’s experience with structural insulated panels.)

Those who keep doing the same thing get the same results. Don’t wait until you’re required to conserve energy; start saving money now with structural insulated panels.

SIPs Contribute Energy Efficiency for New Apartment Complex

Here’s an example of Thermocore SIPs in a unique commercial application:

Irvington Lofts, designed by One 10 Studio, provides housing for moderate-income residents in a historic neighborhood near downtown Indianapolis. Thermocore SIPs helped achieve multiple goals of the project. “We utilized six-and-a-half-inch insulated wall panels on the first floor for structural issues, with four-inch panels on the upper floors,” said Patrick Kestner, One 10 Studio project manager and associate. “That allowed us to stay at the budget number we needed, but also provide the energy efficiency we wanted.”

The contemporary-style apartment complex will receive a Silver rating under the National Association of Home Builders Green Building Standard. “Obviously, the SIPs are huge in being able to achieve that, since they’re the building envelope,” Kestner said.

Read more about One 10 Studio’s experience with Thermocore structural insulated panels. It’s not just homeowners who get energy savings in a quieter, sturdier structure!

A Warm and Happy New Year to All

As we start a new year, we are very grateful for the projects we’ve been involved with and the customers with whom we’ve had the pleasure to work. We’re in our 16th year of designing and manufacturing energy-efficient structural insulated wall and roof systems, and we’ve tried to remain industry innovators in efforts to provide better insulation and a faster build. Comes in handy with the frigid, snowy weather that’s hit so much of the U.S. over the past month!

I believe that 2014 will increase awareness of energy-efficient building as an investment, not an expense, with products like SIPs improving monthly cash flow and creating more comfortable environments. So happy New Year and happy building from all of us here at Thermocore!

How Will Adding HERS Scores to the MLS Affect the Housing Market?

This is a great question posed in a recent news article. There has been a national push to include Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index scores in real estate listings (often referred to as the Multiple Listing Service, or MLS). In essence, a home’s energy performance will be included along with the number of bedrooms and bathrooms. That’s the equivalent of putting the yellow ENERGY STAR rating sheet, commonly seen on appliances, onto your home.

Why is this important? Energy costs directly affect your monthly cash flow and your ability to pay your mortgage. Knowing these costs and how they compare to other homes in the area helps identify the best deal and allows homeowners to budget all their expenses.

Most importantly, the HERS rating will help recoup the money you spend on energy-efficient construction. Items like LED lighting and energy-efficient appliances have no effect; a HERS rating only reflects heating and cooling expenses—the major costs in home ownership. Unlike other eye-candy types of upgrades, investments in energy-efficient construction can now be measured and shown as an asset to a home’s value.

The easiest and most cost-effective way to improve a home’s HERS rating—and increase resale value—is to lower energy demand. Of course, one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to lower demand is to build with structural insulated panels (SIPs) like Thermocore.

Mortgage Risk Shrinks with Energy-Efficient Buildings

So it’s not just me. Jen Alic, a blogger for The Christian Science Monitor, says, “Here’s some new impetus for those sitting on the fence over household energy efficiency: The risk of mortgage default is one-third lower for people with energy-efficient homes, according to a recent study.”

The research by the University of North Carolina’s Center for Community Capital provides the first real academic link between mortgages and energy efficiency, but it proves my favorite point: SIPs and other smart energy-saving features just make your financial situation better.

In the study, houses with lower HERS scores showed a lower mortgage-default risk. After all, when you save hundreds of dollars on energy costs each month, it becomes much easier to make your mortgage payments—and still have money for other priorities.

Homes built with Thermocore structural insulated panels consistently score lower on the HERS index. A normal HERS rating is 100; the Energy Star standard is 70. Bart Rynish of Barton Designs achieved a HERS rating of 35 with Thermocore SIPs. After Art Smith of Rocky Ridge Designs received a HERS rating of 67, he found that his SIPs home actually consumed less than half the predicted amount of energy in its first year.

Despite what some may say, building with structural insulated panels does not cost more than traditional building methods. There are so many reasons to build green. Now we have proof that using SIPs and other energy-efficient features also protects your mortgage.

SIPs Performance Verified by Energy Audit

Sometimes other people say it best. I recently received this letter from Paul and Barb, who built their Indiana home with Thermocore SIPs and moved in earlier this year:

“Recently we took advantage of an offer from our electric provider to have an energy audit. The technician who did the test was blown away. He said it was the tightest house he had ever tested–by far. He had no recommendations that would make it any better. Needless to say, we were thrilled to verify that all of our planning was right on target. SIPs do work as advertised!!”

Urban, Affordable SIPs Homes…Who Knew?

I hate stereotypes. Many people think of SIPs homes as rustic. True, SIPs are used a lot in timber framing. But SIPs add energy efficiency to many other residential and commercial buildings, too. And they’re definitely not expensive, as much of the construction market seems to think.

Architectural designer Brian Burtch is breaking the stereotypes. He’s designing and building an affordable, energy-efficient, modern home in the eclectic Fountain Square neighborhood in downtown Indianapolis.

Guess what he chose for the building envelope? (Thermocore SIPs, in case that wasn’t obvious.) On Brian’s blog, he explained:

The panels are manufactured in the factory and will come to the site and be tilted into place. As a result, they allow for more precise construction practices, quicker on-site construction, and less waste. Finally, the panels allow for a much greater insulation value than traditional 2×4 framing, achieving an R-24 in a 4″ thick panel as opposed to around an R-13 for a traditional wall.

If you live in the area, come see Brian’s design during the Architects’ Home Tour, hosted by the American Institute of Architects Indianapolis, September 22-23. It’ll be one of just seven homes on the biennial tour. See for yourself how wrong stereotypes can be.