Wall building with structural insulated panels
Structural insulated panels (called SIPs in the industry) are just now making big inroads into the residential market. This is more common in custom homes than in cookie-cutter subdivisions. The panels are basically a sandwich.
These panels have a core of rigid foam plastic insulation with sheet OSB (Oriented Strand Board) on both sides. Unlike the types of framing materials we've already covered, SIPs are custom-built by a manufacturer to the specifications of the architect or building engineer.
Once they're delivered to the job site, the carpenters assemble them. They can be used not only in the walls, but in the floor and roof as well.
The pros and cons of building with SIPs
The resulting structure is nearly air-tight. This is a huge pro because it means an energy savings of 50% over a wood framed structure! Another pro is that the building process yields almost no scrap. This, plus the energy savings, puts the home on the fast track to an Energy Star certification.
Due to the reduced construction time, the cost of building with SIPs is roughly equal to that of more conventional framing methods.
One con of SIPs is that it takes training to install properly. Many contractors have yet to take the leap, and for DIY'ers, there is a learning curve involved. But that being said, this is a great choice for exterior walls. Next, we'll examine ICFs, a good choice for both exterior and interior walls.