Goodbye 2-by-6 studs with fiberglass insulation, vapor barrier and a lot of screws, nails, pounding — and seeping of air between the many joints. Say hello to SIPs.
Today's green, energy-efficient and sustainably-built house can be framed entirely with SIPs — Structural Insulated Panels — which are a foot-thick sandwich of polystyrene foam between layers of oriented strand board, a product that costs a little more than lumber but which cuts building time and pays for itself in saved energy bills.
A technology that's been around for two decades, SIPs have jumped to the forefront of green building as energy costs and environmental awareness have spiraled upward, says John Turman of Eco-Panel in Medford, a contractor and dealer of SIPs in the region.
SIPs are just one of many green products — and Eco-Panel is just one of many green companies — you can learn about at the Oregon Green Expo, a three-day event at the Medford Armory meant to showcase the valley's fast-emerging green industries.
Complete with scores of exhibitors, workshops and presentations, the Oregon Green Expo runs July 3-5. Show hours are noon to 7 p.m. on Friday, July 3; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, July 4; and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, July 5.
Entry is $3 a day or $5 for the weekend, with kids younger than 18 admitted free.
The Expo, says its creator, Ashland Eco-Broker Don McCoy, is a place to network and market among the region's green companies, organizations, individuals and homeowners in such areas as financing, eco-tourism, education, lifestyles, household products, gardening, transportation, energy, recycling, water, health, wellness, the arts, media and home building.
"People can come down and learn all aspects of living green, including where to buy local, green, recycled products — and how to cut the cost of living, so people can live better, more vibrant lives is sustainable ways," says McCoy.
Eco-Panel, which will have a booth at the show, did most of the walls and roofs of a green-sustainable home being built near Emigrant Lake by Ashland contractor Steve Siriani.
"SIPs are for high-performance homes and buildings," says Turman. "They outperform a stud-frame wall by 30 percent. They save 30 to 40 percent on construction time and they cost only 10 percent more, which is paid off in three years."
Like a lot of green products, SIPs make a home more comfortable to live in and easier to both heat and cool, says Turman. Conventional "stick-built" houses have built-in energy leaks, he says. The studs themselves serve as a "thermal bridge," passing cold in the winter and heat in the summer — plus there are inevitable seeps and leaks where the studs, insulation and plates meet, he adds.
SIP panels help builders and owners qualify for an array of tax breaks and benefits that come from organizations such as Earth Advantage and the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED program — and, he notes, they add to market value and desirability, a plus in a down economy.
SIP panels have mold and termite coating and come in any size up to a maximum of 8 by 24 feet. They come already cut, including holes for windows and doors, then they're erected with screws, caulked and taped, using few tools other than a power nut driver and glue gun.
The SIP panels are rigid and strong, and any such wall can be considered a bearing wall.
So well insulated is the Siriani home that it will not have any HVAC forced air, but will be heated by in-floor radiant heat, a series of plastic tubes encased in a poured concrete subfloor and circulating to subterranean heat sources.
The home also incorporates Fast Wall — blocks of recycled fiberboard compacted into blocks that serve pretty much like the old cinder blocks — which can be glued together and filled with concrete.
"In an economy like this one, these are the homes that can sell — green-built homes — and they use a lot less wood," says Turman.
To be an exhibitor or presenter in the Oregon Green Expo, participants or their products must meet one of these environmentally sustainable criteria:
- Energy efficient/renewable energy
- Conserves or protects water and/or air
- Less toxic/plant-based
- Locally or regionally produced
- Reduces waste
- Recycled content
- Organic (but not certified)
- Certified by: USDA Organic; Energy Trust, Energy Star; Earth Advantage, Fair Trade; Forest Stewardship Council; Food Alliance; U.S. Green Building Council (LEED); National Association of Home Builders.
A description of Oregon Green Expo exhibitors, workshops, speakers and services can be found at www.theoregongreenexpo.com.
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at email@example.com.