The simple questions are always the hardest to fully answer.
Why SIPs – indeed?
Don’t we know the answer?
Well, I know the answers commonly given. A quick search of the manufacturer’s literature gives the standard list of reasons:
- To provide unmatched comfort in our buildings.
- To make our buildings two to three times stronger than stick-built structures.
- To cut construction time – which is worth money.
- To shift field labor to factory labor which cuts costs.
- To shift construction to a controlled environment which enables higher quality.
- To aid in the tighter scheduling of the whole job.
- To provide a structure that discourages the growth of mold and mildew.
- To provide a building with superior acoustic isolation from it’s environment.
- To build with materials that have a smaller environmental footprint.
- To build with materials that may be recycled.
- To lower our heating and cooling bills.
Take a good look at this graph:
The co2 created by burning fossil fuel sticks around for about 100 years, so even if the entire planet were to stop the use of all fossil fuel immediately, we would still be subject to an “inertial” upward drift of co2 in our atmosphere. The rise would continue to contribute to global warming. Pretty grim – right?
There is no room here, or is it the proper place to go into detail about how we might or how we should work hard to reverse this picture. Suffice it to say that we are headed for a huge radical change in our weather and geology that will impact the human experience of living on earth in ways we have not even begun to fully understand. This does not mean that we should do nothing. If you are in a car that you know is about to crash – it just can’t be avoided – you should still put on the brakes and take such protective position as you may.
Using SIPs is the first step we can take as responsible designers and builders to create efficient buildings that make the smallest greenhouse gas contribution possible.
A direct stick-to-SIP conversion will generally produce a building that is at least 25% more efficient. My own experience is that this number is closer to 50%, and if full passive solar technologies and proper engineering is utilized, with no increase in construction costs, 75% and higher efficiencies may be achieved.
I have a hard time understanding why people build “conventional” buildings when these new efficient jobs also yield all the additional benefits cited above and the great comfort, warmth and security of virtually free heat and light in the middle of the coldest part of the winter. I guess we know the difference is education. I hope we can continue to bring this message to the consumer and the design and building communities so that we can start to turn things around.
It is no longer a question of whether or not we will run out of fossil fuel. It is absolutely clear that the fossil fuel economy is no longer sustainable and is driving us to the same fate as all other species who could not adopt or evolve fast enough to keep pace with their changing habitat.
SIPs make great buildings, they should be considered for your project for all the reasons listed at the beginning of this article, but they should be the technology of choice primarily for the good of our seventh generation.