There are many elements that comprise a High Performance Home. It must be energy efficient with very low utility bills. The Building Envelope which consists of all surfaces in contact with the outside, from the foundation and exterior walls to the home’s roof must be highly insulated with minimal air leaks to the outside. “Build it tight, ventilate it right” is an often heard green building mantra. It must also be a Healthy Home with constant clean filtered air circulating throughout, and with VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) eliminated to the greatest extent possible.
Homes leak energy. This infrared photo shows the heat being lost through a typical home. Yellow and red indicate heat loss. High performance homes endeavor to create a building envelope that greatly reduces heat loss.
This is a blower door test where the tightness of the building envelope is measured. As the fan removes the home’s indoor air replacement air from the outside enters the home through every crack and gap in the exterior walls and roof. By utilizing tools like the blower door test and the infrared camera, as we always do, we make sure our homes are as tight as possible.
Structural Insulated Panel System
Building with structural insulated panels (SIPs) provides strong and super tight exterior walls and roofs. A SIP is a form of sandwich panel consisting of an insulating layer of rigid foam core sandwiched between two layers of structural board. We’ve been building SIP homes since 1987.
SIPs share the same structural properties as an I-beam or I-column. The rigid insulation core of the SIP acts as a web, while the sheathing fulfills the function of the flanges. Both the insulation and OSB section thicknesses are determined by engineering considerations.
SIPs combine the functions of components of conventional building, such as studs and joists, insulation, vapor barrier and air barrier. They can be used for many different applications, such as exterior wall, roof, floor and foundation systems. Typical homes use 2×4 and 2×6 studs in exterior walls. Insulation fits only in between these studs. Each stud creates a thermal bridge which allows wasteful energy flow between the outside and inside wall surfaces. SIPs greatly reduce thermal bridging.
And that’s no bull.
Check out the SIP article at Wikipedia and SIPA, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Structural_insulated_panel and https://www.sips.org/