The Environmental Impacts of SIPS (Superior Building Envelopes)

Premier SIPs MultiFamily Project ArizonaEnergy consumption by residential & commercial buildings represents the majority of energy consumption in the United States. With buildings consuming a whopping 39% of energy in the U.S. (and 38% of carbon dioxide emissions into our environment), the building industry has an opportunity and responsibility to switch up outdated methods and build for the future. Not to mental make an impact with environmental responsibility!

As builders and designers are looking to  build structures with greater energy efficiency, Structural Insulated Panel Systems (SIPs) offer a turn-key sustainable solution. SIPs are one of the most airtight and well-insulated building systems available, making them an inherently green product.

Positive Environmental Impacts Of SIPs Building Systems:

  • Exceptional R-values for superior thermal comfort and reduced operational costs
  • Virtually airtight buildings allow for better control over indoor environmental conditions
  • Healthy indoor environments (IAQ – Indoor Air Quality)
  • Reduction in heating & cooling bills (regularly 60% less) help drop the demand on utilities and non-renewable energy
  • Buildings that use less energy (fossil fuel consumption) significantly help reduce carbon emissions and minimize additional pollution
  • Smaller HVAC systems (tighter/energy efficiency structures reduce the need for heating and cooling output)
  • Offsite factory production delivers a product with much less jobsite waste (regularly 60% less) than other construction framing methods
  • Engineered and manufactured with extreme strength and superior resiliency for the challenges that Mother Nature presents
  • A product made from renewable OSB resources and EPS insulation that is 100% recyclable

Explore Detailed Sustainable Elements of Premier SIPs

SIPs Save Energy & Natural Resources

Sustainable Building With SIPs

SIPs Save Energy

Building with SIPs creates a superior building envelope with high thermal resistance and minimal air infiltration.

A Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) Whole-wall R-value studies show that a 4-inch SIP wall (nominal) rated at R-14 outperforms a 2×6 stick framed wall with R-19 fiberglass insulation.

  • ORNL blower door tests reveal that a SIP test room is 15 times more airtight than its stick framed counterpart with fiberglass insulation.
  • Up to 40% of a home’s heat loss is due to air leakage.
  • SIPs have demonstrated amazingly low blower door test results when properly sealed. Based on the reliable performance of SIPs, ENERGY STAR chose to eliminate the required blower door test for SIP homes to meet ENERGY STAR standards.

Year after year, SIP homes and buildings simply consume and emit far less energy than comparable stick frame structures.

SIPs Save Resources

The major components of SIPs, EPS Insulation and oriented strand board (OSB), take less energy and raw materials to produce than other structural building systems. SIPs are fabricated in a controlled factory environment, where materials are optimized with precision equipment allowing for greater material efficiency than site-built framing.

The NAHB estimates that the construction of a 2000 sq. ft. home produces 7,000 lbs. of waste. SIPs have the ability to drastically reduce the waste generated during construction by using advanced optimization software and automated fabrication technology to ensure the most efficient use of material.

  • OSB is manufactured from fast growing, underutilized, and often less expensive wood species grown in carefully managed forests. The OSB production process uses small wood chips and highly automated machinery, making OSB a very efficient use of raw materials, with a positive environmental impact when compared with many other materials.
    • About 85-90 percent of a log can be used to make high quality structural panels, and the remainder – bark, saw trim, and sawdust – can be converted into energy, pulp chips or bark dust.
  • EPS is a lightweight insulation composed mostly of air. Only 2% of EPS is plastic. Over the lifetime of a house, the EPS insulation used in SIPs will save many times the energy embodied in the petroleum used to make EPS (see Life Cycle Analysis for more info).
    • It takes 24% less energy to produce EPS than fiberglass insulation of equivalent R-value.
    • Scrap EPS generated during the manufacturing process can be recycled into new EPS products.
    • EPS manufacturers regularly include a portion of recycled material in new products to reuse materials and practice environmental responsibility.

Life Cycle Analyses

Life Cycle Analyses

EPS Industry Alliance Life Cycle Analysis
This comparative study conducted by the EPS Industry Alliance shows that the energy invested in the production of SIPs yields an exponential benefit to the environment compared to traditional wood framing.

BASF Residential Insulation Systems Eco-Efficiency Analysis
BASF’s award-winning Eco-Efficiency Analysis assesses the complete environmental impact of several residential wall systems, including SIPs and 2 × 4 and 2 x 6 stick construction with fiberglass BATT:.

Eco-Efficiency Analysis Conclusion:

“Polyurethane and expanded polystyrene SIPs are consistently the more eco-efficient technology. In addition to providing energy efficiency benefits, they have low environmental impact over their life cycle.”

LEED Certification

It’s no question that SIPs have a significant impact for building owners seeking environmental certifications and financial incentives.

Why Certify?

While LEED Rating Systems can be useful just as tools for building professionals, there are many reasons why LEED project certification can be an asset:

  • Be recognized for your commitment to environmental issues in your community, your organization (including stockholders), and your industry
  • Receive third party validation of achievement
  • Qualify for a growing array of federal, state & local government initiatives (including tax credits and financial incentives
  • Receive marketing exposure through USGBC Web site, GreenBuild conference, case studies, and media announcements

How does LEED work?

Projects certified under the rating system must meet a total points minimum by accumulating points in the following categories: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, and Innovation and Design Process. Building must also meet prerequisites in each category. Four levels of certification are available, based on the total number of points awarded: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.

LEED for Homes & LEED for New Construction (Commercial)

LEED provides defined goals and processes for all team members to evaluate potential design challenges and offer solutions. This approach ensures the interoperability of systems in a high-performance home or structure. Accountability forms are used to verify the participation of team members in the design process.

Once the project design is complete, a LEED Provider or Green Rater will conduct an estimate of how the structure will score on the rating system. Four levels of certification are offered depending on the amount of points earned: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Based on the preliminary evaluation, the builder may wish to include additional green technologies to meet the desired goal.

Using Premier SIPs is the path for Commercial & Residential Projects to easily achieve LEED Certifications:

Green Building Standards

Green Building Standards

Airtightness and energy efficiency help SIPs meet the various sustainable building standards. SIPs structures easily meet LEED, Energy Star, DoE Zero Energy Ready, PassiveHouse standards and more. In fact, SIPs buildings are so airtight that Energy Star has waived the requirement for blower door tests in their certification process. Read how SIPs help meet Energy Star and LEED certifications here.

From a Green Building Code perspective, SIPs help a residential structure meet and exceed the: NAHB National Green Building Standard ICC-700 2020

One of the key qualifiers for many Green Building Standards in Residential Construction is the HERS rating. Learn about SIPS & HERS Ratings in the next section.


HERS Ratings & Premier SIPS

The Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index is the industry standard by which a home’s energy efficiency is measured. The HERS index is a nationally recognized system for inspecting and calculating a home’s energy performance and help owners reduce the cost of their utility bills by making their homes more energy-efficient. Many SIP homes achieve HERS ratings of 50 or less, meaning that they are at least 50% more energy-efficient than standard new homes. The airtight SIP building envelope, and resulting HERS ratings, helps buildings qualification under various green building standards.

Government agencies such as the Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognize the HERS Index as an official verification of energy performance.

How Does the HERS Index Work?

To calculate a home’s HERS Index Score, a certified RESNET Home Energy Rater will do a home energy rating and compare the data against a ‘reference home’ – a design modeled home of the same size and shape as the actual home, so the HERS Index Score is always relative to the size, shape and type of house you live in. The lower the number, the more energy-efficient the home.

A typical resale home represents 130 on the HERS Index while reference home (a standard new home built in 2006) is rated at 100.

  • A home with a HERS Index Score of 70 is 30% more energy-efficient than a standard new home.
  • A home with a HERS Index Score of 130 is 30% less energy-efficient than a standard new home.

Click here to view a video on the basics of the HERS Rating Index


Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

Healthier Indoor Environments

A SIP residential or commercial building allows for better control over indoor air quality because the airtight building envelope limits incoming air to controlled ventilation. Controlled ventilation filters out contaminants and allergens, and also allows for incoming air to be dehumidified, reducing the possibility for mold growth. All of which combine for optimal indoor environmental comfort.

There are a variety of ventilation strategies that can employed to provide fresh air to airtight homes. These vary by climate, but most are relatively inexpensive and operate on automatic control systems without the need for homeowner action.

SIPs do not contain any VOCs or other harmful chemicals that can affect occupant health. The components used to make SIPs (foam, oriented strand board, and adhesive) meet some of the most stringent standards for indoor air quality.

  • EPS uses pentane, a non-CFC blowing agent that dissipates shortly after production. EPS has no offgassing and many EPS manufacturers are GREENGUARD certified
  • SIP homes have qualified under the American Lung Association’s Health House® indoor air quality standard
  • The adhesives used in SIP production do not contain any measurable amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can be harmful to occupants
  • Oriented strand board (OSB) does not contain urea formaldehyde adhesives and meets the world’s leading formaldehyde emissions standards, including the U.S. HUD Manufactured Housing Standard, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) Air Toxic Control Measure for Composite Wood Products and the European EN-300 Standard
  • Learn more about OSB and formaldehyde
  • Learn more about expanded polystyrene (EPS) and HBCD flame retardants

Tax Credits

Tax credits come from multiple sources, some federal and others regional based on energy efficient incentives.  With a push in reducing carbon emissions and creating more renewable resources the incentives and tax rebates are growing rapidly. As a high performance building system that reduces energy consumption drastically, SIP systems easily qualify for See the quick Q&A and links below for more information on your regions.

Where can I find more regional information on credits and incentives? 

1). View the Database of State Incentives for Renewable’s & Efficiency (DSIRE) is a comprehensive source of information on state, local, utility, and federal incentives and policies that promote renewable energy and energy efficiency. Visit the DSIRE website and click on your state for more local inventive information.

2). Tax Incentives Assistance Project (TIAP) is designed to give consumers and businesses information they need to make use of the federal income tax incentives for energy efficient products and technologies passed by Congress as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and amended several times. Visit TIAP website for more information and links that are available for you.

How do I qualify and apply for a residential tax credit?

To receive the $2000 tax credit for homes, the builder must follow the guidelines set out in IRS Notice 2007-27. To do so, the home applying home must undergo an inspection from an energy rater certified through the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET). To find a RESNET energy rater in your local area, visit the RESNET website. To assist in the application process, The Internal Revenue Service has created IRS Form 8908 for guidance.

Additional incentives are available through the Energy Star program, be sure the check these out and consult a tax professional with any questions: Energy Star Tax Incentives

How do I qualify & apply for a commercial tax deduction? 

Owners of commercial buildings must follow the procedures listed in IRS Notice 20006-52. This notification provides guidance for full and partial deductions on new commercial construction and renovation. Since the financial incentive is a tax deduction, the Internal Revenue Service will continue to use standard forms to apply it to your taxes each year. Please consult a tax professional to learn how you can maximize your deduction.

Additional Energy Star incentives may also be available. Click here for more information on tax credits for Commercial Buildings from the Energy Star website.

Can I receive a partial tax deduction?

Yes…in the case of a building that does not meet the whole building requirement of a 50 percent energy savings, a partial deduction is allowed for each separate building system that is certified by a qualified professional as meeting or exceeding the applicable system savings targets of the $1.80 per square foot commercial tax credits. The applicable system savings targets are those that would result in a total annual energy savings of fifty percent for the whole building, if each of the separate systems met the system target; note that the maximum allowable deduction is $0.60 per square foot. The separate building systems are: Interior Lighting System; Heating, Cooling, Ventilation, and Hot Water System;, and Building Envelope. For more information on partial deductions, visit IRS Notice 2006-52

Energy Efficient Loans

What is an energy efficient mortgage (EEM)? 

Homeowners purchasing homes built with structural insulated panels (SIPs) may qualify for an Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM). These special mortgages allow debt to income ratios to be stretched when purchasing an energy efficient home.Next to the mortgage payment, utility bills are one of the largest costs of owning a home, and as energy prices continue to rise utility costs will become more burdensome to homeowners. A high performance SIP home can save so much money in heating and cooling bills that lenders are willing to give energy efficient homeowners a larger loan.

How do energy efficient mortgages work? 

Even with a high monthly mortgage payment, an energy efficient SIP home will save you money every month. Lenders are willing to “stretch” debt to income qualifying ratios up to 2% for homeowners purchasing energy efficient homes, meaning homeowners can borrow more ont he same amount of income.

How do I qualify and apply for an energy efficient mortgage?

To qualify for an Energy Efficient Mortgage, the home being purchased must be tested for projected energy usage. The measurement of the amount of energy a home uses is called the Home Energy Rating system Index, or HERS index. A HERS index is also used to determine whether a home meets ENERGY STAR standards or qualifies for tax credits under the Energy Policy act of 2005, however, homes do not have to qualify for these programs to be eligible for Energy Efficient Mortgages.

How much does a HERS rating cost? 

Costs are between $400 and $600. The cost of the rating could be paid for by the builder, lender, or real estate agent. Sometimes the cost of a HERS rating can be financed as part of the mortgage. The fee for a HERS rating is small compared to the amount of money an energy efficient home will save in utility costs.

Where can I find more about energy efficient mortgages?

Energy Efficient Mortgages are federally recognized and available through most lenders, including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The Federal Housing Administration offers EEM’s, as well as the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, and recently the USDA’s Rural Development program. To find out more on Energy Efficient Mortgages visit the FHA’s website.

Sustainability For Real Estate & Appraisals

The Residential Green and Energy-Efficient Addendum

Builders, contractors, homeowners and third-party verifiers are encouraged to complete this Addendum and present to appraisers, agents, lenders and homeowners. Appraisers typically do not have sufficient information to complete this addendum without builder, contractor or third-party verifier documentation.

This Energy-Efficient Addendum helps standardize the communication of the high-performing features of residential properties. Identifying the features not found on the appraisal form provides a basis for comparable selection and analysis of the features.

  • Attach this completed document to the MLS listing to provide sufficient detail on sales and listings to assist buyers, appraisers and real estate agents in understanding the high performance features of the property.
  • Complete the pages that apply to the property appraisal and provide to appraiser prior to the completion of an appraisal.
  • Provide the Addendum to the lender at the time of loan application to assist them in understanding the property type so an appraiser with sufficient knowledge of this property type will be engaged to provide an appraisal to meet secondary mortgage market guidelines.

Click here to access the Green Addendum form.

Click here to find additional resources from the Appraisal Institute for the valuation of green properties.

We take environmental responsibility seriously; it’s about much more than just our products. See why Premier Building Systems is a true “Green” company.