Article and photos by Gregory Havel
Structural insulated panels (SIPs) (photo 1) are advertised as energy-efficient, strong, and cost-effective. In some parts of North America, houses, apartment buildings, and even commercial structures are constructed of these panels, including exterior and load-bearing walls and roofs. In other parts of North America, these panels are used for roofs that are supported by other types of construction.
The edges of load-bearing SIPs for use in walls (photo 1) are usually manufactured so that a single or double stud of 2×6 or 2×8 lumber will fit tightly between the two sheets of OSB and against the edge of the foam insulation. The two SIPs are butted together on the single or double stud and attached with a waterproof construction adhesive/sealant and nails. Multistory buildings are constructed by building a floor platform on top of the SIPs wall and adding SIPs for the second-floor walls. Window and door openings may be provided in panels at the factory or may be cut at the construction site.
The room side of SIPs is usually finished with gypsum drywall board on furring strips screwed to the SIPs. This provides a concealed space (photo 3) for electrical and data cables and plumbing and heating pipes. Cutting into SIPS to embed cables and pipes will greatly reduce their strength and is not permitted. Drilling through SIPs for pipes and cables is acceptable and may require a foam sealant between the pipe or cable and the OSB.
Methods of Tests of Fire Resistance of Building Construction and Materials. The results of these tests will be included in the fire resistance reports of the lab conducting the tests and will not appear in Underwriters Laboratories’
Certifications Directory of Fire Resistance Ratings (
http://database.ul.com; search for “BXUV”) unless UL did the testing.
Visit the Web sites of the Structural Insulated Panel Association www.sips.org, and manufacturers for details on the manufacture, fire resistance testing, and proper installation of SIPs.
Gregory Havel is a member of the Burlington (WI) Fire Department; a retired deputy chief and training officer; and a 30-year veteran of the fire service. He is a Wisconsin-certified fire instructor II and fire officer II, an adjunct instructor in fire service programs at Gateway Technical College, and safety director for Scherrer Construction Co., Inc. Havel has a bachelor’s degree from St. Norbert College; has more than 30 years of experience in facilities management and building construction; and has presented classes at FDIC.
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Subjects: Building construction for firefighters