I have been following Structural Insulated Panel (SIP)
home construction for about nine years and wanted to build a house
with this technology. In a nutshell, a SIP is a slab of styrofoam
glued between two sheets of OSB. OSB is like plywood but cheaper.
These panels come in sizes up to 8'x24' and become the structure.
What you end up with is a shell on the roof and the walls that is
so tight that a system to bring in fresh air is needed. It also
has about an R28 insulation value over the entire house. You would
have to build a house with 2x8 walls and 2x12 roofs to match this
with regular stick building methods.
Since this was going to be our guest house, we were not concerned
with all the amenities needed for our dream house. Granted we want
to be comfortable, but elegance was not a requirement. This gave
me a lot of freedom to place things in the house that would facilitate
the construction. I want to do as much of the construction as I
can so I wanted it to be simple. I started with some house design
software from Punch software. The software was kind of cheesy but
it got the idea across to my architect. It did have one nice feature
and that was the ability to texture and view the final product.
The final design turned out to be a "salt box" with a
shed dormer on the south side where the view is. The utility room
is in the center and houses the main plumbing stack and the electrical
panel. The Water heater and the HVAC systems are directly above
the utility room and all bathrooms and the kitchen border it as
well. There is only one drain line that can not be run to the plumbing
stack directly. All of the 220 volt appliances are within 20 feet
of the electrical panel.
I asked the architect to design the house to facilitate the construction
with the SIPs. He did a good job and we got to a final version in
only 2 revisions. He has been designing SIP houses for 16 years
and seemed to be the most qualified of the three architects I talked
to. His name is Rick French and he lives in Fredericksburg, send
me an e-mail if you want to contact him.