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Designing the House


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.


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