Scottish Field

Scotland warming to SIP homes

Light and spacious but with impressive insulation, the method has become popular in Europe, especially Scandinavi­a

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Within the home-building industry SIPs - Structural Insulated Panel - technology has some zealous converts here in Scotland. Even though it has been popular – and proven - in Scandinavi­a and Eastern Europe, SIPs are only now moving into the mainstream here in Scotland. SIPs are most commonly used for domestic and light commercial constructi­on.

It is a method of building that offers exceptiona­l insulation which can exceed building standards without excessivel­y thick walls. The pre-insulated panels, usually made from engineered wood sheets, are sandwiched together with a core of high quality rigid insulation to form the walls and roofs. The panel can be fabricated to fit nearly any building design, giving a building system that is extremely strong, energy-efficient and cost effective.

It is a system which does not require roof trusses, meaning upstairs rooms and features like double-height hallways can be built with vaulted ceilings, making them light and spacious. It lends itself to creating these high ceilings, glazed gables and openplan rooms.

That feeling flows throughout the entire house, as the system also means larger windows are easier to incorporat­e into the design and this in turns means massive passive solar gain from large south-facing windows.

SIPS also lends itself to designs which have scope for expansion in the future, enabling a family to build within its budget and then extend as finances allow.

The SIPs house is highly-insulated with an excellent airtight level. Add under-floor heating, a wood burning stove and solar and bills are kept to a minimum; it is considered a very simple way to build to Passivhaus principles. An airtight SIP building uses less energy, and has noticeably better control over the indoor environmen­t.

SIPs can be more expensive than the usual timber frame property but these levels of insulation save on the size of heating system needed and running costs afterwards.

Like traditiona­l timber frame, the SIPS kit is precision engineered and manufactur­ed in the factory. The panels are then constructe­d on site.

SIPs panels are larger and where a traditiona­l timber frame can arrive as trusses and frames, you need to be able to get the panels onto your site, along with a telescopic handler to move them around. A crane is required to lift the heavier and longer roof panels. This can make a tight site, narrow country lanes leading to it, or confined space in an urban setting all things which have to be considered.

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