By: Dale Mullikin – Sales Representative – Architectural Products
In 2004 my wife and I decided to build a house. Being an EPS salesman I thought,” why not build a house out of EPS?” I have always felt that building a house would be fun. Because of all my contacts with suppliers of construction products I decided to be the general contractor and hire all the subcontractors to do the work I couldn’t do, which was 95 percent of the work. Building a house to be energy efficient seemed to be the best thing I could do. I thought, “lets make the envelope the most important part of the house. After all you can’t change the envelope in the future.” You can change a lot of things like cupboards or carpet, but the envelope has to be done right on day one.
As I thought through the process of using EPS in my home I decided to use it for under slab insulation, insulated concrete forms, structural insulated panels, and exterior insulation finish system(EIFS). First off I found a plan that suited our needs. It was a plan designed for stick built or traditional building methods. I submitted the plans to our estimating department to see if it would work with Structural Insulated Panels. Obviously, I thought it would and it did. I also looked at insulated concrete forms made of EPS as my foundation walls to see if they would work. Below the floor of my basement I used 2 inches of EPS and on the front of my house I used exterior insulation finish system with 1.5 inches of EPS and some very unique shapes made of EPS.
The first product installed was the ICF basement. The system I used has 2.5 inches of EPS on both sides of the concrete. That is an r-value of 24. I believe it is important to have perimeter insulation on the outside of the wall. That means the dew point is outside the wall as well. With the system I used there was an attachment every 12 inches. That made finishing the basement very easy. I also put EPS under the basement slab.
When building a house using Structural Insulated Panels a number of things have to be considered. A question I’m asked a lot by architects is, “How do you deal with the electrical wiring?” The SIPs come with channels in the foam in either standard or customized locations. You can request double channels for spots that need large switch plates. I helped the electrical contractor find the channels. I cut the openings in the wall so he could install the wiring. It was very easy as we used many vertical chases. When we installed the SIPs we drilled holes in the sill plates where the panels were marked for a vertical electrical wire chase. This was very easy and fast.
The front of our house has EIFS which includes 1.5 inches of EPS. This system allows for so many options for color and design. We put in columns at the front door and a sunburst to fill an open area above the garage door. All of these designs were cut in the factory and applied in the field.
There are a lot of factors to consider when talking about energy efficiency, but I can tell you my house is very easy to heat and cool. The first year it cost less than $500 to heat and cool. I know approximately what it costs to run the hot water heater all year and I do not use that much energy to heat the house in the winter. I know how much electricity I need every month and when the air conditioning kicks in it doesn’t change much. All of this is my personal experience, but I can say without hesitation that if you want an energy efficient home, build the envelope with EPS and you will never regret it.