More Research Finds Styrene Exposure May Lead to Autism

It is well known that Eco-Panels does not use styrenes - or polystyrene - in the manufacture of our structural insulated panels.  But we estimate that over 90% of the panel manufacturers in the United States (and many parts of the world) do use styrenes as a major component of their foam (like EPS or expanded polystyrene or XPS or extruded polystyrene).  In fact, many well known building scientists advocate if stick building a structure then you should "wrap" the finished building in styrene insulation prior to applying the siding.  When you are trying to build a super-energy tight structure, I'm not sure that enclosing your home in an envelope of styrene is the way to go.

Last week it was reported that exposure to styrenes may double the risk of young children developing Autism.  This exposure could occur either while in the womb or even after birth.  See a full article here, and this same study was published by a number of sources.

Styrenes have long been a common component of cheap insulation, and it has become very popular.  But even back in 2011 the National Institute's of Health (NIH) National Toxicology Review, styrenes were added to their 12th Report on Carcinogens, and they note in their FAQs that two of the largest sources of exposure to the average person were from building materials and cigarette smoke.

When considering insulation for your home, please consider the safety of the materials you are using.  And please consider Eco-Panels - our inert closed cell foam does not off-gas and there are no similar health warnings against our urethane foam.

Eco-Panels in New Zealand!

For many years Eco-Panels has been helping to build the most energy efficient homes in America.  Eco-Panels is now providing panels for multiple homes in New Zealand, many in the beautiful Jacks Point development.

"Very little is actually manufactured in New Zealand, and so we quite literally searched all over the world for the best panel systems on the market.  In the end, our choice was clear - Eco-Panels quite simply has the best system in the world - the strongest, most insulated and the most easy to erect.  By patent they have the most continuously insulated building envelope, as well as the strongest connection system, and the pure simplicity of the system really left no doubts on the jobsite" says Michael Sly, partner with the ClimateHouse team.  "Further, with their unique single piece corner panels we hope to introduce this very seismically resistant building system in the reconstruction of Christchurch, whose major earthquake a few years past destroyed thousands of homes."

With no on-site technical support from Eco-Panels (just wasn't in the budget!), the first floor wall panels of a beautiful yet fairly complicated home in the Jacks Point development was erected in just six hours.  Some selected pictures are below.

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Stick Frame Construction is the Weakest and Least Energy Efficient Method of Construction Allowed by Law

I'll say it again.  Stick frame construction - the way more than 98% of the homes built in the United States are built - is the LEAST energy efficient and weakest method of construction allowable by law - i.e. "building code".  And due to the massive long term energy losses I would argue that it is certainly NOT "green building" no matter how much bamboo flooring you install (ok that's a reference to some previous posts about bamboo also not being a "green" building material).

As we have noted countless other times, BY LAW (building code) a stick frame home is almost 25% wood on the exterior of the building.  This if course is the framing required to support the structure - walls, roof, floor, etc.  And windows and doors account for another 20-25% of the surface area of the building envelope for many new homes.  With the very low R values for wood and glass - this means that about 50% of many home's building envelope is about R4 or R5.  It almost DOESN'T MATTER what kind of insulation you are using if you have a stick frame home because you are pulling from such a low baseline (50% at about R4 or R5).

If you want to start a movement that will have a SERIOUS impact, consider this.  According to the US Census, a whopping 30% of the homes in the US were built in the last 20 years or so - and almost all of those were stick-frame construction.  The SINGLE GREATEST sorce of energy consumption in America is the energy consumed by buildings - accounting for FORTY PERCENT of our country's total energy consumption (transportation is a distant second at approx 30%).  And these buildings' single largest use of energy is that associated with heating and cooling.  Eco-Panels has been shown to reduce total energy consumption in buildings by OVER 50% time and time again (over 70% in some cases).  What if just 10% of the homes in the next 20 years were able to reduce their energy consumption by 50-70%?  That alone could make a larger impact to our country's energy consumption for less money than most forms of renewable energy.

As our world frets over increasing carbon pollution, rising temperatures and crazy weather, the SINGLE GREATEST thing we can do to assist in reducing carbon emissions is to eliminate the thermal bridging associated with this very antiquated - almost 200 year old - technology of stick frame construction that we continue to use to this day.  And this isn't Eco-Panels saying this - the US Dept of Energy noted it years ago.  And don't even talk to me about "wrapping" insulation around stick-frame construction to eliminate or reduce thermal bridging.  That's "lipstick on a pig" for a variety of reasons - and can potentially give you a WEAKER home than you would otherwise have.  Trees are just about the single most efficient user of carbon dioxide and producer of oxygen in the world - and arguments promoting wood framing as a carbon sink have been proven innacurate and disingenuous and based on accounting gimmicks.  The wooden studs in a stick framed home will waste FAR MORE energy (hence carbon, often from coal fired power plants) over the years than you can gain with a single effort of "sequestering" carbon in the wood itself.

When building a new home, and BEFORE you look at renewable energy sources - solar panels, solar thermal water heating, geothermal heating, etc, you MUST start with the building envelope.  Otherwise you've got - for example - expensive PV panels on your roof generating electricity (on sunny days only of course) and HALF of that energy is potentially leaking out of your building envelope.  That's just crazy.  We've shown previously how investing in the building envelope - building it right the first time - can offer a 10x ROI when compared to investing in renewable energy solutions for your home.  The perfect building envelope can be "heated with a matchstick and cooled with an ice cube", and many of our clients see a positive return on investment in the very first month.  This is what we at Eco-Panels try to bring to the table in the simplest most elegant solution on the market today.

DIY Tiny House or Any House - Build them Yourself!

It can be intimidating and difficult to build your own stick framed structure - and amazingly difficult if you are trying to build it super-energy efficient or wind or seismic resistant.  It is VERY SIMPLE to do this with Eco-Panels.  With quick cam-locking panels, pre-framed windows and doors and our unique single piece corner panels offering significantly improved insulation and strength for a structure, it is easy, and you can do it yourself - now more then ever before.

Eco-Panels will soon be offering our panels on our website that will allow you to select from a standard menu and purchase with a credit card.  We are excited about this, and it will allow you to configure a structure just the way you want it - allowing you alter or even enlarge a structure over time.  Build your own shed, garage workshop, cabin or tiny house or big house.  The prices will be LESS than going through our design group because these will be "standard" panels of standard dimensions - not custom, and they will allow you to build an almost infinite number of structures simply by arranging the panels differently.

Don't build a stick-framed structure - you'll be cold (or hot), and consume a whole lot more energy than you would living in a home made with our panels.  A stick framed home is weaker and less safe than a home built from our DIY panel solutions.  Please read through our website, our blog, and take a look at the videos on our website homepage to learn more!

Stay tuned!!!

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Yes Virginia, you can always build it cheaper. And it will always cost you more..

My apologies for the literary reference to the old Santa Claus story from the young girl who wrote the New York newspaper "The Sun" back in 1897 - and I'm sure you know the story so I won't go into it here.  And I also have young children who ask me if there is a Santa Claus.  And as a company we field questions every day from people who ask why would they build their home out of our panels - because they can build it cheaper out of stick (like 2x4 or 2x6 lumber).  And this is after we have already tried to educate them on the benefits of our product.  Yes, yes you can build it cheaper out of stick.  And you could also put up a tent and make it even cheaper.  And you could ride a bike everyday to work, too, because a bicycle costs less than a car and you would save on gas.  Oh, you live 20 miles from home and that would be too much?  OK, then drive your car.  But you could purchase - for a little bit more - a fuel efficient car.  Actually if you take this grand analogy one step further, THAT is why you would build your home out of our very unique polyurethane core structural insulated panels.  They will provide a stronger, safer and SIGNIFICANTLY more energy efficient home than you could ever get out of traditional stick construction.  And - here's the rub - it can actually cost you less than stick construction.

How's that? Because we have seen time and again that while a client may pay a premium for our product over stick construction (and sometimes we cost about the same as stick construction - see our testimonials) - the energy savings in the VERY FIRST MONTH can be greater than the incremental cost of financing our product along with the rest of their home in a standard mortgage.  Let me say that another way - when you combine your home mortgage payment with your energy bills, a stick-built home can cost you more EVERY MONTH than that same home made from our panels.  And this does not even begin to account for reduced home insurance premiums or reduced maintainance costs.  Yes, your mortgage amount may be less if purchasing a stick-built home, but your energy bills can be 70% more - far erasing any savings on a cheaper mortgage!!!  And this doesn't even begin to include the increased home comfort or the quieter, safer and healthier living environment that building with our panels can offer.  And it also doesn't consider that while you can lock in a rate with a mortgage, your home energy costs will go up an average of 2.5% a year - every year (this according to US Dept of Energy).

There are not many investments out there that can offer a positive return on investment in the VERY FIRST MONTH.  But we have heard it from our clients time and again.

Yes, you can add up all your numbers and you can probably frame that stick-built wall and throw some spray foam or fiberglass insulation in there for less than the cost of our sips panels.  Congratulations!  But this is not a fair cost comparison, and you are really missing the point, as I have tried to explain above and on our website.

Whether building with 2x4 or 2x6, standard stick construction is the WEAKEST and LEAST ENERGY EFFICIENT method of construction allowable by law - and this is how most people or builders want to build their homes?  With no remarks about Santa Claus (in case my girls read this!) it is sheer fantasy to believe that building it cheaply will mean that you'll get the best home, and yet that is what this country chooses to do time and time again.  Actually I believe that eliminating stick construction is the single greatest "opportunity" for reducing CO2 emissions and other greenhouse gases that our country has - and the US Dept of Energy has essentially said the same thing.  Just run the numbers - homes and commercial buildings are one of the single greatest users of energy in North America, and the heating and cooling of those structures is most often their single greatest expense.  And that is where we come in.

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