EP Mobile Response Clinics

You may already know that Eco-Panels manufactures the widest variety of structural (SIPs) and non-structural insulated panels on the market.  Our company is famous for manufacturing the most efficient panelized building system on the market today.  But what you may not know is that we have extensive experience using Steel and FRP sided panels for creating the most ruggedized yet comfortable towable mobile medical clinics on the market today.

Most mobile medical clinics on the market today are actually retro-fit campers or horse/cargo trailers.  Over the years Eco-Panels, through our Guardian Mobile Systems division, has worked with mobile responders to create a purpose-built, off-road capable mobile responder unit.  Whether responding to an earthquake in China, floods in Angola or a refugee crisis in Jordan, the environments our clinics typically operate in are harsh - no roads, often no outside power, no clean potable water and very often extreme temperatures.

Eco-Panels mobile medical clinics have been deployed in Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Peru, Haiti, the Dominican Republic as well as the continental United States.  Our trailers are super insulated and ruggedized, equipped with solar panels for renewable power and water filtration systems capable of taking local unclean water and making it safe and drinkable.  A supplemental generator (we've installed diesel, gas and even LNG generators) provides extra power when fuel is available.

By working with a non-profit disaster relief partner we can also supply governmental, NGO and other similar non-profit relief organizations with free medical supplies for use with the trailer (subject to validation of need).  Below is a unit recently shipped to the government of the Dominican Republic.

Eco-Panels ruggedized mobile clinic


Eco-Panels and Passive House

There are many, many different prescriptive "green" building and low or even net-zero-energy building standards.  I once heard that there were over 500 in the US alone.  One thing that all of these standards SHOULD have in common is an initial and primary focus on a highly insulated and well sealed building envelope.  Over the years we have seen many of them, though one of the better known initiatives with international standing is the Passivhaus standard originating out of Germany (some simply call it Passive House).

One of our partners in New Zealand has been working with a Certified PassivHaus Architect/Designer to rate several homes with Eco-Panels as meeting the Passivhaus standard.  What is nice to hear - actually substantiating what we have been saying for a while - is that we have been able to achieve the Passive House standard using only our 4.5" panels THROUGHOUT the home - for both walls and roof.  Of couse this is climate and orientation specific, but New Zealand has a wide variety of climates, from those similar to the Canadian Rockies (Queenstown area) to the more semi-tropical North Island.  And our 6.5" thick R40 wall and roof panels have been shown to meet the PassivHaus standards in the colder regions.

What is especially nice to hear about this certification is that many Passive House "experts" claim a very prescriptive "R40 walls, R60 roof" (which we can provide!), but in fact it is largely unnecessary for most climates in North America (including Canada).  We understand the science that teaches us about the diminishing returns for incremental inches of insulation, and we are not afraid to discuss it and how it affects our panels.  Additionally these thicker walls - and especially the much thicker roof (which can be more than a foot thick if using the inferior EPS foam) can be unsightly in appearance.

The Passive House standard also requires a very high degree of air sealing - capable of achieving 0.6 air changes per hour (ACH) at 50 pascals of air pressure.  On even simple low cost homes we have beaten this by 20% so we are not worried about that.

Eco-Panels makes building an extremely energy tight home simple, fast and efficient.  Whatever energy efficient building standard you wish to pursue - start with the building envelope.  And if possible, start with Eco-Panels.

Impressive Testimonial from Client


I thought you might find the below good reading.  I requested a testimonial from one of our former clients who has been living in their home for almost one year - and boy did he respond.  Below is a series of e:mails received from him with only one follow-up prompt in-between. 

This gentleman lives in Raleigh, NC, and as you will read below his home was destroyed in a rash of tornadoes that swept through Raleigh in the spring of 2011.  We first met "Joe" when we were working on our New Orleans project with Brad Pitt's "Make it Right Foundation" as part of hurricane Katrina reconstruction.

Note that the conditioned size of their home increased substantially while the energy bills have decreased.  And final cost of construction turned out to be a "wash" compared to stick-built when considering our higher up-front costs.

Here are pictures of his destroyed, in-process construction and completed home.  The panels for each floor took just several hours to erect.  And note the favorable comments about the insurance industry and the damning comments about traditional construction.

raleigh tornado home montage.jpg 

Best Regards,
Charles Leahy


The Insanity of Stick-Framed Construction

THE INSANITY OF STICK-FRAMED CONSTRUCTION, or "Why Stick Construction Is Not Green-Building"

Going to build or buy a new home?  Odds are it will be made out of "sticks", a simple 2x4 or 2x6 framing method that goes back almost 200 years.  And you will pay tens of thousands of dollars more over the life of your stick-built home (think of one less child in college).  Most builders that call themselves "green builders" - even well intentioned ones - still build their homes out of sticks.  And I've lost count of the number of builders who are proud to tell me that they build their homes the same way that their daddy and grand-daddy built them.  Nothing against their forefathers or most "green builders", but let's face it, times have changed....stick-frame home 2012 reduced image size.jpg

The fact is a home built with stick construction is SIGNIFICANTLY less energy efficient (and less safe and less healthy) than an Eco-Panels home - I don't care what kind of insulation you apply between the studs.  One of the premier building science research groups working for the US Dept of Energy - the guys at Oak Ridge National Labs - have noted that the FRAMING FACTOR associated with stick construction typically falls between 25 and 27% of the building envelope.  A stick framing member - because wood has an R value of only about 1 per inch - will range in R value from about 4 to 6 when attached to 1/2" exterior sheathing (the wood "skin" of most homes).  That means that 25-27% of the outside of a home is actually R4 to R6 - so let's say R5 for simplicity's sake.  So when you average this with whatever R value of the insulation you are installing between the studs the simple weighted average of those R values falls dramatically from what you think you are getting.  And because of installation errors and inefficiencies that WILL OCCUR, you're actually looking at about a 30% reduction from what you are told by the builder.  AND THEN - we're not done yet - , when you consider that many people enjoy looking out their windows, or having multiple doors on their homes - you must consider the additional decrease in effective R value associated with these.  We live in a very beautiful part of the country, Asheville, North Carolina, and people love their views.  We've seen many designs where 30-40% or more of the whole home's surface area is windows and doors.  What is the R value of most windows and doors?  About R4 on average, believe it or not (I've since been advised that it is probably closer to R3, but we'll give new construction the benefit of the doubt).  Anyone doing the math here?  Considering that most homes don't have as much as 30-40% of their surface area as windows or doors, so let's say they are only at 20-25%, and we've already discussed how with stick framing you've probably got at least a 25% ACTUAL framing factor, combined you've still got almost 50% of your home that is in the range of R4 or R5.  THAT'S CRAZY!!!!!  Think of that - 50% of your home might as well be a window - and we all know how poorly that insulates.  And you - and your neighbors! - aren't even getting the benefit of the views!  Wink

And yet so many folks who say they are green builders just don't get it.  They think that by installing bamboo flooring (NOT green and the source of another blog entry here) or using locally made countertops or simply installing R13 "organic" spray foam insulation in-between the studs instead of R13 fiberglass (wait, what?) they are giving you a super green home.  Be careful.  Eco-Panels has shown repeatedly that homes built with our panels can save 60-70% OR MORE compared to traditional stick-built homes - even if only using our wall panels.  And so if we want to associate "green-building" with reduced carbon emissions, lower energy costs, net-zero, ClimateHouse or Passive House standards, etc., it all starts with the building envelope - and the traditional stick-built home just doesn't work - in fact it doesn't even come close no matter how you slice it.  And we have repeatedly noted that the financing of the incremental additional cost often seen on the front end of home construction with our panels is actually LESS than the energy savings you can experience each and every month in your new home - THATS how we can save you tens of thousands of dollars over the life of your home.

It's true that there are other panel systems out there, but forget about EPS or polystyrene panels, especially after the National Institute's of Health recently released their 12th Report on Carcinogens including right alongside of Formaldehyde, Styrenes, and how humans are exposed to Styrenes in part through the off-gassing of styrene in building materials (and cigarette smoke - gross!).  There is simply no other panel system on the market today that offers a more continuously insulated or stronger, safer and more rapidly erected building envelope than Eco-Panels.  And yes, some regions have increased their building codes for stick construction to require several inches of foam insulation to be applied around the outside of the home to eliminate the thermal wicking of the studs that I have just discussed - so wait, you want to INCREASE the complexity, use of materials and cost of stick construction to apply what is actually just a band-aid to this problem?  Lipstick on a pig I say - they are also greatly increasing the complexity of the finished siding & trim installation, etc....

So if you are building a new home - keep your windows and enjoy your views - but INSIST on your builder not building your home out of sticks and they should use Eco-Panels sips panels instead.  And send a kid to college!  Smile

Tiny Cabins or Cottages

roof onLots of talk these days about tiny houses, homes, cottages or cabins.  Companies like the very well known Tumbleweed and many others have some very nice looking product on the market - very pretty and quaint.  And I'm amazed at the prices they are charging for these - $30,000, $40,000 and even $50,000 for many designs that are sometimes less than 100 sf and often not larger than 200 sf.

The sad thing about most all of these cottages is that they are stick built.  While building code sometimes does not apply to very small structures (sometimes it does) to ensure structural integrity, stick framing is an incredibly energy inefficient way to build because of the volume of wood required to maintain structure.  Building scientists working for the US Dept of Energy have noted that stick-built homes are approx 25% wood frame that has R value of 1 per inch.  When you combine that with all of the windows and doors that often take up more than 20% of the wall surface area, you are looking at a weighted average R values of 4 or 5 for 50% of the walls.  That means that WHATEVER insulation is used, cheap or premium, you've still got 50% of the walls that are about R4 or 5.  And stick-framed flooring and roofing still has significant thermal wicking - it's simply a losing battle when trying to stay comfortable.

wall panels going up starting with front corner panelUsing Eco-Panels rapidly erected cam-lock panels and single piece corner panels this cottage was erected quickly by four persons.  It has LP Smartside (carries 50 year mfg warranty) on the exterior of the lower wall panels and Huber ZIP System on the gable end for later covering with shingles.  All wall panels are floor and wall panels up4.5" thick and offer a continuous R26.  The roof panels can be R26 or R40 and are OSB sided for covering by either shingles or a metal roof after the application of felt (tar paper).  The floor panels are also 4.5" thick and R26 rated and the top surface is a 5/8" thick flooring product and the underside is 1/2" treated plywood.  The interior would be trimmed out as you see fit at your own pace.  All door and window openings are pre-framed out as well, and electrical boxes with wire chases are pre-installed.

This almost 200sf cabin would typically retail for between $9,900 and $15,000 depending upon R values and finishes you are looking for, less windows and doors.  And if you are looking for other sizes, simply let us know!  This unit can be heated with a simple small electric heater from the drugstore.

Interior - note ridge beam in beam pocket gable panelSiding with shingles on gable end

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