The Truth About "Ballistic SIPs"

I noticed in passing over another website the other day a company hyping their "proprietary" or "unique" ballistic sips, or structural insulated panels.  As you may or may not know, a "sip" is a building panel that contains the properties of being both a STRUCTURAL (certified as being significantly load bearing) and an INSULATED building panel, used in both commercial and residential construction.  A sip commonly consists of two siding materials that sandwich an insulating foam core.  However some sip systems require a third component, a vertical spline member - commonly a wooden or steel stud - to acheive a structural rating.  This is common among polystyrene (EPS) foam core sips.

Now the fact is that virtually anybody can glue a couple of siding materials to a cheap slab of foam and call it a "sip", but far fewer groups can do this in a well controlled manner on a volume basis and actually understand the science and physical properties behind both the product and the structure that the product is going into.

With that said, what many companies are doing is identifying ballistic rated materials and simply bonding them to a foam core in an attempt to appeal to the military or even the "prepper" market.  And there they have it - their "ballistic sip".  Has it been independently certified to ASTM E-72 or E-1803 or similar structural standards?  I'm guessing not, because as this would be a non-standard application most people are looking for the contract before they go to the expense of outside testing.  So be careful - just because a siding material can stop a bullet does not mean it can handle the structural load of a building.  Products that are strong in the "z" dimension and ballistically rated may be brittle in the "y" or "x" dimension (materials can be funny that way).

Eco-Panels does not "glue" anything in our manufacturing process.  Instead we are INJECTING a polyurethane foam into a hollow cavity under great pressure.  The foam expands into every nook & crevice of the wall, roof or floor panel and the foam itself is the bonding agent - there is no extra glue involved in the process (so less opportunity for error in manufacturing).  We will GUARANTEE that our foam will NEVER delaminate from our siding materials (absent someone or thing trying with tools or equipment or harsh chemicals to pull them apart with great force).

We have experience with ballistic panels, and instead of simply putting our panels in a field and shooting them and posting the video we have worked with parters to have independent labs test the panels to NIJ ballistic standards.  The key is in finding the proper siding material to suit your purpose - both ballistic and structural.  We do not profess to know them all - they are being developed all the time.  But I do know that to our knowledge no other company has made custom sips with a wider variety of siding materials for commercial purposes than we have (we're over 20+ now).  And we also have sophisticated and proprietary structural modeling programs that allow us to simulate the structural properties of a potential panel based on the input variables of different siding materials.

And what Eco-Panels can further bring to the table is our knowledge base.  You see a ballistic event will exercise mainly the panel skin, but a BLAST event will exercise the entire panel and structure as a whole.  We know that the military has already extensively tested urethane products in blast test environments.  The tensile strength (the strength of a product trying to prevent it from being pulled apart) of our polyurethane foam injected at 2.5 lbs/cuft density is SIGNIFICANTLY stronger than EPS or polystyrene foam.  A blast event will all at the same time apply compressive, shear and tensile forces to a structure and its panels.  Don't be fooled by someone trying a blast test on a single panel - that's just silly - I mean who lives in a single panel?  We live in ASSEMBLIES OF PANELS.  How do they join together?  How strong is the entire assembly?

And one other thing.  One of the weakest parts of a structure is where two walls come together.  By virtue of our patented and patent pending single piece corner panel we can ELIMINATE this weak joint entirely - creating a significantly stronger structure than other panel systems or traditional methods of construction. Whether you are looking for a safer home or a portable safe room, our unique technology is for you.

So read through our website, watch our videos, and ask questions.  We'd love to hear from you.

Actual Energy Cost Data For Comparison Between Eco-Panels SIPs and Stick Construction

It is not often that we obtain energy consumption data for two identical model homes, one built with our unique polyurethane injected Eco-Panels sips and one built out of stick construction.  Actually the 2x4 stick construction home was built using advanced stick framing methods to a "beyond" Energy Star standard.  These homes were built in 2009/2010 and the data was collected over 2011 and 2012.  We received this data this summer.  Quite impressive.

Since we know from US Dept of Energy estimates that homes built to their standard will "out perform" a traditional stick-built home by around 20%, and we have the actual energy performance data of the homes, we have estimated the energy consumption of a traditional stick-built home (the way most builders build stick homes) simply by discounting the performance of the "beyond" Energy Star home by 20%.  You'll see that the Eco-Panels home will out-perform the traditional stick-built home by more than 70% - and this home only used our wall panels - both homes in this model used traditional insulation in the roof deck and were otherwise built identically by the same organization.  Our major complaint was that the HVAC sizing for the two homes was identical - 2 ton for a 1,300 sqft home - when the Eco-Panels home should have been downsized to either a 1.5 ton unit (the smallest the market currently makes) or even a mini-split for even better energy savings.  Having the oversized 2 ton unit in this home actually makes our performance worse because the unit will tend to cycle on and off more often leading to inefficient performance.


Energy Comparison for the "Georgia Model" Plan
Energy consuption data taken from June 2011 to May 2012
House Climate Zone: 3
(traditional stick performance at 20% less than Energy Star per US DOE estimates)
  Adv.Stick/EnrgyStar (kWh) days /bill cycle kWh per day Eco-Panels (kWh) days /bill cycle kWh per day Trad.Stick (kWh) days /bill cycle kWh per day
June  1,484 32 46.38 792 31 25.55 1,781 32 55.66
July 1,583 29 54.59 977 30 32.57 1,900 29 65.51
August 1,567 31 50.55 1,106 31 35.68 1,880 31 60.66
September 1,202 31 38.77 957 31 30.87 1,442 31 46.52
October  1,058 30 35.27 956 30 31.87 1,270 30 42.32
November 1,195 30 39.83 778 31 25.1 1,434 30 47.8
December 1,453 31 46.87 810 30 27 1,744 31 56.24
January 1,444 31 46.58 1,166 31 37.61 1,733 31 55.9
February 1,387 31 44.74 1,044 31 33.68 1,664 31 53.69
March  1,373 30 45.77 1,067 29 36.79 1,648 30 54.92
April 1,185 30 39.5 924 31 29.81 1,422 30 47.4
May  1,301 31 41.97 699 31 22.55 1,561 31 50.36
  16,232 367 44.23 11,276 367 30.72 19,478 367 53.08
Performance Greater Than Traditional Stick
20% 73% - -
Eco-Panels Annual Savings vs. Traditional Stick $820 @ $0.10/kWh
Eco-Panels Annual Savings vs. Traditional Stick $1,148 @ $0.14/kWh
Eco-Panels Annual Savings vs. Traditional Stick $1,476 @ $0.18/kWh
Note: This was an approx 1,300 sqft home.  The HVAC unit was 2 ton in size and was OVERSIZED for the 
Eco-Panels home in the opinion of Eco-Panels, but the contractor wanted consistent sizing between the 
Advanced Stick Framing/beyond Energy Star construction and the Eco-Panels home.  A properly sized HVAC system for the Eco-Panels home should offer even greater savings.



And Now For Something Completely Different

Eco-Panels manufactures the most advanced SIPs on the market today.  Yet a love of science and technology - eventually leading to my degree in applied physics - started way back before I ever knew about building science.  I remember Mr. Wizard well - and perhaps he influenced me in some way.  Science was king.  Science ruled.  And no amount of opinion could change the facts of science.  And Mr. Wizard never hesitated to tell you that.

Long live Mr. Wizard!  This video is hilarious.

Panels to the Arctic Circle

Eco-Panels is proud to have shipped our first project to a governmental institution operating near the Arctic Circle.  These panels were delivered well inside of our standard leadtime at the urgent request of our client.

Eco-Panels manufactures what building scientists working for the US Dept of Energy have noted are the most advanced SIPs - or structural insulated panels - on the market today.  The particular panels shipped were over 8 inches thick and will perform at better than R60 in very cold temperatures.  These 4' wide panels were calculated to take a vertical compressive load of almost 100,000 pounds!!!  Virtually as strong as a concrete wall yet infinitely more energy efficient.  Eco-Panels uses a special polyurethane foam core for these very thick super insulated panels - the only foam we know of capable of making polyurethane panels that thick (other PUR foams will "burn-up" in an exothermic reaction during manufacturing process if attempting to make a panel that thick).

Their easy of assembly and erection will be extremely beneficial in the Arctic region's short building season, notes our client.

Styrene & Formaldehyde in Building Materials Still Listed as Potential Carcinogen

There have been hearings in Washington this month featuring the Chemical Industry arguing that the styrenes and formaldehyde - commonly found in building products - should not be considered "cancer causing" or "potentially cancer causing".  Both of these compounds have been noted by a National Institutes of Health report by the National Toxicology Program's 12th Annual Report On Carcinogens (see the report's FAQs here).

Eco-Panels continues to believe that because of the believed health risks associated with polystyrene SIPs (who are our largest competitor, mainly because they sell cheaper product (duh)) it is irresponsible to want to build an "air-tight" home surrounded by an envelope of expanded polystyrene or EPS foam that is documented in this latest report as well as other scientific reports to off-gass styrenes.

A more indepth analysis of how the Chemical Industry is trying to whitewash these findings is noted here in this article from the National Resources Defense Council.

If you don't want BPA in your childrens drinking bottles, then why would you want to have styrene insulation permanently surrounding your home?

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