New 2012 Building Code Will Make Eco-Panels Less Expensive Than Stick-Built!

The new 2012 building code being rolled out by the International Residential Code council (IRC) changes rather dramatically the building code requirements for how new homes are built and insulated.  See this great article from Green Building Advisor for a further discussion.

We have long been able to show that our product will offer a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) compared to a stick-built structure, in addition to being safer and more comfortable, but these new changes will in many if not most cases make the use of Eco-Panels simply cheaper on the front end when compared to stick-built construction.

We have a guest blogger/building industry consultant working on an article discussing this further right now.  Stay tuned for further discussion of this and other "perfect storm" events taking place in the market that should make 2012 a very interesting year indeed for the building industry.

Seismic Resistant Single Piece Insulated Corner Panel

single piece corner panel 

On of the weakest parts of a home is where two walls come together
–This can be a huge problem in seismic and high wind regions
Our patented (US) and patent pending (US, International) single piece corner panel
–Eliminates the weak point where two walls come together
–Reduces skill level required for assembly
–Increases quality of construction
–Continuous insulation improves energy efficiency
–Speeds assembly time
Exterior siding can be extended down over floor system to further increase building strength (this can be done throughout building envelope)
June 2011 NY Times Article - Styrenes In Building Insulation Bad - Possible Carcinogen

One more article on why we believe building a home out of polystyrene panels could be dangerous to your health.  For a variety of reasons it's crazy to us that the vast majority of SIPs sold in the US are made of polystyrene given the lower insulation values, presence of VOCs (residual pentane) and generally high moisture permeability values not to mention that most spline systems can be quite labor intensive.  We believe the main reason for this market leadership is because they are CHEAP in price - and we believe you get what you pay for.  Seriously, the most significant investment most Americans will make in their life is buying a home, and you want to build a home out of polystyrene?

"Studies of workers exposed to high levels of styrene have found increased risks of leukemia and lymphoma and genetic damage to white blood cells. There is also some evidence that styrene increases the risks of cancer of the pancreas and esophagus among styrene workers, the report found. Consumers can be exposed to styrene from the fumes of building materials, photocopiers and tobacco smoke."

hmmm... so the study lumps exposure to styrenes in building materials with tobacco smoke.  nice....

And of course not surprisingly... "Its [the report's] release was delayed for years because of intense lobbying from the chemical industry, which disputed its findings."

I understand that the industry does not agree with these findings, but given this latest report we do not believe that surrounding your loved ones in a home having an envelope of 6, 8 or even 12 inches of polystyrene foam (remember they need much more foam than polyurethane to achieve the same R values) would be a good thing for the long-term health of the family.

For a link to the full NY Times article from June of 2011, click here.  For a link to the full scientific report from the National Toxicology Program click here.

This article also discusses the dangers of formaldehyde in products, which we take very seriously.  Our polyurethane foam contains no formaldeydes or styrenes - ZERO.  Note all pressed wood products used by Eco-Panels fall under the category - recognized as safe - of having "no added formaldehyde".  While this may sound suspicious, never let anyone tell you a wood product contains "No formaldehyde" or is "Formaldehyde Free".  The fact is wood contains naturally occurring formaldehyde in trace amounts, so the proper way would be for wood product manufacturers to simply state that there is "no added formaldehyde" in their binding solutions, etc.

Record Breaking Energy Performance

Eco-Panels recently assisted a homeowner build his home that obtained record-breaking energy rating numbers.  Here are excerpts from our marketing flyer.

International and National Green Building Programs Envelope Leakage Standards Compared to Prototype Home Built with Eco-Panels

Subject home:

Asheville, NC, USA (in the mountains)

IECC Climate Zone 4, elev ~2,200 ft or 670 meters

Area: 1,872ft², or 174m²

Volume:  21,453 ft³, or 607 m³

Construction Cost:  approx. $90/ft²


Note that Eco-Panels by design will make a building envelope very energy efficient.  Only minimal extra attention was required to receive this record breaking energy rating.



NC Healthy Built Homes:  North Carolina Green Building Program.  Uses ACH 50 

Prerequisite:  3.5 ACH or less                        Eco-Panels prototype:  0.48 ACH


Passivhaus:  This is the strictest residential certification in the U.S.  Uses ACH 50

Standard:  0.6 ACH or less                             Eco-Panels prototype:  0.48 ACH


Earth Craft House:  GA, AL, SC, VA, TN    Southface Institute.  Uses ELR

Standard: 0.4 ELR                                          Eco-Panels prototype:  0.039 ELR


Canadian R-2000:  Canada’s Green Building Program.  Uses ACH 50

Standard:  1.5 ACH or less                             Eco-Panels Prototype:  0.48 ACH


NAHB:  National Green Building Certification Program.  Uses ACH 50

Standard:  5.0 ACH or less                             Eco-Panels Prototype:  0.48 ACH



ACH at 50 Pa: The Air Changes per Hour (ACH at 50 Pa) is commonly used measure of building air tightness. ACH at 50 Pa is the number of complete air changes that will occur in one hour with a 50 Pascal pressure being applied uniformly across the building envelope. ACH at 50 Pa is a useful method of adjusting (or normalizing) the leakage rate by the size (volume) of the building.

ACH at 50 Pa = (CFM50 x 60) / building volume in cubic feet

ELR (envelope leakage ratio):  CFM50/square foot of surface area (ELR):  this is the measured CFM50 divided by the surface area of the building envelope. ELR is a useful method of adjusting (or normalizing) the leakage rate by the amount of envelope surface through which air leakage can occur.  Experience to date has shown that for buildings with a ELR above 1.0, very large cost-effective reductions in infiltration can often be achieved using blower door guided infiltration and insulation techniques. In buildings with a calculated ELR in the 0.5 to 1.0 range, it is often more difficult to achieve economical improvements in air tightness.

ELR = CFM50 / square foot of building envelope surface area


See the blog for this construction project at:

Styrene Among Top Suspected Carcinogens - American Cancer Society

This recent article - Top 5 Suspected Everyday Carcinogens in the American Cancer Society's Scary New Report - issued in July of 2010, notes that styrene, the primary component in expanded polystyrene or EPS (Dow trade name Styrofoam), is a leading suspected carcinogen by the American Cancer Society.  Long known as a neurotoxin, more and more evidence has been shown that styrenes can leach out of polystyrene or Styrofoam food packaging and into the very food that we consume.  In fact many towns in California already have or are presently attempting to ban polystyrene food packaging due to both health safety and lack of recyclability concerns.  Do you think it is chemically impossible for styrenes to "leach" out of a polystyrene chain?  In fact the belief is that the leaching styrenes were never part of the polymer chain to begin with.  Because the manufacturing process is not entirely efficient, not all styrenes are joined into the polymer chain and remain free to "roam" in the future.  By the way, the word "styrene" is simply a marketing name for vinyl benzene.

Why is this relevant on a polyurethane structural insulated panel website?  For years many of our competitors that manufacture EPS (expanded polystyrene) SIPs have been lying to potential customers of ours and literally telling people that our panels will off-gas and kill people (seriously, they have said "kill people" in trade shows where we were also present).  In fact the exact same foam that we use in our panels is commonly used in Energy Star rated refrigerators and Igloo(R) coolers manufactured today - and the last time I checked there were no stories on refrigerators or coolers killing people or even being suspected of doing any harmful thing.  Yet now we are seeing more and more articles on styrenes being found in human tissue samples (as in studies referenced in several of the links above).  I think this is the same concept that some politicians use - accuse your enemies of what you are actually doing yourself to divert attention from your own deeds.  As you can read on our website, the polyurethane foam that we use in our panels is stronger, safer, more chemically stable and almost twice as insulative per inch as expanded polystyrene or EPS.

To me this casts an entirely new light on the thought of living in a building envelope made entirely of polystyrene foam as one would do when choosing to build with EPS SIPs.  Wouldn't this put you in the same category as the food inside a Styrofoam food container?  While I have seen no evidence of anyone studying the health effects of persons living in a home made of EPS panels, it is not a chance that I would want to take.  And with the growing amount of literature on styrene's leaching, off-gassing, neurotoxic and carcinogenic effects, I wonder if there is the potential for future lawsuits against persons that specified the product for construction.

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