The idea of a structural insulated panel (SIP) began in the US in 1935 when engineers speculated that plywood and hardboard sheathing could take a portion of the structural load in wall applications.
By the 60s, rigid foam insulating products became readily available resulting in the production of structural insulated panels as we know them today.
Fast forward to today, and SIPs are now made with a variety of structural skin materials, including oriented strand board (OSB), treated plywood, fibre-cement board, and metal and offer a high-tech solution for buildings.
And with the drive to build faster, cheaper and, most importantly, greener, one SIP panel ticks all three boxes.
Combining advanced insulant core technology with traditional onsite processes, Green Life Building’s (GLB) exceptionally durable, lightweight, and adaptable sandwich panel provides a building system that delivers an affordable alternative form of construction.
The modular panel, comprising of two galvanised welded steel wire meshes joined by connectors and enclosing an expanded polystyrene sheet shaped as required, is assembled, and sprayed with shotcrete on site to complete the structure and provide weatherproof properties.
With the technology, which was developed by EMMEDUE in Italy, having been used to construct more than 1 million buildings worldwide, GLBs MD Chris Williams has seen first-hand how the system has been vital in enabling buildings to be built quickly and sustainably.
“Architects and developers being under pressure to reduce construction costs and build-time is nothing new,” said Chris. “But with the increasing pressure to consider climate change, and targets to hit for the Future Homes Standard and net-zero carbon emissions, innovative construction methods like our system are being adopted.”
An advanced system
The material science behind the system, which is lightweight, but has a compression strength of at least 10 times that of a breezeblock, is what sets it apart.
The panel is more than 90% air, providing the best carbon footprint per U value, while just 80mm of GLB’s low carbon concrete provides a structural wall with a carbon footprint of only 33kg/m2.
When you consider a brick/block wall insulated to the same U value with mineral wool would be 177kg/m2 then the difference is massive.
“Each home built using the system can reduce energy expenditure and carbon emissions by at least 65% compared to traditional builds when built to passive house U values but you notice the difference even with standard building regulation compliance,” said Chris, who for the last 16 years has had the benefit of living in a home built using the technology.
“A zero-carbon economy will require energy-efficient manufacturing of building materials and energy-efficient structures, which means the construction sector has opportunities over the short and long term to reduce carbon emissions through the choice of materials with a low environmental impact.”
GLB can adapt its core material to other insulant systems, including EPS, mineral wool, cork, and foamed glass if required by client specification or building regs. Finished panels of rigid or mineral wool insulation both provide more than 120 minutes of fire protection (REI120).
The versatile panel allows for many different design options, from curves to geometric shapes and balconies to roof top expansions, and can be used for external walls, any internal loadbearing walls, flooring and landing, roofing, and staircases.
“The panels can be used for anything, meaning a whole house can be constructed using the same building system,” said Chris. “And thanks to our curved panel, which can be made to almost any size and is unique in the world of construction, there are no design restrictions – if it can be drawn, it can be made.”
Simple to build
The systems simplicity is its key when it comes to cutting costs and construction time.
The lightweight panels, which weigh no more than 5kgs per square metre before concrete coating, can be carried on site by hand, eliminating the need for cranes and other external equipment, and they can be easily installed using on-site tools in all-weather conditions. A single truck can deliver all the materials needed for one house,
Using the GBL system reduces construction times by as much as 50% compared to traditional building methods and a complete watertight house can be built in just five-six weeks.
A raw structure made with the system can cost up to 40% less than a traditional structure of comparable market value and, as panels are machine made and assembly processes are optimised, there is also big savings on labour costs.
Chris said: “Our system makes house building as easy as possible for contractors, installers and everyone else involved in the process. By building a whole house or houses using the same building system, it optimises the supply chain, shortens construction time and reduces labour requirements.”
The perfect solution
From its Corby-based factory, GLB can provide up to 4000m2 of kit per day and have the capacity to supply developers, housing associations and local authorities material to build 3,000 houses a year.
Approved by the government as a MMC, the system can be used in precast structures, onsite in-situ cast structures and on site in-situ spray concrete depending on the project and clients’ needs.
“Convincing those in the decision-making process, such as heads of lending and quantity surveyors of the systems worth has been challenging but that is changing rapidly, and it has started gaining some real traction in the last six months,” said Chris.
“We have doubled the number of projects we are quoting and providing input for and they range from larger projects such as high-rises and smaller developers to individual dwellings and the self-build market.
“And with our digital manufacturing capability, we can adapt to regulation changes with ease, one example being the creation of our hybrid panel which removes the combustible element form external walls above 18m yet still provides an insitu build option which is important for us because it provides options to our contractors using techniques they already know.”
The design capabilities, exceptional strength and energy saving capabilities make the GLB system a twenty-first century building material for high performance buildings.
To see what is capable with the GLB building system, or for more information, visit www.greenlifebuildings.co.uk