Kestner Case Study
At One 10 Studio, an Indianapolis design firm, “We always recommend sustainability where it’s appropriate with our clients,” said Patrick Kestner, project manager and associate. “Thermocore SIPs just make it an easier sell. When we can say you’ll get a quieter building that exceeds energy code by more than double and you’ll get payback in a couple of years with utility bills at 30 percent less, that definitely gets the attention of both residential and commercial clients.”
Goodbye Spray Foam, Hello SIPs
Several years ago, “We were looking for a more efficient and cost-effective way to incorporate sustainability,” Kestner said. “We’d been using spray foam in a stick-frame wall, but you still have stud voids with the thermal transition between inside and outside. SIPs provide the same type of insulation, but when you remove the studs you’re able to achieve a higher R-value.”
Compared to other green options, “Structural Insulated Panels are an accessible technology that people can understand,” Kestner said—especially with the financial benefits. “People are starting to appreciate that there may be a premium to the SIPs, but you save on labor and receive an energy payback,” he said. “Your return on investment comes in a short time period.”
One 10 Studio uses Thermocore insulated panels in a variety of applications. “We can design however we want to design,” Kestner said. “The SIPs fit three-story, 55,000 square-foot buildings or 2,500 square-foot, single-family projects. Their versatility even spans climates. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Indiana or South Carolina; Thermocore SIPs still provide the design traits we look for in the building envelope.”
In a traditional, single-family home in Bloomington, Ind., SIPs literally supported the design. “The kitchen is two stories, opening up into a loft space,” Kestner explained. “The Structural Insulated Panels allowed us to build the two stories without the support of a floor system. They didn’t require any columns or beams to support them.”
In two three-story apartment buildings near downtown Indianapolis, a mixture of structural insulated panel sizes achieved multiple goals. “We utilized six-and-a-half-inch wall panels on the first floor for structural issues, with four-inch panels on the upper floors,” Kestner said. “That allowed us to stay at the budget number we needed, but also provide the energy efficiency we wanted.”
The contemporary-style apartment complex will receive a Silver rating under the National Association of Home Builders Green Building Standard. “Obviously, the SIPs are huge in being able to achieve that, since they’re the building envelope,” Kestner said.
In comparing traditional construction to Thermocore SIPs, Kestner noted a difference in quality. “Thermocore fabricates the Structural Insulated Panels inside, in a controlled environment, versus dumping a load of studs in the mud. In a stick-frame project, there are a lot of decisions made by a framer swinging a hammer in 100 degrees or pouring-down rain. Out in the field, the quality level is lower because they use what they have to work with at the time.”
In contrast, “There’s a whole level of consistency with a fabricated panel that you don’t get with a stick-built product,” Kestner said. “SIPs haven’t been exposed to the elements. As Thermocore goes through their process, if there’s a piece of OSB that’s not acceptable, they won’t use it.”
In addition to reliable quality, Thermocore’s process speeds construction, Kestner said. For instance, “Thermocore guarantees all their window openings. In a stick-frame building, the opening might turn out 1/8-inch too small. If you’ve already got a window, are you going to spend time and money to adjust the framing? Or you can wait until the walls are up, then measure the openings and wait six weeks for the windows to arrive.”
In projects with Thermocore Structural Insulated Panels, Kestner orders the windows in advance so they’re ready to go as soon as the SIPs walls are up. “We can fast-track the process and have the peace of mind that everything will fit.”
Enclosing the building faster yields additional advantages. “You’re not getting water infiltration, you’re not facing as many security issues, and you’re not paying extra money to temporarily enclose the building,” Kestner said.
All those benefits help One 10 Studio’s business. “When I can say you’ll get a highly insulated building envelope that’s going to go faster and be more precise, those are huge advantages to take to a client,” Kestner concluded.