Watters Case Study
Building a Case
When David Watters, owner of The Beamery, a design-build timber frame company in Helmsburg, Indiana, set out to build the first Indiana home certified as a Passive House, he chose triple-pane windows, energy-efficient appliances, LED lighting, and Thermocore Structural Insulated Panels.
“We’ve used Thermocore SIPs for a couple dozen projects throughout the last 10 years,” David said. “In designing to the ultra low energy, Passive House standards, we really wanted to use a product that we had familiarity with and that would get us to the certification. The SIPs definitely met those equirements.” Watters is shooting for 90 percent energy savings versus a typical home of the same size.
Reaching the Standard
The Passive House standard originated in Germany and spread to the U.S. “A Passive House is a rigorous, voluntary standard for energy efficiency in a building, reducing its ecological footprint,” David said. “It results in buildings that require little energy for heating or cooling.”
The 4,000-square-foot, two-level home (plus a reading loft and basement) in Nashville, Indiana, will undergo extensive testing to confirm that it meets Passive House certification standards.
The custom home’s outer envelope features Thermocore insulated wall and roof panels. “The cost of the SIPs is competitive, and it’s virtually impossible to get to this same efficiency of wall enclosure with a conventionally framed house because of all the thermal bridges,” Watters said.
In fact, with the Structural Insulated Panels and site orientation, Watters eliminated a furnace in the home. But the heating and cooling savings won’t come just from that initial decision. “They’ll come year after year with lower energy consumption,” David said.
T-Shirt Weather in the Winter
How well does the house perform without a furnace? “Our construction during the winter was a great test,” David said. “The house was enclosed, but my trim carpenters worked through January and February. We had two small, 4,000 BTU radiant heaters in the house and the carpenters were working in their t-shirts. That’s a pretty incredible testimony.”
The savings won’t stop with warmer weather. “One of the challenges of Indiana is that you’ve got both heating and cooling loads,” David said, but the SIPs will continue keeping the home comfortable through hot and cold seasons.
Less Time On-Site
How else do Thermocore SIPs help David’s projects? “In addition to the insulating value, it’s things like the Class 1 fire rating and the incredible lateral strength, so structurally it’s a great product,” he said.
David also appreciates the flexibility of Thermocore SIPs. “We do very, very custom buildings and Thermocore has been able to adapt to all our design parameters.”
To speed construction time, “We design both our timber frame and the insulated panel enclosure simultaneously, so it’s a very seamless process,” David said. “We’re trying to create a product where we can do more and more pre-manufacturing and less time on-site. That’s really where the SIPs shine, along with the energy efficiency.” (See Thermocore SIPs Installation.)