Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The practically fireproof, soundproof, insect proof, hurricane proof, largely recycled building system you may never have heard of: SCIP's

Of course had you attended the March meeting of the San Antonio Sustainable Living group you would have heard all about SCIP's from Herb Nordmeyer.

At our meeting Herb showed us pictures of one Galveston home, raised up on piers that still stood practically untouched while all the houses had been destroyed by Hurricane Ike. That one home had a floor, roof and walls made of SCIP's (Structural Concrete Insulated Panels). A handrail was destroyed and exposed pipes underneath had to be replaced but otherwise the home was intact. Its survival was not due to chance.

Herb Nordmeyer knows concrete. He has spent his life learning the intricacies of pozzolans, additives which affect the properties of a particular batch of concrete. Fly ash is a pozzolan and Herb is one of the few who really understands its use. But since Hurricane Ike he has worked to educate code officials, homeowner groups and city officials understand that SCIP's are an economic building system that can prevent the kind of destruction caused not just by hurricanes but by the annual brush fires which plague California.

A SCIP may be thought of a SIP (Structural Insulated Panel) that uses concrete instead of a wood on the outside of an insulated panel.

There are many variations, some like wood SIP's are manufactured and cut to size in a factory, some have cement backer board attached to them, but Herb spoke to us primarily about the the MetRockSCIP style.

These have a polystyrene core surrounded by a 3 D cage of rebar and clips which suspend the metal. The foam panels can be made to size on site. Once raised into place the metal is covered with cement stucco. Some designs allow the stucco to be pumped on, while others require troweling. When the interior and exterior stucco cures it provides the vertical and horizontal load-bearing that is provided by a sheet of plywood or OSB in a SIP.

Because they have no wood, they are not vulnerable to termites. If SCIP's are used for the walls, floors and roof then the resulting building will be fireproof for all practical purposes. The walls perform at an equivalent R-40 with a sound rating (STC) of 50 or more, (even the floors). The buildings are inherently windstorm and hurricane proof and can easily be made earthquake proof.

The metal and polystyrene in a SCIP can be from recycled sources and the concrete can include up to 50% fly ash (if correctly formulated by a fly ash expert such as Herb Nordmeyer).

Costs are similar to 2 x 6 construction when built by a trained crew. Though "skilled labor" is not needed, experienced labor is required for the work to go a quickly as possible. Framers and drywallers are not needed though typically the interior and exterior is finished by a plasterer.

Manufacturers include MetRock, Solarcrete, Green Sandwich, SIPCrete and ProTec.

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