Q: How do structural insulated panels produce sustainable housing?
RV: SIPs offer simplicity, speed and savings in the construction process, with its highly insulated building envelope that significantly reduces thermal bridging and air leakages to produce more energy-efficient homes that are comfortable and environmentally responsible.
The average Australian home may leak up to 20–30 times its volume per hour, meaning more energy is required to heat or cool the building. SIPs homes can reduce this to as low as 0.25 air changes, and with air exchange units, can recover up to 85 per cent of energy while introducing fresh air to the building. This offers massive performance gains and cost savings to occupants.
Q: Have you seen an increase in demand?
RV: We have seen steady growth in demand Australia-wide from multiple market segments, from young couples to empty nesters wanting to improve their comfort and quality of life while reducing living costs. There has been significant uptake by architects focused on more sustainable products, the government sector which wants to be seen to be developing environmentally responsible buildings, while commercial builders are adopting SIPs for speed of construction, and to reduce site costs and overheads. There is a clear shift in demand for better buildings and prefabricated building products.
Q: Is there more the building industry could be doing to improve environmental outcomes?
RV: There is significant opportunity in Australia to instigate change and improve our current environmental performance. Changing consumer attitudes and legislation that supports better environmentally responsible housing will demand that industry keep up and work collaboratively.
We are becoming more willing to invest in our future and the wellbeing of future generations. Companies are seeing the benefit of being environmentally responsible, manufacturers are demonstrating how it can be done, now we need the will and leadership to instigate real change.
Q: What could the future of sustainable building look like?
RV: Sustainable buildings are the hallmark of economically sound business decisions, thoughtful environmental decisions, and smart human impact decisions. I see a great future in what we can do as a building industry to drive sustainable housing. Innovation, coupled with a focus on better living, will see us embrace many systems and principles, such as renewable energy and storage, more durable and environmentally friendly materials, and new technologies.
We may see more of a hybrid approach to building off-site (flat pack) rather than full prefabricated houses. Shorter lead times and demand for higher performance at a better cost point, while managing overhead and logistics, are still big challenges for industry. The development of smaller, narrow lots may push hybrid building, which will assist with limited space onsite and shorter build times.