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    September 24, 2012
    It’s All About Ccommunity: Why Three Kansas Community Buildings Were Erected with SIPs

    Risen Savior Lutheran Church in Basehor, Kansas is a remarkably solid, traditional and old-looking brand-new building. Mark Curfman of Urban Architecture Studio and Jerry Frese of J.M. Frese Construction worked in concert to create a very traditional church within a tight budget.

    Frese had a special connection to the church. A Missouri Synod Lutheran, Frese has a son who pastors at Redeemer Lutheran church in Ft. Wayne Indiana. He and Father Michael N. Frese toured and studied many churches and castles in Europe over a period of 5 years.

    According to Frese, any design ideas that he thought would be correct for the project had to be approved by seven respected Pastors in the church body.  “I named them "Black Birds," said Frese. “It was crucial that the design was liturgically correct. Once approved by the Black Birds, I would meet with Mark and have him work with this idea.”

    Curfman also did some homework. “I hit the book stacks to better understand how the great traditional churches were designed,” he explained. “Jerry had traveled many times to Germany, Austria and Spain looking at the early Lutheran Churches from the Reformation, and I looked at the old historical Lutheran churches around Kansas City, Topeka and St. Louis.

    “We wanted to design and build a church that reflected both the traditions of the Lutheran Church of 500 years ago and the Risen Savior Lutheran Church congregation in rural Leavenworth, Kansas and do it with today’s construction and materials.  We looked at the elements that make up a Lutheran church and the ideas that went into the design and construction of the original churches.”

    According to Curfman, the design of the old churches used what is known as sacred geometry. “From ancient times, it was believed that the world has a geometric order and to understand this geometry was to understand the creator – God.  This geometry became the backbone for much of the sacred art and architecture from ancient times forward.  Examples of this geometry are the proportion of the golden rectangle that is found in the facades of the Parthenon in Athens and Notre Dame in Paris.  It is found in the stained glass rose windows and pointed arches of the Gothic cathedrals. 

    “We used these principles of sacred geometry in the design.  Risen Savior’s wood trusses incorporate a Gothic arch and help to focus on the arched Apse and ultimately the Altar,” Curfman explains. “Many of the smaller churches in Germany and the Lutheran churches of America used wood as the primary structure as well as the ornament, rather than the carved stone found in the great cathedrals.  We wanted this rich material and craftsmanship to carry throughout the church—not like many contemporary churches that are just acres of drywall. The congregation wanted a church that looked from day one like it had been there for 100 years.”

    According to Curfman, R-Control SIPs were chosen for the roof because of the desire to maximize roof insulation R-value and speed up enclosure of the finished trusses. “We wanted to make the church as energy-efficient as possible to minimize the annual operating expenses for the church. We also wanted to protect our lofty investment in the trusses. A slow roof installation could be devastating to the project, with the outside elements putting the exposed trusses at risk.

    “The trusses were to be stained and a finished element in the building.  The last thing we needed was for weather to destroy the beautiful craftsmanship of the trusses,” Curfman explained. “Once we had the trusses erected, the SIPs were laid in less than two weeks and the trusses were protected. The SIPs were perfect for this project.”

    Chris Orlando PE, of CEO Structural Engineers, whose team was responsible for designing the building structure said, “Structural Insulated Panels work really well for wood-framed roofs because of the way the long edges connect.  Actually, each long edge is recessed to receive a continuous 2x, say 2x8.  No matter what the roof pitch is, typical roof construction starts by spanning each SIP from one sloped truss across to the next.  Then long threaded screws on regular centers are drilled thru the SIP that cinches each bearing end down tight onto the truss substructure, which also prevents the SIP from sliding.

    “Now, here’s the beauty,” explained Orlando.  “Along one side, the 2x8 is fitted into the recess and panel-nailed from both faces, then another 2x8 is fitted onto the first and nailed together, then the recess of the next SIP fits over the second 2x8 and panel-nailed from both faces.  In this way all four edges of each SIP panel are connected, creating a sturdy diaphragm that not only takes weight, but also can transfer lateral loads to shear walls or resisting frames.”

    Orlando remembers there was a lot of cooperation. “A good result happens when everybody is part of the solution.  ACH Foam Technologies, the SIPs manufacturer, started off providing standard generic details that we saw had to be modified due to the exceptionally steep roof pitch that created problems for how flat SIPS came together at peaks and valleys. On the theme that all four edges of each SIP are to be connected, we were impressed with ACH’s willingness to complete the details to our requirements and then construct them with a caliber of craftsmanship that matches the significance of the building.        

    “Just to make sure it was going to turn out right, we modeled the entire roof structure in 3-D CAD using Google ‘Sketch-Up’, showing in precise detail how all the angles should be cut.  ACH followed every detail precisely, which made the overall placement of the SIPs virtually flawless.  One reason the building looks as good as it does it because the SIPs were erected and set very, very well.”

    Orlando added, “Some buildings can be done messily, but not a church.  A wood church requires real craftsmanship, or it’s going to end up looking disgraceful.   It was a good collaboration. ACH provided craftsmanship equivalent to the expert carpenters.”                   

    Mark Curfman added that once the SIPs were installed, they were faced on the interior with a rich wood paneling. “As designers, we wanted to use the best materials available and provide the detailing – from the structural connections to the ornamental trim - that would accent the excellent craftsmanship that Jerry and his team were able to bring to the project.  You can feel this richness as soon as you enter the church,” he adds. “The wood, the rich tones, the sacred design elements and the incredible workmanship make you feel like you’ve gone back in time.  This is how they used to design and build sacred structures.”

    Creating Community: YouthBuild-HAKC Raises Green Home for Homeless in Two Weeks

    Public housing rarely gets the attention of the USGBC, but Oz Qureshi wants to change that. As Construction Manager for the Kansas City Housing Authority’s YouthBuild program, Oz decided to make this single family home a standout example of how green building can benefit all stakeholders: the resident family, at-risk-youth who had the opportunity to build it, the taxpayers and the environment.

    “Homelessness is a social issue we can’t control,“ said Qureshi. “But a poorly insulated home is something we can address. We wanted to demonstrate that, even with public housing, you can build as green as you want to go. And greener public housing helps to solve other contingent problems.

    “Building energy efficient housing reduces evictions, which also reduces the amount the Housing Authority spends on turning over vacant units. This means the Housing Authority can spend that money on other capital improvement projects. It can also bring the cost of the utilities in line with the subsidy that some tenants receive. It’s a win-win,” explained Qureshi.

    “We used every means possible to earn enough points to achieve the distinction of LEED Platinum on this house,” said Qureshi. “SIPs were a key component to making it extremely energy efficient because of their high R-value. Everyone involved with the construction was impressed by the SIPs panels. They not only went up quickly—they are incredibly strong and straight.”

    According to Qureshi, there is so much lumber filling a stick-framed project you can hardly move around when plumb and lining the walls. “You can hardly move in there with all the lumber that’s required for bracing. SIPs made the job much faster and easier because none of that extra bracing was needed.”

    Other LEED points will be earned by the use of windows with an R value of 5, a passive solar wall on the south side of the home, drywall that absorbs VOC’s (volatile organic chemicals) for eighty years; ADA-compliant appliances and doors that swing both ways, high efficiency HVAC, and even a material that insulates the sides of the concrete floor slab.”

    Kansas City taxpayers will be happy to know that the home is fitted with rain barrels that capture 860 gallons of rain for outdoor use. “This is really important for Kansas City because we have issues with too much water runoff in our city sewer system,” explains Oz. “Reducing this rain water runoff in our city sewers reduces the burden on them during heavy rains.”

    Oz explained another reason for using SIPs for the home. Sixty at-risk youth trainees worked alongside two experienced trainers in the construction of the home. The Housing Authority of Kansas City, MO operates the YouthBuild program for 37 young people, ages 24-27, each year. YouthBuild is a youth and community development program that teaches at-risk youth construction trades and offers them three nationally recognized construction certifications and helps them obtain their GED.

    “We personally requested the architects use SIPs for this project,” commented Qureshi, “not only because we wanted a tight energy efficient envelope---but also because the SIPs can be installed much faster than other building techniques. This is a huge advantage to a construction training program. We were under roof in just two weeks.” According to Qureshi, it would have taken seven weeks to stick frame the home.

    WSKF Architects Inc. was selected to design the home. “This was a special project for us,” said Dustin Watkins, project designer. To see these young adults work hard and come away with such satisfaction at seeing what they had built—it’s inspiring.” According to Watkins, the home was designed as a prototype for the Housing Authority to use not only for this YouthBuild project but also for future infill housing projects throughout the city—setting a new standard for energy efficient design. 

    SIPs Walls and Roof: Manhattan KS Firestation

    Mike Gibson of Murray & Sons Construction was the contractor on the Manhattan, Kansas Firestations 3 and 5. He appreciates that the owner and architect on the project had the foresight to specify SIPs for what he calls a “flagship community building”.

    “This is as cool a design as we’ve ever seen,” Gibson quips. “People often have a pre-conceived notion of what a SIPs building looks like. What’s super cool about this is that, unless you know that SIPs were used to build the firestation, you would have no idea by looking at the finished design that it was constructed with pre-fabricated panels.”

    Gibson also thinks that taxpayers will appreciate the SIPs construction. “You have an entire bank of taxpayers who are saving money over the next 50-year life cycle of this firestation, because of the superior energy-efficiency of the SIPs,” Gibson adds. “Often SIPs are reserved for residential construction. In the case of the Manhattan firestation, people were thinking outside the box. Bringing SIPs into the public sphere should make a whole lot of taxpayers happy.”

    According to architect Tracy Anderson, the city wanted its firestation to represent the city’s commitment to sustainable building. “We had used SIPs before and we knew that SIPs would allow us to create the tightest building envelope possible,” said Anderson. “Also, the alternative nature of SIPs was compatible with the geothermal heating and cooling system that was being installed.

    “With the firestation, we used SIPs for the entire building envelope—the walls as well as the roof. We had used SIPs in the past for a roof with a stick-framed wall structure but thought this would be our opportunity to use SIPs for the entire building envelope and it worked out great, even though it was not a simple building. There were some complex rooflines.         

    “Moreover, the SIPS opened up the possibility that we could save time on construction. We saved a lot of work on the roof. Because SIPs can span a larger distance, we were able to skip the trusses that would have been necessary in a stick-framed building and use beams that were spaced much wider apart.”

    According to Anderson, SIPs minimized the roof structure, saving time and money. “The mechanical room ended up in the attic area,” he explained. “Normally an attic would not be insulated at the roofline, but typically at the ceiling plane. Because we roofed the station with SIPs it is so well insulated that we don’t have to worry about stressing the HVAC equipment due to extreme temperature swings.”

    Anderson enjoyed working with the manufacturer, ACH Foam Technologies. “Even before ACH was awarded the contract for this public building, they were more than happy to come in and help us out. ACH came to our offices and gave a “lunch and learn” about the finer points of SIPs. We even sent them some of our drawings and they were able to review them and give us some direction with regard to the SIPs,” Anderson said.

    “I would recommend SIPs in a heartbeat,” explained Mike Gibson. The fact that you can lift the SIPs roof panels from a flatbed with a crane and swing them into place is just incredible. In that one step you have combined the three steps of stick framing: frame, then sheet, then insulate. It’s all there. Just drop in the roof panels or stand up the walls and you’re done.”

    Gibson says that the energy efficiency of a Structural Insulated Panel building spills over to the contractor: “We all know that over the life span of a SIPs building, the owner reaps substantial energy savings. What we did not expect was a residual benefit. During the final stages of construction, when the temporary heating and cooling is on our dime, we save money because the envelope is so snug.”

    About ACH Foam Technologies

    ACH Foam Technologies’ R-Control Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) have been used for over 30 years in residential and commercial projects for their high R-Value, superior strength and easy installation.