The History of SIPs


The concept of structural insulated panels (SIPs) began in 1935 at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) in Madison, Wisconsin. FPL engineers speculated that plywood sheathing could take a portion of the structural load in exterior wall applications. Their prototype structural insulated panels (SIPs) were constructed using framing members within the panel combined with structural plywood sheathing and conventional insulation.

These panels were used to construct test homes that were continually monitored for over 30 years during which time FPL engineers continued to experiment with new designs and materials.

Famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright used structural insulated panels in some of his affordable Usonian Houses built throughout the 1930's and 1940's. SIPs took a major leap in technology when one of Wright's students, Alden B. Dow, son of the founder of The Dow Chemical Company, created the first foam core SIP in 1952 and used them to build the first foam core SIP homes. The homes that were built in Midland MI are still occupied, and are a testament to their longevity.

By the 1960's rigid foam insulation products became readily available and by the 1980's oriented strand board (OSB), an engineered structural panel was developed resulting in the production of SIPs as we know them today.

In the 1990's SIPs saw the development of advanced computer aided manufacturing (CAM) technology. Using these systems, computerized architectural drawings (CAD drawings) can be converted to allow automated cutting machines to fabricate SIPs to the specific design of a building. CAD to CAM technology has streamlined the SIP manufacturing process, bringing further labor savings to builders.

Today, SIPs offer a high tech solution for residential and low rise nonresidential buildings. Advances in computer aided design and manufacturing allow SIPs to be produced with amazing accuracy to deliver flat, straight and true walls. SIPs are available in thicknesses ranging from 4 ½" to 12 ¼" (114mm to 311mm). The design capabilities, exceptional strength and energy saving insulation values make SIPs a twenty-first century building material for high performance buildings.