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Solid Green Companies in conjunction with their preferred building partner Silverton homes has begun construction of a new custom home in Steiner Ranch just west of Austin. This is the first of two homes to begin construction over the next month. Please check back for progress updates.

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Expanded polystyrene is an organic material manufactured from crude oil by-products. The manufacturing process consists of the expansion of polystyrene beads in a mould, which contains an expanding agent, pentane. When submitted to water vapour, the beads expand until they completely fill the mould. During the expansion process, the expanding agent dissipates and air is introduced to the cell structure. The final product is a rigid insulation comprised of a closed cell structure consisting of 98% air.

What is EPS used for?

EPS is widely used in packaging applications for the transport of produce, seafood and fragile items. EPS is also becoming a popular material for use in building and construction applications. Examples include geofoam, a light-weight void filler, insulated panel systems, wall cladding systems and concrete slab footing systems known as waffle pods.

What are the benefits of using EPS?

EPS is widely used in many everyday applications where its light weight, strength, durability, thermal insulation and shock absorption characteristics provide superior benefits over other materials. These characteristics, combined with its versatility, performance and cost effectiveness have made EPS a packaging and building material of choice for over 50 years.

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The tipping point for Net Zero homes and office buildings was 2012. That’s when Professional Builder reported on the fact that “the growing number of production builders focused on bringing net-zero energy homes to the masses.” Net Zero is where all energy consumption in a building is offset by the structure’s energy production system.

The article further states: “Unlike their predecessors in the budding ZEH (zero-energy homes) market, which made a living by designing and building primarily one-off, high-cost zero-energy homes, these builders are keenly focused on offering ZEHs on a production scale, and at price points that are affordable to virtually anyone who walks into their sales centers and models.” This watershed moment in the building industry means that Net Zero energy structures have gone mainstream.

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Expanded polystyrene (EPS) delivers a substantial reduction in greenhouse gas emissions when used to insulate homes, according to data added to the U.S. Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) database by the EPS Molders Association. The LCI database is maintained by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

The data was derived from a study that calculated the resources used and emissions produced in the manufacturing and delivery of EPS foam insulation. The study concluded that EPS insulation will reduce a building’s energy consumption to an extent that far outweighs the environmental impact of manufacturing the building material.

The study was conducted by Franklin Associates, which provides LCA and Solid Waste Management consulting services.

Read the Reuters article on the EPS research

Read the EPS Molders Association press release here:

EPS Molders Press Release

A recent report by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Building America Program, Moisture Management for High R-value Walls, explains the moisture-related concerns for high R-value wall assemblies. It focuses on how various walls handle three main sources of moisture – construction moisture, air leakage condensation and bulk water leaks.

To evaluate the potential for moisture problems in these walls, R-40 walls were evaluated in six U.S. cities (Houston, Atlanta, Seattle, St. Louis, Chicago, and International Falls) representing a range of climate zones (2, 3, 4C, 4, 5A and 7, respectively). Eight wall types were analyzed, divided into four categories:

  • Advance framed wall insulated on the exterior
  • Double stud wall with different cavity insulations
  • SIP wall with 11.5 “of EPS insulation
  • CMU (concrete masonry unit) wall with EIFS insulation

The peak annual moisture content of the wood-based exterior sheathing was used to comparatively analyze the response to the moisture loads for different wall assemblies in each given city. Walls that experienced moisture contents between 20% and 28% were identified as risky, whereas those exceeding 28% were identified as very high risk.

Read the Full Article and Download the Report from the EPS Industry Alliance.

Does it make sense and is it worth spending the extra money to go all the way to an R80 envelope system?

I think that a great way to design, market, or underwrite a “wildly” performing home is to link extraordinary performance with resilience: make the home self-sufficient in the face of extreme events or crises. The “payback” seems like a pretty silly singular rationale for super-high-performance in the face of the grid going down or a hurricane making every home in your neighborhood except yours uninhabitable says BuildingGreen founder Alex Wilson.

See the Full Article from greenbuildingadvisor.com.

Solid Green Systems and Structures are integrated almost entirely of the patent-pending EPS form and steel framing. The panels are derived from a petroleum byproduct that is generated in the refining of oil, is odorless and has the same toxicity of wood, cardboard or paper.

There are a few places where there is no substitute for wood but every effort has been made to minimize its use and there are no wood studs used in the panels or framing of our building system. In addition to the environmental benefits of the reduced usage of wood the steel framing is engineered in our own plant to an accuracy of <1 milimeter.

Heating or cooling a Solid Green Structures home and making it smart energy today is quite different than conventional wood frame construction. Due to the smart energy efficiency of the Solid Green Structures home you will need to throw conventional sizing guidelines aside. Typical design standards are geared towards 500-600 sq. ft. per ton for both condenser as well as the furnace. To provide effective smart energy temperature and humidity control our testing has proven that HVAC sizing for the Solid Green Home is in the range of 1,200 sq. ft. per ton for the condenser and 760 sqft for the furnace.

When testing the Solid Green structure we found that when temperatures outside drop to 28 degrees the inside temperature remained around 67 degrees with no heating system running. When outside temperatures reached in the 100 degree range the inside temperature remained in the high 70’s to low 80’s with no cooling system running. This is a result of the correct installation of the panel system and managed mechanical ventilation. To keep the fresh air intake at a humidity level equal to the present humidity in the home we dehumidify the air from outside before it enters into the a/c system. Therefore, keeping the humidity level constant allows the Solid Green Structures home to retain a more consistent temperature when heating or cooling than most other residential structures.
There are a few quick notes to consider. It is recommended that all a/c systems be heat pumps with a variable speed fan motor for longer equipment life and electric bills that run steady throughout the year. As for duct work, this is where things get interesting. In the Solid Green Home the attic is sealed on the back side of the roof with 6 inches of spray foam insulation. Not only does this eliminate the need for loose-fill attic floor insulation this reduces duct sizing requirements, increases the life span of the duct system and even allows for the elimination of ducts depending on architectural design.

The combination of strength and efficiency inherent in Solid Panel Technology™ makes any climate or exposure an excellent place to use our system.

Solid Panel Technology™ is constructed from foam panels that afford incredible efficiency and strength through an effective combination of EPS and light-gauge metal framing components.

​Coastal wind and humidity, arid and hot southwestern climates or cool and damp northern climates are all excellent climates for the design and use of the Solid Green system.

The efficient design of the Solid Green Systems panel as well as our unique building process, provides immediate benefits through shorter construction times, lower labor costs and minimal equipment requirements.

The Solid Green Structure differs in many ways from typical insulated concrete form construction. Each panel is 4 feet wide, runs from floor to desired ceiling height and is independent of other panels during concrete application.The Solid Green Structure consists of 80% less components than traditional ICF, eliminating 80% of the connections between components. Fewer connections afford better consistency and physical integrity.

​Imagine each panel being set by two to three people without the expense of scaffolding, cranes, lifts or bracing. The labor costs and time necessary to set up and break down scaffolding has been eliminated.

​With steel framing throughout, the interior walls can be set with increased accuracy in a shorter amount of time. Each wall frame is manufactured and labeled to eliminate errors and allowing the framing to be completed in a fraction of the time with increased accuracy compared to traditional wood construction.

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