Wood and concrete have been used in construction for centuries and for good reason. Both materials have advantageous properties but thanks to concrete’s bountiful benefits, we are seeing a rise in its use, particularly concrete insulated panels (CIP). We know that concrete is hardwearing, long-lasting, and resistant to wind, water, and fire. But what exactly are concrete insulated panels and why are they emerging as a superior building material? We spoke to Monolith Systems to take an in-depth look at CIP’s performance, energy efficiency, structural integrity, and why it’s becoming a popular building option.
Like any custom home construction project, the first step is to take your dream home concept through the design process. Once you have a design plan, you can bring it to Monolith Systems to integrate CIP in the construction process or Monolith Systems can provide you with one of their modern design plans. This phase includes design, drafting, and permits. CIP panels offer limitless options for both colour and architectural finish.
CIP are built like sandwiches where the concrete is the “bread” and the styrofoam insulation is the “filling.” One layer of concrete forms the inside structural wall and the other layer of concrete is the outside wall and siding. Together, the concrete walls provide durable structures for both the external and internal structures of the home without the need for wood framing. The efficient all-in-one construction method means CIP built homes are energy efficient and extremely resilient, offering protection from fires, earthquakes, severe storms, and flooding.
Concrete is a dense, airtight material so the all-in-one construction method prevents heat loss in concrete insulated paneled homes. Heat simply has fewer escape routes. Adding extra insulation and concrete’s natural heat storing abilities, CIP can reduce total heating and cooling energy requirements by up to 80% compared with a wood-frame home.
Concrete has a higher thermal mass than conventional building materials and because it can store heat, concrete walls and floors absorb heat during the day and release the heat when the outside air cools at night. This passive transfer equalizes heat transmission through the walls and limits the need for mechanical systems.
The structural integrity of concrete is appealing to west coast inhabitants as concrete will outlast most other building materials and provides solid construction that can bear heavy loads and withstand earthquakes. The ductility of reinforced concrete and panels absorbs the vibrational energy of earthquakes reducing shaking and structural damage. Concrete walls provide resistance to fire and heat and effectively inhibit the spread of smoke and flame, while also retaining the structural integrity. Concrete is the least likely construction material to result in leaky buildings and will not rust, rot, corrode, or warp.
Concrete Insulated Panel construction is a simple and efficient building method, requiring approximately 30% less time and labour to lock-up than timber frame construction. Our panels at Monolith Systems can be up to 2 stories high, significantly reducing the time to construct your home.
Winters can be cold and damp depending on where you live so it’s important to look at your local conditions and the impact on the environment when keeping the cold or dampness at bay. Concrete is much less likely to leak and is naturally mould resistant which is an important feature in the pacific northwest. The high density of concrete resists the transmission or airborne noise and are often two-thirds quieter than a wood-frame home. Concrete has a low emission rate for volatile organic compounds (VOCs), emitting at a rate four times slower than gypsum drywall. This means clean, fresh, chemical free air for the building’s occupants.
Because the insulated panels have inside and outside walls, insulation and finishing already built-in, there is no need for drywall, vapour barrier, plywood sheathing, building paper, rainscreen, and the labour associated with sealing a typical wood-frame home. Fewer materials and lower labour hours translate into cost savings. With current market prices, concrete sandwich panel homes cost approximately 10% more to build than a wood frame home. With lower operating costs, however, a homeowner will see that added investment returned many times over during the long life of the home. With a single material, we can accomplish many things: energy efficiency, durability, resilience, and safety.