For decades, the “perfect wall” has been recognized as an optimal path to robust, high-performance, moisture managed, and energy-efficient walls. Unfortunately, adoption by the home building industry has been slow due to labor challenges, higher initial construction costs and perceived complexity. In search of a better solution, the University of Minnesota NorthernSTAR Building America Team, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy and three affordable housing developers in Minneapolis and Denver, created a new and innovative studless building system. This innovative solid panel ‘”perfect wall” building and delivery system is more affordable and faster to build and, based on early results, produces a more efficient, robust, and resilient home.
Energy models for the studless panel house indicated approximately 40 percent energy savings over Minnesota code and 30 percent energy savings over Energy Star v3 assemblies. The performance and cost data from the first structures built is undergoing its initial review. Remarkably, the airtightness of the first Habitat for Humanity studless panel house was a 0.26 ACH@50. Additional preliminary data suggests total validation of the pioneering enclosure system with increased energy efficiency, durability and construction quality at the forefront. “The construction costs have been competitive and the performance has been outstanding,” said Patrick Huelman, project lead and Associate Extension Professor for the University of Minnesota. “There is a learning curve, but it is remarkably easy and short."
The group is excited about the future. Huelman shared that the University of Minnesota NorthernStar team “is currently doing extensive structural research at the Home Innovation Research Labs to optimize strength, improve constructability, and reduce costs for the Solid Panel Structure.” So far, this “solid panel” approach, with several variations, has been used on two dozen affordable homes in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Download the Overview of Solid Panel Structure (SPS) System [PDF] for step-by-step photos of the construction process.