We're building a new home on the Big Island, Hawaii. We have to ship in most of our materials. Can we be green?

Asked by Kelly Hart
Kamuela, HI

We'll be building on a slab, one story, 1600 sf. Remember, we have to consider earthquakes and hurricanes. We've considered autoclaved aerated concrete but it seems too pricey. We like bamboo, but even that has to be shipped in. We're headed in the direction of traditional framing, with some regret. Can we do better, greener, and not spend a fortune? Aloha and thanks!


Randy Potter

Answered by Randy Potter

Alameda, CA

May 28, 2011

I feel your pain, Kelly -- it must be rough living in an island paradise!

But seriously, you do face a unique set of variables when considering the overall sustainability of your new home project. Everything that you will build with is going to be shipped over 3,000 miles.

Without doing the calculations on what combination of building materials will allow you the smallest carbon footprint, I would recommend you look into Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs).

  • These panels are manufactured to your plans and generally delivered in 8-10 ft. wall sections.
  • SIPs are basically two pieces of plywood with foam in the middle.
  • The panels are assembled on-site (generally in a fraction of the time it would take to stick-frame) and create an incredibly well-sealed and insulated thermal envelope.

SIPs can be engineered to any house plan; however, it is helpful if you know that you will be building with SIPs before you begin your design.

If you can find a local contractor who has worked with SIPs before, they can have your house up in a couple of weeks with a near-perfect air seal and tremendous insulation value.

Then have them install an HRV or ERV unit so that your new tight house stays well-ventilated, and you will be comfortable all year round in your island paradise.


For more information:

Read "Are structural insulated panels (SIPs) the right choice for building a healthy home?" a Q&A answered by Dietmar Lorenz.

Tagged In: sips

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