Sandwich Panels Suit Growing Appetite For Green Building

In a quest to build stronger, more energy-efficient and sustainable structures, Green Sandwich Technologies, North Hollywood, Calif., selected foam produced

In a quest to build stronger, more energy-efficient and sustainable structures, Green Sandwich Technologies, North Hollywood, Calif., selected foam produced from BASF Styropor expandable polystyrene (EPS) resins for its structural concrete insulating panels.

The Green Sandwich Building System is said by its developers to enable construction of aesthetically appealing, sustainable structures in less time and at lower cost. The system comprises structural concrete insulating panels (SCIPs) whose core of Styropor EPS foam Û the same recyclable material used for coffee cups Û is surrounded and penetrated by a pre-engineered reinforcing cage, then enclosed on both sides by a layer of concrete. Green Sandwich Panels can be used for roofs, walls, floors, pools, countertops and fences.

Structures made with the system are designed to withstand major earthquakes, hurricanes and tornados; and, they can be built in approximately half the time, compared to conventional construction, at a competitive cost, affirms Green Sandwich Technologies Chief Technology Officer Mark David Heath. Because the panels are reinforced by a layer of concrete on both sides, they resist pests, mold and vermin and have the highest fire rating in the industry. Besides offering performance benefits, he adds, the system accommodates a wide range of design configurations and finishes for residential and commercial applications.

Heath emphasizes that by virtue of a Styropor EPS core, the panels provide insulating properties that can reduce energy costs for home and building owners. Builders are able to install smaller HVAC units to heat and cool structures, he asserts.

According to Jack Armstrong, business manager for BASF’s Styropor EPS in North America, Styropor EPS increasingly is being used in applications like SCIPs and other such systems promoting improved energy efficiency, because it provides the best cost-to-R-Value ratio of thermal insulation foams. Earlier this year, BASF signed a joint marketing agreement with Green Sandwich Technologies.

Additionally, Armstrong notes that Styropor EPS received the Greenguard Indoor Air Quality Certified designation from Air Quality Sciences, Inc., as a low-emitting material that helps manufacturers create healthier and safer indoor environments. A previous announcement by McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry, following a rigorous evaluation of the environmental health and intelligence of the material, confirmed that Styropor EPS resins possess attributes of environmental sustainability in that they can be used and recycled in thermal insulation applications.


To promote green building practices and technologies, BASF showcased tangible solutions in energy conservation with the unveiling of its Near Zero Energy Home-Paterson, N.J., project. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held in late April. Upon completion of a demonstration phase, the Near Zero Energy Home will be donated to St. Michael’s Housing Corp.

The home will incorporate green technologies in three major systems Û the building envelope; solar power; and mechanical heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) Û to create an integrated structure whose energy efficiency, environmental sustainability, durability and affordability arise from the synergy of multiple components. The project will implement Zero-Energy Housing (ZEH) concepts from Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the building-science principles of PATH/Build America expert Steve Winter, AIA.

Green Sandwich SCIPs will be used for privacy walls and retaining walls on the property. The building envelope will include basement and first-floor walls incorporating American Polysteel insulated concrete forms (ICFs). As each ICF contains two steel-tie-connected Styropor EPS rigid insulating foam panels that hold the concrete while it cures and remain as thermal insulation once setting occurs, R-values of 30 and often as high as R-50 can be expected, BASF officials contend.

The U.S. Green Building Council’s pilot testing program has selected the Near Zero Energy Home for a recently launched Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Homes (LEED-H) rating system. The home will also be constructed to achieve (Environmental Protection Agency) Energy Star certification.


High-performance building systems provide not only a super energy-efficient structure, but also an exceedingly strong house, says BASF’s Armstrong. The New Jersey home meets new durability standards developed by the Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), a nonprofit organization funded by the insurance industry to reduce property loss.

The IBHS’s flagship program, Fortified÷ for safer living, was rolled out about six years ago in response to Hurricane Andrew in 1992. As program standards vary according to the specific natural perils in each of the country’s regions, New Jersey buildings must be especially resistant to high winds and severe winter weather. The home’s appearance belies the fact that it is built like a bunker. ICFs comprising the structure’s foundation and first floor contribute significantly to its strength, designed to withstand 130 mph wind speeds. According to American PolySteel President Patrick Murphy, ICFs have been shown to successfully withstand flying debris hurled by winds in excess of 250 mph.

Although building with concrete is not the only way to meet IBHS’s Fortified home standards, ease of construction and life-cycle savings make it an attractive option, BASF representatives note. The National Association of Home Builders’ research institute determined that ICF homes cost 2 to 4 percent more than conventional homes of comparable size. The additional expense is quickly offset, however, by lower energy bills, insurance premiums and maintenance costs, American PolySteel’s Murphy emphasizes.

With the growing appreciation of home safety that has developed in the wake of natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, IBHS hopes stronger building techniques will become accepted Û even demanded Û by homeowners, just as air bags and seatbelts have become standard equipment in cars.

Policy makers, builders, the insurance industry, and building code writers all have a part to play in promoting disaster-resistant construction. Some insurance companies are currently advertising discounts: Travelers of Florida, for example, offers discounts of up to 10 percent for homes built to IBHS standards, as long as they meet all other company eligibility requirements.

Yet, homeowners may play the crucial role, according to Gary De Santis, project director for the Near Zero Energy Home. If they think they need it for peace of mind, homeowners will demand Fortified construction from builders and designers. Notes IBHS Fortified Program Manager Chuck Vance, 1,000-plus Fortified homes are either occupied, under construction, or planned in 10 states: Alabama, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, New Jersey, South Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin. Û BASF,; Fortified Program,