Structural Concrete Insulated Panels Yield Pasadena Ecohouse

Days before the 2008 Tournament of Roses Parade, the City of Pasadena (Calif.) approved a building permit for The Pasadena EcoHouse, which project officials

Days before the 2008 Tournament of Roses Parade, the City of Pasadena (Calif.) approved a building permit for The Pasadena EcoHouse, which project officials note will be the first single-family, structural concrete insulated panel (SCIP) home in the country geared to Platinum certification by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Homes Green Building Rating System.

Compared to the plywood-foam-plywood design of conventional structural insulated panels, SCIP consist of a foam core sandwiched by interior and exterior layers of robotically welded wire mesh-reinforced shotcrete, sprayed on about 1.5 to 2 inches thick. The mix design for this job is rated at 2,500 psi.

Supplied by Vista, Calif.-based Hadrian Tridi-Systems, these Tridipanels provide an insulating factor in excess of R-40, augmenting LEED rating points the EcoHouse will achieve in categories weighing design, location, site impact, water efficiency, indoor air quality, and green building awareness and education.

Billed as an architecturally and environmentally significant home for its owners and Pasadena Û and earmarked as a television series subject Û the 1,975-sq.-ft. EcoHouse is designed by Topanga, Calif.-based Studio RMA, with offices in Los Angeles and Dusseldorf. This showcase venture will demonstrate the feasibility of eco-friendly new home construction, one of today’s most interesting economic, philosophic, social and political topics, says principal Robert Mechielsen. The Pasadena EcoHouse is destined to be a landmark project. The opportunity to witness its creation will offer television viewers a full spectrum of excitement, drama and challenge Û and will ultimately conclude with the successful completion of a beautiful and conscientious place to live.

Mechielsen adds that the SCIP system has been in use since the 1970s in Holland, where he was born. The folding roof design used in the EcoHouse allows the structure to support a concrete roof with no wood framing and no supporting post. It’s all cantilevered concrete, says Mechielsen. By folding the concrete plate, this increases its strength. I call it ÎorigamiÌ engineering. You couldn’t do that with wood or steel, because it either couldn’t physically be done or it would be too expensive.

The Pasadena EcoHouse will be built into a rocky hillside in the San Rafael Hills. A wall of sliding windows will offer panoramic views of the San Gabriel Mountains and Old Pasadena and give the cantilevered roof the appearance of floating atop the home. Mechielsen says that the strong, monolithic nature of the house makes it incredibly robust and resistant to earthquakes in this high seismic zone. We’re doing a home like this in Hawaii as well, he adds, which also has a high seismic rating. There are actually about 1,200 homes in California built using the SCIP system under different names. It’s also very popular in the South Pacific and China due to its resistance to hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding and even structural fire.

Mechielsen’s plan also incorporates passive and active solar components, energy-efficient systems and appliances, minimal neighborhood impact and respect for the historic value of the community. Construction, which began in February, is scheduled to be completed in August.