Van’s Construction builds green with Enercept SIPS panels

SIPS panels provide for stronger building, 40-60 percent energy savings, less waste at every stage


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Brent and Chris VanRisseghem used their first Enercept structural insulated panels (SIPS) in 2000 when they helped their dad with his 3,200-square-foot patio home. “We put all the walls up in one afternoon,” Brent said.

SIPS are component-building panels containing a structural foam (insulating) core bonded between two structural skins. Enercept SIPS are made of expanded polystyrene (EPS) for the insulating core and oriented strand board (OSB) for the exterior and interior skins.

No formaldehyde was found in Enercept SIPS when tested at the University of South Dakota. The panels do not produce off gassing of dangerous chemicals.

After helping their parents build their house, Brent and Chris did more research into SIPS and Van’s Construction became a dealer for Enercept.

“SIPS have an R-value of 25, when stick-built six-inch walls have an R-value of only 14,” said Brent. “With a house built with Enercept panels, you have 40-60 percent lower energy savings forever.”

“The Enercept costs for my home have already been paid in only two years,” said Chris. “The square footage is similar to the conventional house I used to live in, and instead of paying $400-500 per month for heating, I’ve only paid about $70 per month. The cooling costs are lower too.”

Enercept educational materials describe how a conventional home would require an R-40 wall to compete with a six-inch Enercept wall.

Basement and foundation panels are also made by Enercept. To achieve the same thermal efficiency as an Enercept foundation panel, a concrete wall would have to be at least 12 feet thick.

Using Enercept to build a home could earn up to 21.5 Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for home points, and will qualify for energy Star rating.

“This qualifies for the Triple E New Construction Program with Minnesota Power,” said Chris.

Just as much as the energy savings, the reduction in waste at every step is something very important to Van’s Construction. “In putting up a home, the total waste is less than two 55-gallon barrels,” Brent said. “No dumpster is required.”

“In the factory, any waste is recycled and reused,” he said. “The OSB used is produced from fast-growing, less expensive trees grown on tree farms.”

Space within the buildings is used very efficiently. “Space that would normally be used for roof trusses can be used for ductwork and other utilities,” Brent said.

“The area within gabled roofs can be used for interior living space, instead of wasted with rafters and insulation,” he said.

Time is not wasted either. Enercept homes go up very quickly. “When we did a two-story house with basement, with many dormers, gables and beams, it was framed in 13 days,” said Chris.

Laurie Lozier, whose home near Cushing is currently under construction, said, “It went up really fast. The outside structure went up within a week. It took longer for the concrete to cure than for the walls to go up.”

“We chose Enercept because of how ‘green’ building with them is,” said Lozier. “And it will save us a lot of money on the cost of utilities.”

Homes utilizing Enercept materials are two and a half times stronger then a stick-built home. “The walls are more sturdily constructed since they are put up using solid-built panels,” said Brent.

“The continuous foundation-to-roof panels make the entire home much stronger and more secure from damage,” he said.

“Enercept’s Web site shows a video of a crane falling on an Enercept home, and the home suffered no damage,” said Brent.

Enercept homes are also much quieter. “Our parents’ house is one mile from Camp Ripley’s front gate, and you can not hear the C130s from inside,” Chris said.

It isn’t only single-family homes that Brent and Chris have built. Among their recent projects is a winery in Pepin, Wisc., for which they installed a SIPS roof over a timber frame with concrete walls.

“Probably three-fourths of the work we do at this point is to cover a timber frame constructed by someone else,” said Brent.

“We’ve done lots of retirement homes and lake cabins,” he said.”

On April 9 they start working on an arts building at St. Olaf College. “It’s a timber-frame interior that we will be putting SIPS panels around,” said Chris.

“I would recommend Van’s Construction any day of the week,” said Lozier. “They are experienced and easy to work with.”

In addition to building construction and log details, Van’s also provides many landscape services, which includes tree and stump removal, Rockwood retaining walls and tree-spade service.

As The Snow Guys, they partner with Brothers Exteriors to do snow plowing and removal.

They also offer home and/or cabin inspections for winter security and maintenance.

For more information, call Brent and Chris at (320) 630-9511, or visit their Web site at