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Building Churches With SIPs


Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) are an unique solution to a number of problems associated with building churches.  SIPs are foam-core sandwich panels which replace conventional stick-frame construction and are much stronger, better insulated, and usually less expensive to use.  For more information about SIPs, please visit our web page at and .

The goals of a Church construction project are demanding. 

Usually the goals include:

maximum space,
a quiet voluminous sanctuary,
multi-use areas,
a number of offices and meeting areas, and
often a large fellowship/recreation area which serves a variety of tasks. 

These goals usually require extensive spans in the roof structure and high ceilings.  Generally, a great deal of attention is focused on environmental comfort, operation and maintenance cost, and cost/sq. ft to build.  Usually, these goals conflict with one another.

SIPs often provide an excellent alternative to other building techniques and solve most of the conflicts above. 

SIPs are one of the most energy efficient building materials, retaining over 90% of their R-value in wall and roof systems.  Other systems run from 24% to 80%, with most conventional systems falling in the low range for efficiency. See the Oak Ridge National Lab Whole Wall R-Value Calculator for more informational.
SIP strength is quite impressive also- a 8 1/4" (R-30) panel easily spans 16' and can span up to 20' under certain conditions.
SIP construction time is also impressive.  Since panels are made in sizes ranging from 4' x 8' to 8' x 24' and are pre-fabricated to your plans, it is not unusual for buildings to be closed in at the rate of 3,000 sq. ft per day with a trained crew.
But a trained crew is not necessary.  Often SIP buildings are erected with volunteer labor and a skilled tech rep to keep things moving properly.  As one panel installer puts it "Panel installation is not easy, but it is simple."  We have done a number of Habitat For Humanity homes with all-volunteer labor.  We have also done a number of church buildings with all-volunteer labor.

For a more complex project, requiring trusses and cranes and other handling equipment, SIPs represent a way to spend less on skilled labor. 

A recent "temporary" church building built in Tennessee needed to be done quickly, in the middle of winter.   The structure was 8,000 sq. ft, with one rectangle outside and another, housing the sanctuary, inside.  A hall surrounded the sanctuary on all sides, with offices and meeting rooms on the outside edge.  The walls were 12' high and a flat commercial roof was installed on top.  The SIP walls, over 700 lineal feet of 12' wall, were erected by a professional crew, with no SIP experience, in three days.  This reduced the construction schedule by four weeks.  The building came in for $45,000 under budget.  Energy usage experience has been that heating and cooling the building for the past year has run $120.00 per month, which is about 1/4 of what the next most energy efficient similar church building has experienced.
Another church in Tennessee used the panels in their roof to solve span problems.   They needed a material to set over concrete block walls which would reduce exterior noise and span 12' economically.  Their solution was to use SIPs over steel trusses.   The 5,200 sq. ft roof went on in four days, including truss installation.   Although they do not have separate heating and cooling costs reported for the addition, they do report that snow on the addition roof lasts a few weeks longer than on the rest of the structure, implying that it's working better than the conventional structure.
A church in Arkansas used panels for a roof on their structure when they ran out of money midway through a project and needed to rely on volunteer labor to get their fellowship hall finished.  The panels were delivered on a Friday and the 4,200 sq. foot roof was completed the following Thursday.
A recent shipment of panels to Texas was made to solve a high energy-efficiency problem when steel trusses calculated to show too much thermal transfer using any other material.   SIPs solved that problem.

The consistent feedback that I receive from churches that have built using SIPs is that it was much easier than they had thought, that the building was exceptionally quiet, especially regarding outside noise, and that the environment was comfortable.  I also receive considerable feedback that the savings on energy bills are exceptional.

SIPs were first used as timberframe enclosure panels and, since many churches are made from timberframe or similar methods, panels have a long history of meeting church needs.   SIPs have been in use since the 1940's and have a thorough testing and research history.  SIPs can be laminated to drywall to form a finished ceiling or interior wall, saving installation and labor time.

The panels are environmentally sound, with no off-gassing or other new construction problems, and are endorsed by the EPA and the Department of Energy.  We are also endorsed by the American Lung Association for use in their "Healthy Home" and by the EPA in their "Energy Star" program.

For a more complete discussion of SIPs, please see our web page at but please feel free to call me for more information or to discuss the feasibility of SIPs in your project.   My name is Butch Johnson and I am available at (423) 747-8710.  I work for General Panel Corp in Johnson City, TN.  We have been in business for 25 years.

Other items of interest on our webpage are links to seminar information, prices, customer comments, isometric construction details, and general information.  I also have links to the industry association and to other manufacturers in the industry.

General Panel Corp

P.O BOX 5235





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