SIPs used in quick winter construction 

Photo courtesy Premier SIPs
Photo courtesy Premier SIPs

An accelerated schedule for Little Big Horn College’s Health & Wellness Center in Crow Agency, Montana, required the project team to start construction before design completion. Adding to the challenge, much of the 3250-m2 (35,000-sf) gymnasium and community facility needed to be built during one of the state’s coldest winters in 20 years.

Under an integrated project delivery (IPD) approach, the team decided to use structural insulated panels (SIPs) for the exterior walls and roof.

“SIPs meet a number of needs with just one system,” says Doug Morley (Springer Group Architects). “They install fast, insulate well, and are strong. Other than in the large gymnasium, this reduced the need for a secondary support structure in the building and saved a bunch of time and money.”

Contractor Glen Kamerman of the firm, Kamerman Construction agrees.

“With the pre-built panels, you just have to piece the building together like a puzzle,” he explains. “The SIPs were really accurately constructed and went together well. Using SIPs probably saved about 15 to 20 percent or more on installation time. It also eliminated the need to heat the walls during winter construction, as would have been necessary with concrete masonry units (CMUs).”

SIPs also assisted the team in meeting an accelerated project schedule, says Compass Consulting Engineers’ Matt Anderson.

“SIP shop drawings were done concurrently with design, so by the time we released the foundation package, the SIPs were being fabricated in the shop,” he explains. “The erection was extremely fast and in no time at all we were dried in. Plus, SIPs are strong and provide great design flexibility. They work well in long spans and have high shear and diaphragm values. This was especially crucial to help create the wide-open space in the project’s gymnasium.”

The SIPs also play a key role in the building’s highly energy-efficient design. The large panels have fewer gaps requiring sealing than other construction methods and provide continuous insulation throughout the walls and roof.

“Energy savings is a big part of getting to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum goal,” said Ben Mitchell (Fisher Construction). “It’s hard to get a gym to meet any energy code, let alone LEED Platinum, but the SIPs provide a super energy-efficient envelope—much better than we could get from other products for the same labor and material costs.”

Joe Pasma, PE, is the technical manager for Premier SIPS by Insulfoam. The company is a North American manufacturer of high-performance, energy-efficient structural insulated panels (SIPs). A licensed structural engineer, Pasma has worked with SIPs for almost two decades. He can be reached via e-mail at

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