Final Report: Sustainable Modular Panelized System: Reinventing the Building Industry

EPA Grant Number: SU831855
Title: Sustainable Modular Panelized System: Reinventing the Building Industry
Investigators: Hauptrnan, Jonas , Reister, Ann , Sinha, Arnit , Dingwall, Austin , Grobe, Benjamin , St.Amant, Bill , Feinberg, Fred , Keoleian, Greg , Giles, Harry , D'Agostino, Jeanna , Kumon, Jim , Beeson, John , Schertzing, Kyle , Devore, Lee , Battin, Matthew , Johnson, Megan , Navvab, Moji , Finn, Parker , Bole, Richard , Vogt, Robert , Signor, Steve , Risk, Timothy
Institution: University of Michigan
EPA Project Officer: Page, Angela
Phase: I
Project Period: September 15, 2004 through September 14, 2005
Project Amount: $10,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2004) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Nanotechnology , P3 Challenge Area - Built Environment , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Awards , Sustainability


Space in our nation’s landfills is rapidly running out due, in a large part, to waste from the residential building industry. To combat this problem, a diverse group of students and faculty from the University of Michigan have begun to rethink conventional building practices and establish a new system through which production waste can be reduced and sustainable and environmentally friendly products can be used in innovative ways. This proposal will design and produce a fully integrated modular panelized building system that integrates multiple building components. The proposed panel-based system will maximize building efficiency, longevity, sustainability and reuse, thereby reducing pollution, inefficiency and landfill waste. Project results were measured and evaluated through simulations and a built prototype that compares traditional and proposed building techniques in terms of consumption of energy, raw material and disposal costs. The panelized system will be implemented through the construction of a solar home built using this new technology. Finally, P3 concepts already play a large role in the education of University of Michigan students. This project will increase the prevalence of these concepts through student course work, collaboration with different University units and private corporations, and through increased involvement with green policy and planning initiatives in Southeast Michigan.

Summary/Accomplishments (Outputs/Outcomes):

The Michigan Solar House Project (MiSo*) team investigated the feasibility of structural insulated panels (SIPs) as a core component in a sustainable residential building system. Through energy simulation modeling, the original rectilinear building design was deemed insufficiently responsive to climatic variations outside of temperate zones of the United States. Developing a passively performing design, a full-scale building section with a solar chimney was designed and built. Periodic sensor data over a three month period indicated that a solar chimney coupled with thermal mass would be an effective strategy to achieve thermal comfort for much of the year, even in the climate of South Eastern Michigan.


Quantitative Life Cycle Assessment provides an incomplete picture when assessing the environmental impact of a solar building prototype in which there is no grid tie to utilities. A cradle to cradle analysis would provide a more balanced analysis of environmental impact. More in-depth research should be conducted to develop Smart SIPs. This innovation would facilitate electrical and mechanical connections as well as to accommodate future remodeling to residential structures. SIPs are a viable component in the construction of modular housing. The effectiveness of a solar chimney can diminish the overall energy load created over a building’s lifetime. The application of the solar chimney as a passive strategy is not limited to the continental United States. The solar chimney configuration can have wide ranging geographic importance.

Proposed Phase II objectives and strategies:

The MiSo* project’s objective is to continue to refine SIPs into smarter building components within a larger modular system. The objective has two areas that are of specific interest are creating smarter SIPs allowing for interchangeability of the panels as the space program changes and a ‘smart SIP junction box’ enabling easier electrical and plumbing connections. The strategy behind the smarter panel allows for the typical modular SIP panel to remain unintelligent and focusing all of the building systems into the refined SIP sixteen inch wide. These building systems inserted within the redefined “smart” panels include electrical, mechanical and plumbing applications. In comparison to the standard SIP, the “smart” SIP panel allows for minimal installation of systems, saving the consumer labor costs and not compromising the structural integrity of the panel itself. These objectives for creating a smarter panel were evaluated both for their economic benefits or short comings and for their LCA attributes in comparison to the standard SIP panel. The smart SIP junction box’ simplifies floor running conduit into pre-routed areas for ease of connection and service.

Journal Articles:

No journal articles submitted with this report: View all 1 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

built environment, eco-efficiency, modularity, panelized, single-family house, single-family dwellings, building materials,, Scientific Discipline, INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION, Sustainable Industry/Business, POLLUTION PREVENTION, cleaner production/pollution prevention, Environmental Chemistry, Energy, Environmental Engineering, environmentally preferable products, cleaner production, green design, sustainable development, clean technology, alternative materials, green home building, energy efficiency, pollution prevention design, construction material, product life cycle, clean manufacturing designs, environmentally conscious design

Relevant Websites: Exit Exit Exit Exit