Carbon Storing Straw Structural Insulated Panel (S-SIP) for Wide Scale Application

EPA Contract Number: 68HERC21C0031
Title: Carbon Storing Straw Structural Insulated Panel (S-SIP) for Wide Scale Application
Investigators: Dente, Anthony
Small Business: Verdant Structural Engineers
EPA Contact: Richards, April
Phase: I
Project Period: March 1, 2021 through August 31, 2021
Project Amount: $100,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2021) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)

Description:

The Need + Current Technologies: Right now, most walls and wall systems built in the US release carbon into the atmosphere for their production (embodied carbon). Considering that the current climate crisis is worsened by carbon, these wall systems must be designed to store and sequester carbon.

Carbon-storing bio-based wall systems, such as straw bale construction, do exist on the residential market. However, most of these buildings are custom and site built, making it difficult for large-scale production in the US. Mechanized and panelized straw systems are primarily concentrated in Australian and European markets.

Our Solution + Environmental Benefits: Verdant Structural Engineers (VSE) will combat embodied carbon emissions and strengthen the structural insulated panel (SIP) market by creating straw SIP panel alternatives (S-SIP panels) for residential applications in the US. This innovative technology will improve the existing SIP product and strengthen the EPA’s mission of protecting human health and the environment by:

  1. Storing carbon within the walls of a scalable, competitive panelized product that has all high level green building benefits.
  2. Removing foam insulation, thus reducing manufactured toxicity and reducing embodied carbon. Production of most SIPs include “hydrofluorocarbon’s (HFC) blowing agents that are very potent greenhouse gases (Green Building Advisor).”
  3. Creating a circular economy between new and existing medium-sized producers and local farmers for straw. Both the residential building industry and the agricultural straw industry are wide-reaching and typically hyper-local and therefore so is the distribution potential for the S-SIP

Commercial Applications: S-SIP will focus on single family residential wall applications, and eventually multi-story residential and commercial applications.

Market Potential: Since 2016, straw bale building projects at VSE have doubled, and the SIP market is “expected to reach the market value of around $500 Mn by 2026 and anticipated to grow at a CAGR of more than 4.5% (Acumen).”

Technical Feasibility: VSE is a leading expert in the field of straw bale construction. We have designed over 100 straw bale construction projects, authored the straw bale building code and regularly engineer conventional SIP construction. Straw stores and sequesters carbon during its life in a building, decomposes after use (no toxic leaching or construction waste), and is fire safe, durable and reliable— proven by 100+ years of use across the US.

End Users: S-SIP panels will be used by designers, builders and homeowners to lower the embodied and overall carbon emissions, toxicity, and end-of-life waste associated with their structures.