frequently asked questions
What is the Ecopanel Structural Insulated Wall System?
Ecopanel Structural Insulated Wall System is a complete engineered structural insulated wall system that provides structural framing, insulation, and exterior weather tightness in a solid, one-piece panelised wall. It is a high-performance building system replacing traditional stick framing. It also is a more complete replacement for traditional SIPs.
Ecopanel is a tried and tested system, using German engineering, just as they have been doing in Europe for 40 years. Our panels are engineered and pre-fabricated by our German Master carpenters, in controlled factory conditions, right here in New Zealand. They are the future of building in New Zealand – the very best building solution for thermal efficiency, durability, health, and comfort of the home.
What is the difference between Ecopanel and traditional SIPs?
The main difference between Ecopanel and SIPs is that Ecopanel is a complete wall system. The walls are made using modified traditional framing, providing a complete wall structure that is prefabricated offsite. The walls are then delivered to site and craned into place on the same day. The house can be weather tight with windows installed within just a few days. In contrast, many traditional SIPs consist of only the insulated sandwich boards that must be contained within framing that is built around the panels on site. Not only does this require extra timber on top of the cost of the panels, it also requires labour to create and erect the walls, as well as expertise in how to build framing around the panels.
Another very big difference between Ecopanel and traditional SIPS is that Ecopanel doesn’t use polystyrene, or polyurethane which are the standard in traditional SIPs. Plastics are difficult if not impossible to recycle or compost. While they are good insulators, there are other cost effective options that will help alleviate an already huge burden we are putting on future generations who will have to deal with results from the decisions we are making today.
Traditional SIPS are often made overseas in China or North America and are shipped to NZ. While we know that these overseas products can be made very cheaply, at a high profit, the environmental impacts from the production and transport of these materials is considerable, not to mention the economic impacts of taking this work offshore. Ecopanel is committed to contributing to a low-carbon built environment. We use low-toxicity materials with improved sustainability profiles, such as Terra Lana wool insulation, recycled glass Earthwool, and even fully compostable materials like wood fibreboard, and cork. We make our panels here in Canterbury, supporting the NZ economy.
What are Ecopanels made of?
Ecopanel Structural Insulated Wall System is constructed using standard building practice with modified timber framing. The walls are structurally supported with laminated veneer lumber (LVL) framing and structural facing consisting of rigid sheets of plywood, RAB board, or oriented strand board. The structural board allows us to remove the dwangs from the framing. Not only does this eliminate excess timber (reducing cost) and thermal bridging from the timber (reducing heat loss), it allows us to create a more continuous layer of insulation, improving the thermal performance of the wall. The internal and external facings are wrapped with weather tight vapour-permeable building membranes. Internally, battens are applied to allow for a service cavity which maintains continuity of the insulation and eliminates the need to disrupt the insulation to pass services through. Externally, a cavity batten is applied to provide attachment of the cladding.
What are the advantages of Ecopanels?
Ecopanels are one of the most sustainable building systems in the world and have been used in Europe for 30 years. Ecopanels provide:
Prefabricated efficiency. Expert assembly and installation, taking the guesswork and time out of energy efficient wall construction.
Exceptional energy efficiency.
Service cavity to ensure insulation remains undisturbed.
Continuous insulation to minimise thermal bridging/heat loss.
Thicker insulation to improve insulating capacity (R value).
High airtightness to ensure the best performance of the insulation.
We aim to use low-toxicity products to ensure healthy indoor air quality.
Reduced construction waste due to streamlined offsite pre-fabrication.
We prioritise locally made products, and reducing carbon emissions for transport.
Reduced labour onsite due to offsite prefabrication.
How are Ecopanels better than stick framing?
Ecopanels are a much more efficient option than traditional stick framing and over the lifetime of the building are a more economical solution as well. In contrast to stick framing, Ecopanels are:
Straighter and easier to install.
Quicker to install.
Drier internally due to prefabrication offsite.
Warmer due to continuous insulation with the services running outside the wall, and additional insulation in the service cavity.
Very strong, and airtight.
Safe for installers - less time on scaffold erecting frames, use of non-toxic materials.
Why are Ecopanels faster and more economical than traditional stick framing?
Ecopanels are complete insulated and weather tight walls that go up much faster than traditionally framed buildings, usually around half the time. They are pre-fabricated offsite using an extremely efficient process cutting down overall labour costs. We can create panel sections in lengths up to 13m, which reduces installation time to just a few hours. The panels are delivered onsite by HIAB, ready to install, and are lifted into place directly from the deck of the HIAB. A standard sized house will usually only take 8 hours to get all of the walls installed.
Will Ecopanels fit my project design?
Ecopanels are custom made, engineered and fabricated to fit nearly any building design. We can also consider any number of different materials to suit the project and the budget.
What information do I need to provide to my builder or designer?
We carry out installation of our panels onsite as we have an efficient team and systems to reduce labour costs for the job overall. We have a building background ourselves, and we provide full instructions to the builder to take over after we have completed installation. In some cases, we can work with the builder to install our panels. Our engineers and artisans are master carpenters so we are always here to provide support at any time. We offer a free design review service, but we do encourage our clients to get in touch with us early in the design process so we can help ensure the panels are specified correctly to ensure optimal thermal efficiency and reduced building time.
How easy is consent with Ecopanel?
Ecopanel structural insulated wall system is a complete engineered system certified for compliance with the New Zealand Building Code. Ecopanel projects have been successfully consented throughout New Zealand. We usually have the panels inspected by the local council near our factory, and they are able to send the approved conset through to the regional council, whereever the home is located.
How much do Ecopanels cost?
Ecopanel structural insulated wall system is cost competative for similarly specified framing that would be carried out on site with the same wall thickness, high quality building wraps, LVL timber, Wurth fixings, and non-toxic sustainable insulation. When comparing costs between other systems, we know from experience that the costs are similar if you accurately compare using the same products. There is no doubt about it that having energy efficient walls will cost more than the minimum building code but it’s likely to be no more than a few percent higher and with a well designed home, will be affordable for almost anyone’s buget.
Getting a price estimate from us involves sending us plans that are as accurate as possible. Indicative pricing based on a sketch will not only be inaccurate, it does cost us in time to price these so we’d appreciate having plans that are developed enough that we can provide the most accurate result.
What is the R value of Ecopanels?
The thermal performance (R value) is a theoretical value applied to products like insulation and cladding. The R value of our system will therefore vary depending on the insulation chosen. Most of the insulations we use will produce a wall that is between R 3.6 and R 6.8, depending on the stud/insulation thickeness. It is important to consider that R value is a theoretical value and other factors like airtightness are critical to the performance of insulation.