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These duplexes on Blakely Street near the Oklahoma State University campus were built using structural insulated panels, which are intended to significantly improve energy efficiency.

Developers of the seven-duplex Blakely Street Commons project strive to prove energy efficiency doesn’t necessarily require breaking the bank.

Using structural insulated panels, or SIP, the residential units are expected to drastically reduce electrical costs normally associated with extreme heat and cold, said Harold Sare, the project’s co-owner.

“The upfront cost is a little bit more expensive but not terribly more expensive,” he said, adding that it cuts down on labor cost compared to traditional home-building methods because it takes less time to build the structure’s base.

SIP consists of a four- to eight-inch layer of expanded polystyrene between two sheets, normally oriented strand boards, plywood, steel or fiber cement. The panels are placed along the ceilings and walls of the structure instead of stick frames most often used in residential building.

The level of energy savings varies, Hare said, but he cities one personal example in which costs reduced more than 50 percent. His first house built using SIP technology stood next to a home built using traditional framing, he said. After asking tenants how much they paid in electrical costs early last summer, he learned the SIP-produced home paid $85 that month — compared to $200 in the similarly sized home next door.

Mike Roberts, building official for the Stillwater Department of Development Services, said the SIP system goes beyond the city’s energy requirement codes, but such energy-saving initiatives are fairly common.

“The SIP system is a pretty energy efficient system because of the panelized construction,” he said. “It really cuts down on your airflow for drafts because that’s where a lot of your energy is lost — air filtration, but that system of construction really lends itself to reducing that air migration.”

The SIP technology is not new, however, stemming back from the 1930s, but only recently has it become more cost-effective to use, Hare said.

Four of the seven student-based duplexes are already built, and the final three should be complete by mid-May, Hare said.

“There’s going to be a lot more of these houses built,” he said. “In fact, we’ve already been asked to build a few more.”

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