A Charleston design and build firm has taken the science aspect of home construction to a new level. Amerisips, headquartered on Daniel Island, has been cited by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) as a “National Housing Innovation Award Winner” for a home it built on Johns Island. In addition, the DOE named Amerisips among the nation’s Top 1% of U.S. Builders, an honor given only to companies that design and have built to the rigorous standards of the DOE’s Zero Energy Ready Home Program.
“The Housing Innovation Awards recognize forward-thinking contractors and builders for delivering extraordinary energy efficiency while ensuring superior comfort, health and durability in new and existing homes,” Dr. David Danielson, DOE assistant secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, commented at the recent awards ceremony in St. Louis.Amerisips, owned by Tina and Steve Bostic, completed work on the award-winning, 2,085-square-foot home on Johns Island in April 2014. The entire Amerisips “EcoShell” of the three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath house – roof, walls and floor – consists of structural insulated panels (SIPs) that are precision-cut boards sandwiched around a 6” to 8”-thick block of expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam. They arrive at the construction site ready for quick assembly, complete with fabricated openings or cutouts for windows, doors and electrical outlets. According to Steve Bostic, that means the house can be built in virtually half the time, five to six months, compared with 10 to 12 months for a traditional stick-built house.
Building with insulated panels, instead of stick-framing, saves more than just time. Their superior insulation qualities cut utility bills sharply and provide the opportunity to utilize other energy-saving options. Bostic explained: “Once the house is airtight, with much better insulation, you shrink the demand for energy, and it makes economic sense to use solar panels to generate power and to heat water. You need to produce less energy for an airtight, highly insulated home to reach the Zero Energy Home designation, which is a home that generates almost as much energy as it uses.”
Bostic said building a home with insulated panels can cut energy use by 60 percent, adding that owners of some Amerisips houses, with integrated solar systems, are paying as little as $40 to $50 a month in electric bills.
He pointed out that in addition to cutting energy costs, installing solar panels saves money in another important way – through tax incentives provided by the federal government and the state of South Carolina.
To enhance its energy-saving qualities, the Johns Island home features double-pane glass that minimizes heat transfer; lighting and appliances rated by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program; and plumbing fixtures that are certified by the EPA’s WaterSense program. The home also has an air-to-water heat pump, which helps remove humidity from the air inside, and meets the standards of the EPA’s Indoor airPLUS certification for healthy indoor air. It also has solar panels that help heat water for a specially-designed 80-gallon stainless steel tank.
Sam Rashkin, Chief Architect in the DOE’s Building Technologies Office, highlighted the importance of Amerisips’ efforts on Johns Island and throughout the tri-county area.
Despite earning National Honors, The Bostics have not slowed in their quest to build a better home. In fact, the company is moving away from traditional SIPs and instead will start building homes with a proprietary, patented structural building system called Insulsteel, which are lighter, stronger and more durable than panels made from wood products. The Bostics plan to produce the Insulsteel System in a 54,000 square foot factory they intend to build in Berkeley County, breaking ground on the facility sometime during the first quarter of 2015.
“In addition to significantly increasing insulation values (“R35” to “R70+”), The Insulsteel System will speed up the building process,” Bostic said. His company will have the ability to put together sections of up to 20 feet in the factory and transport them to the home site, which means construction will take as little as two to three months for a 2,500 square foot home.
“Every hour in the factory saves three to four hours in the field,” Bostic explained.
With the emergence of the Insulsteel System, Amerisips, which built 15 custom homes in 2014, expects to add another 50 homes to its resume during the coming year, ranging in price from $250,000 to $2 million. The company also has plans to expand into the commercial construction market, designing high-performance buildings that reduce energy costs by up to 80%.