GreenBuild: Agriboard Structural Insulated Panels

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It doesn't look like much, and my photography doesn't help, but for me, this simple product was perhaps the best thing I saw at Greenbuild. But then, I am biased; I like dumb products that just sit there and do their job while reducing our carbon footprints and saving fossil fuels. These are the kinds of innovations that scale, that are accessible and affordable.

Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) are usually known as a sandwich of OSB (oriented strand board) and styrofoam, all glued together to make a structural panel. While they make a very well-insulated, tight wall and are fast, I have worried about their longevity and would have preferred to use a less petroleum-intensive insulation than styrofoam.

Enter Agriboard. It uses wheat and rice straw that is normally burned or ploughed under, and builds it into a panel that delivers R-25, not as good as a styrofoam SIP but pretty good and in a form that gives you a tight envelope.

Putting the straw into a panel instead of letting it rot and give up its CO2 sequesters the carbon for the life of the panel, effectively making it carbon negative., sinking more carbon than is actually produced by manufacturing the product. When the straw is compressed and heated, the natural lignin acts as a binder.

materials monday polystyrene image agriboard

The compressed straw is then glued into a box made from formaldehyde-free OSB boards with a substantial header made of Timberstrand, so the whole thing acts as a box beam.

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Best of show? With all that wonderful high-tech stuff beckoning? Perhaps it is a bit of an over-statement, but here is a product that is effective, fast, is made in Kansas out of an agricultural waste product and can even claim to be carbon negative. Add the carbon savings that come from the speed of erection and the air-tightness of SIP building and it is even more impressive.

agriboard walls photo

If we are going to solve our carbon and fossil fuel problems, we need to find solutions that are low-tech, affordable and local. Agriboard doesn't look like much, but it represents the best kind of ingenuity and for me, the model of the kind of thinking we need.