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Structural Insulated Panels and Mechanical Ventilation & Heat Recovery Systems … The Perfect Eco-Efficient Partners

Published 18th January 2023

Photo: Structural Insulated Panels and Mechanical Ventilation & Heat Recovery Systems … The Perfect Eco-Efficient Partners

Back in 2008, our very own Andy Porter claimed that SIPS@Clays were building homes with no conventional heating systems… a bold statement but one that was perfectly true.

Over the past 15 years, self building has changed. Modern methods of construction are as popular as traditional methods, contemporary architecture has become the norm and central heating systems are working in tandem with Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery systems (MVHR) and other forms of eco technology.

Build Tight, Ventilate Right

To create a home that requires no conventional heating, the fabric of the building must be highly insulated, exceptionally airtight and have extremely low U-values. Luckily this is where SIPs construction and the many benefits of building with SIPs excels! Yet, whilst a draught free, airtight envelope will ensure that you are retaining a comfortable room temperature, with no heat escape from your home, it also means that there is no natural ventilation and the air quality needed for a healthy internal environment might not be achieved.

This is easily overcome by installing an MVHR system. In simple terms an MVHR unit extracts stale air, condensation and pollutants from each room and introduces a fresh, filtered air supply. During the extraction process, the MVHR heat exchange unit removes heat from the outgoing stream (mostly taken from kitchens and bathrooms) and through a network of ducting and heat exchange unit, recycles it by channelling it back into the incoming airflow to retain a constant air temperature and a healthy supply of fresh air throughout the house.

“Heating systems in buildings constructed using the Kingspan TEK® Building System can usually be ‘down-sized’ considerably, as heating demand is typically very low or negligible. This can mean a reduction in construction costs e.g. no need to install radiators and also a reduction in running costs due to low heating bills.”


So how should you begin incorporating an MVHR system into your SIPs home? Here we’ve answered some frequently asked questions to make the process as streamlined and stress-free as possible.

When should I think about the design of my MVHR System?

The sooner the better. You will need to discuss your requirement with your architect who will incorporate the MVHR system, alongside other technologies, into the space planning for the designs. This should be done prior to submission and approval of building regulation drawings.

When should I discuss MVHR with my SIPs provider?

As soon as you appoint your SIPs provider, it’s important that you talk to them about your eco-technologies such as MVHR. Plenty of ‘upfront thinking’ is required to ensure that every element of eco-technology is factored into your SIPs designs. It’s essential that MVHR duct location is identified at the beginning of the process to allow for correct alignment of floor joists and any other technical complexities are identified early on.

If you have already appointed an MVHR specialist, your SIPs provider will expect them to provide accurate technical specifications. It means a lot of decision making early on but once your SIPs provider has all the information to hand, they can carry out essential value engineering and precise fabrication. This will also save time, hassle and additional costs at the back end of your project.

What other eco-technologies complement a SIPs home?

SIPs panels and MVHR system aren't the only 'perfect partners', the energy efficient building solution also complements other eco technologies too. For example:

Solar panels
Photovoltaic systems
Underfloor heating
Triple glazing
Air source heat pump

Just like installing an MVHR system, it is important to talk to your SIPs provider at an early stage to ensure that your chosen technologies are factored into your SIPs design. Your SIPs provider will need to know the precision location of all technologies for accurate drawings and fabrication.

Will I need an additional heating source for my SIPs home?

Many of our customers install a wood burning stove but this isn’t a necessity. The built in insulation of a SIPs system, and in particular the Kingspan TEK® building system, coupled with the efficiency of an MVHR system, is all that’s required to efficiently heat your home. It is all down to personal preference.

“Conventional heating systems can be installed into buildings constructed using the Kingspan TEK® Building System but sizing and controls are important to avoid overheating. A normal domestic heating regime could cause a building constructed with the TEK® Building System to overheat. The heating load requirement of a domestic building can usually be calculated from the output of SAP software programmes. Technical guidance is available from the SIPS@Clays team.

“Whatever heating system you chose, you should have it engineered to suit the heating demands of the Kingspan TEK® Building System rather than traditional construction methods”.


I’m aiming for a SIPs Passivhaus, is an MVHR system suitable for accreditation?

Yes, it is. SIPs are the perfect construction method for homes being designed to Passivhaus standards and complementary eco-technology, such as an MVHR system is often incorporated. Seen as a low carbon option, an MVHR system, along with other eco-efficient construction methods like structural insulated panels, could aid your Passivhaus accreditation. If you are aspiring to build to Passivhaus standards, always speak to your architect who will provide details of the process and what is required.

Fourteen years ago, when Andy made his bold claims, he was confident that using modern methods of construction such as SIPs and eco-efficient technologies like MVHR systems would become the norm – and how right he was!!

For more information on building an energy efficient SIPs home, Contact Us here.