Julee Herdt’s BioSIPS: Houses of Fiber, Not Wood

Julee Herdt, a professor at the University of Colorado’s College of Architecture and Planning, and her team have started construction on a demonstration building that will show off  both the sustainability and durability of the fiber-based bioSIPS. Her BioSIP team, working in conjunction with Boulder’s ReSource, a local salvage yard of used construction and architectural materials, and with State of Colorado, has received partial funding from Heimbold Foundation grants.

Herdt’s work on bioSIPs dates back to the early 1990s, when she and her students set out to produce construction materials from agricultural, forest, and construction waste fiber resources.

In a recent interview for a campus newsletter, Inside CU, Hertz said,”In the early 90s, I started experimenting with engineered molded fiber, or EMF, which is a technology invented by the USDA Forest Products Lab. By scientifically determining the arrangements of fibers of different lengths and types of underutilized wood and agricultural waste, we are now turning fiber residues into useful products, and at CU we’re advancing EMF to create petroleum-alternative, high-performance building materials that are strong and lightweight,” she said in a  campus newsletter, . 

Along the long development path, Herdt has enjoyed back-to-back wins for CU in the U.S. Deptartment of Energy Solar Decathlon competition. Herdt was the architecture faculty lead in both winning competitions. In the Decathlon, students design and construct an operational solar home. “Through the Decathlons, the students use standard structural insulated panels. SIPs were originally developed by FPL in 1935 to construct buildings in a panelized system that reduces the need for solid wood framing,” she said. “In 2005, we applied a fiber-based SIP idea that I’d developed at CU.”

Herdt has used bioSIPs on her Boulder home. She believes work like this demonstrates that agricultural products can match or outperform standard petroleum-based materials. The house also featured geothermal and solar applications. In 2008, Herdt founded BioSIPs, Inc. to begin the process of bringing BioSIPs to market.

Structural testing has been competed at CU’s engineering lab. The results? “BioSIPs have met or exceeded all SIP structural requirements,” said Herdt. “The product that we currently have is almost ready for the marketplace. Our goal for five years from now is fiber-based products that can be completely exposed to the elements—we’re not there yet but our continued research is yielding success.”

In the photo shown above, taken by Melanie Massengale, Herdt works with one of her former students, Kellen Schauermann, a graduate of both CU-Boulder Environmental Design in 2006 and UCD College of Architecture in 2009.

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