Not Just ‘Another Stack’ of SIPs

Insulspan® Structural Insulated Panels Create Furniture at University of Michigan

Student Collaborate at U of M on SIP Stacks

Furniture is not the type of project that comes to mind when you think of structural insulated panels (SIPs). However, for their large-scale furniture project, Ashley Bigham and Erik Herrmann thought of SIPs first. Their unique use of SIPs led to one-of-a-kind furniture.

Bigham and Herrmann are architectural designers and lecturers at the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan. Their task? Create furniture for the common space of the building’s new wing. The two story common area is a central hub of activity for the school. It hosts lectures, workshops, and discussions; thus, a need for large, dynamic furniture existed.

The concept created, named “Another Stack,” is composed of horizontal pieces, piled on each other. These piles form seating, a platform, tables, and whatever else the space called for. However, the key to making their design function was finding a material that easily moved around. It also needed strength and a short production time. This is because the project had only a 6-week timeline. All these factors led to a unique use of SIPs.

Ashley and Erik were familiar with SIPs, having previously specified the product. “SIPs are equally strong as they are light. Their structural capacity to overall weight ratio made it perfect for a structure that would receive a lot of traffic, but could easily be transformed into something else by just a couple of people,” said Herrmann.

“SIPs are equally strong as they are light.” Erik Herrmann, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Michigan

The Insulspan® Structural Insulated Panel (SIP) System created the furniture. Using two different thicknesses of SIP panels, 6½” and 8¼”, allowed the SIPs stacking flexibility. It also accommodated different combinations and achieved certain ergonomic heights. Eliminating assembly and seams meant each piece’s design and cut started from Insulspan’s largest master panel, 8’x24’.

“We were only limited to the shape and size of our pieces by what we could fit through the doors,” said Bigham. “The space turned out great. It is fun to look down and see professors holding meetings, or students selling donuts from the middle of a circle.”

“It is fun to look down and see professors holding meetings…from the middle of a circle.” – Ashley Bigham, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Michigan

Herrmann adds, “It is also interesting to see how people react to the stacks. They are not small enough to be thought of as furniture, but not large enough to feel like a permanent structure. Since the largest piece only weighs approximately 120 pounds, it lets people move the pieces and decide how to stack the SIPs without being confined to the normal uses of furniture.”


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