We’re building a cooler.

A cooler what, you ask?  No, a cooler.

The reason a cooler works so well at maintaining the temperature of the things inside it, is that it fully insulates the contents from the ambient temperature.  For the most part (except for the opening lid) there is no thermal path that connects and conducts outside temp to inside temp.  Therefore, your beers stay icy cold!

coolerWhile we might not want to be icy cold, certainly the thermal envelope of any building is the single most important part of the building process, and minimizing the thermal paths, from outside to inside is paramount (as is sealing it up, but more on that later).

Conventional construction – whether 2×4’s or 2×6’s or even 2×8’s have wooden thermal paths every 16 to 24 inches or so.  Therefore, you can stuff some high R value insulation in those spaces, but your still fighting those paths.  Folks have gotten around that but essentially building a house within a house and offsetting the studs, but that seemed, to us, to be a little complicated.  So – what will we use for a wall system?  What can minimize these thermal paths, and is durable and cost effective?  SIP panels?  These are a really good product to minimize the thermal paths, but still very conventional and you still have to put something on the inside of them for walls, and then something else for your exterior finish.

We’d heard about some concrete panels with insulation – essentially the Superior Walls method, but that still wasn’t the answer.  Finally – we found the concrete sandwich panel.  3 inches of concrete, 4 inches of insulation, and then 3 more inches of concrete.  What this did, was allowed the panels to provide our exterior finish (remember – we like the minimalist aesthetic), our insulation, and our interior wall – which we can paint, adorn, or leave in all its grey glory.

Interestingly, this “all in one” material started us down a path for a couple of themes, including one material providing finished inside / insulation / finished outside and also working to minimize the subcontractor on the project to try to contain costs.

So – we now have the walls for our cooler – and we’ll talk about how the insulation could be continuous around the house…..