ERDC and West Point Partner to Re-Shape the Army

Published Nov. 1, 2012
Members of the ERDC/West Point SIP-Hut team discuss material requirements for experimental and objective line research.

Members of the ERDC/West Point SIP-Hut team discuss material requirements for experimental and objective line research.

Public Affairs Office

WEST POINT, N.Y. – The Army has been building Barracks Huts (or B-Huts) to temporarily house military personnel the same way since WWII. Even though the wood frame and plywood wall construction has varied by different locations (for example, Vietnam, the Philippines, Iraq, Afghanistan), the B-Huts are essentially the same. Unfortunately, this traditional design suffers issues of structural endurance and environmental sustainability.

Today, a cross-collaborative team of scientists at the ERDC Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL) and U.S. Military Academy (USMA) at West Point faculty and cadets have identified an opportunity to re-shape the Army with an innovative construction engineering idea. The team is investigating constructing the next generation of B-Huts using Structural Insulated Panels, or SIP, to improve thermal efficiency. The team believes its prototypes (the SIP-Hut) will demonstrate reduced electrical demand, saving fuel and minimizing the operational eco-footprint of forces in theater. This work is the latest project in the research partnership between ERDC and West Point.

“Our research involves completely redesigning the B-Hut using SIPs instead of using traditional studs and plywood,” said West Point team leader Lt. Col. Steven D. Hart. “Often B-Huts are not insulated. Soldiers typically heat and cool them with large environmental control units (a heater-air conditioner combination) placed next to the B-Hut. This results in significant fuel consumption by the generators the Army uses to provide electricity on our bases.”

Using SIPs as the basis for B-Hut construction has multiple benefits over traditional B-Hut design and construction—less fuel consumption, more comfort for the Soldier, and substantial reductions in transportation requirements, construction time and ultimately cost.

According to Hart, “initial estimates suggest we can house 16 Soldiers using one 40-foot truck to haul the construction materials. Traditionally a 40-foot truck carried a 320-square foot containerized housing unit which housed only six Soldiers. We’ll also save construction time. We estimate one SIP-Hut can be built in about four hours by an experienced crew of three. In the past, a B-hut could take 32 man-days to complete.”

The SIP consists of two pieces of oriented strand board that form a sandwich around 4 to 12 inches of polystyrene, polyurethane or similar foam insulation. The SIP serves as both the insulation and the structure of the wall.

Insulation value is measured by an "R-Value"—a standard measure of thermal resistance used in the building and construction industry. An inch of wood has a value of R-1. The rating of an average house wall is approximately R-11. Since a typical B-Hut has only a sheet of ½-inch plywood for the walls, the R-rating of a B-Hut is about 0.5. The SIP manufacturer’s data show the R-Value of the SIP-Hut to range from R-25 to R-40 for the wall, floor and ceiling components. The expectation for the new SIP-Hut is a more highly insulated structure which will result in substantially decreased fuel requirements and environmental footprint.

The ERDC/West Point team plans to have the prototype SIP-Hut ready for comprehensive testing starting in summer 2013. They will report their findings of the SIP-Hut’s thermal efficiency, durability and construction time and expense compared to the traditional B-Hut in May 2014.

Potential applications of the SIP-Hut outside the military theater are already under consideration. SIP-Huts could prove valuable as temporary housing in disaster relief scenarios. A highly portable “SIP-Hut in a box" design could help fulfill building requirements to kick start development in an economically challenged host country.

“The research partnership between ERDC and West Point continues to promote innovative thinking,” said Hart. “It offers both institutions access to unique projects, world-class research and opportunities to investigate ideas that can not only re-shape the Army, but also make the world a safer and better place.”

For more information on the SIP-Hut Project and the ERDC/West Point Research Partnership, contact:

LTC Steven D. Hart, USMA
Phone: 845-938-3084

H. Garth Anderson, ERDC-CERL
Phone: 217-419-9091