How One Estonian Company is Fighting the Cold with Slit, Light Gauge Steel Frames

Slit metal studs used in the reduction of thermal bridging in Estonia, Northern Europe where temperatures can reach minus 30c (-22F)

A Thermopanel being under construction in Estonia with slit metal studs to reduce thermal bridging

Estonia, in Northern Europe, while one of the smaller members of Europe with only 1.3 million people, is one of the fastest-growing in the EU and an extremely developed and highly digital-enabled and focused nation. Elections have been held over the internet since 2005, and they offer a global e-residency to digital entrepreneurs, hosting online company formations and registrations from all over the globe without the need to ever be present.

Situated on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea in Northern Europe does, however, have some serious weather and building implications. Although there are four seasons, the average annual temperature in Estonia is only 5.2 °C (41.4 °F), and winter averages a very cool −5.7 °C (21.7 °F) with snow normally present from mid-December to late March.

Matis Velt, a Partner in Everhaus, Estonia.

“While those temperatures look reasonable, we are actually dealing with very large extremes here. Summer can top 30+ degrees, and winters can drop to -30, so we are dealing with a very large 60-degree amplitude which definitely has an impact on the way we design and build in Estonia,” said Matis Velt, a Partner in the Everhaus business.

Everhaus is a vertically integrated, custom design and build Estonian company. They offer modern housing solutions in both traditional wood and Thermopanel, a preconstructed steel stud panel that has multiple slits, which significantly reduces the impact of thermal bridging in steel frame structures. While there are many advantages of steel (frames), it is a highly conductive metal that allows heat to pass through very easily. Estimates and testing on heat loss through typical residential housing is between 17% and 35%, and with studs accounting for typically between 15-25% of a walls structure that translates into a large reduction in interior comfort and overall, much higher energy costs.

A Samesor (machine) produced metal stud with slits to reduce thermal bridging

At the core of the Everhaus Thermopanel is a Samesor machine produced steel profile with multiple slits to reduce the ability for heat to pass freely through the stud (the actual panel is designed in Tekla and Autocad). “Using this type of slit steel member, we can see a reduction of up to 85% in heat loss and conductivity compared to a standard metal stud,” said Velt.

 

Using the thermal break profile as the frame of the panel. A large part (83%) of the wall element consists of mineral wool, providing better insulating properties than a typical wall panel that uses a wooden frame (wood also has very strong thermal bridging qualities). The slit metal panel also permits air to flow through the structure, allowing the insulation and panel to breathe (giving less chance of condensation).

“Thermopanel does not undergo deformations with changes in temperature and humidity, and this makes the qualities of Thermopanel similar to those of concrete panels, it is also much lighter than the wooden panels. The properties of the thermal profile also make it nearly impossible for cracks to appear in the finished wall panels. The Everhaus solution guarantees a constant temperature and clean air inside the room,” said Velt.

“Thermopanel can be used as an external infill wall and also as a load-bearing structural element. The number of junctions is designed to a minimum, ensuring fast installation of the panel in a couple of hours (depending on the size of the project). The equivalent thermal transmittance of the panel is equal to 0,159 W/m2K” said Velt.

“Thermopanel can be custom-built for each project requirement and comes in a range of wall and insulation densities typically ranging from 100mm to 300mm. In Estonia, typically, we would use around 250mm panel thickness” said Velt.

All Everhaus materials have CE marking in accordance with EN 13830. And certifications ISO 9001 EN and ISO 14001 Quality Control Systems.

The Estonian wooden prefab houses industry is the largest exporter in Europe; and the seventh-largest in the world, with most exported to Norway, Germany, and the UK. Estonians have historically produced houses from round logs and, for hundreds of years, have constructed farmhouses from fir and locally grown pine. There are presently, in Estonia, still farmhouses made of wooden logs that exceed 300 years old.

G550/350 Steel coil in Estonia is generally supplied from Russia at a cost of around 700 euros per mt (USD$756 / 2205lb).

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