Thermapan Structural Insulated Panels

Manitoulin Broadcasting Corp.

Project Overview

Size2600 sqft (242 m²)
LocationManitoulin Island
Architect/EngineersMark Pacey Design

Making Waves on Manitoulin Island

Canada’s first off-the-grid radio station broadcasts from new headquarters built with Thermapan SIPs

Manitoulin Island is the largest freshwater island in the world.  Located between Lake Huron and Georgian Bay, its enormous 2,766 km2  surface area is blanketed with rich boreal forests, pristine rivers and inland lakes.

Manitoulin’s remoteness is part of its charm, as 13,000+ residents would certainly attest.  But it’s also important to stay connected within, and between, the island’s many small communities.

That’s where Manitoulin Broadcasting Corp. (MBC) comes in.  Operating two radio FM stations – Great Lakes Country 103 and Hits 100 –  MBC is an institution on the Island.  At 50,000 and 27,500 watts of transmitting power respectively, the stations have strong regional presence well beyond their home base of Little Current, Ontario.

Late in 2019, CEO Craig Timmermans undertook an ambitious new home for the radio stations and their studios. By building smart, his intention was to reduce his energy costs (and especially the associated electrical bills) involved in powering the transmitters.  But he did more than just reduce costs – he went completely off-grid!

Using solar panels and micro-wind turbines, along with sophisticated and robust battery equipment to store and serve power, the system can keep the stations on air even when outside sun and wind conditions aren’t favourable.

Off-grid power supply is key, but so is designing a highly energy efficient building, in order to minimize the overall energy usage beyond the obvious transmitter needs.  The 2,600 sq.ft, two-storey building design relies on ultra-efficient Structural Insulated Panels (SIP) by Thermapan.  Timmermans worked with Mark Pacey Design of Espanola, Ontario to plan the building with two storeys of SIP walls and a 5/12 vaulted SIP roof.

A SIP is a panel that consists of an insulating EPS foam core sandwiched between two structural sheets of oriented strand board (OSB).   Four feet wide and available in many different heights, these panels provide structural integrity and insulation superior to stick-and-batt framing typically used in the building industry.

The 6.5” thick panels deliver an impressive R-37 performance rating, nearly double that of the batt insulation inside an equivalent 2×6 stud frame. In addition, SIP construction is proven to be much more airtight than traditional wood framing, a critical factor in reducing heating and cooling costs, particularly considering Lake Huron’s strong winds.

The SIP construction allows the radio station to rely on minimal propane heating in the winter, and a modest 2-ton AC unit in the summer.

According to Thermapan Vice President Jeff Taraba, the company has being supplying SIP panels to northern Ontario building projects for over 40 years. “Not only does it get brutally cold in the winter, and surprisingly warm in the summer, it can often be difficult to bring in fuel or power to many remote locations,” says Taraba. “It just makes sense to build with a product that reduces your overall energy needs.”

“Being off-the-grid is the ultimate in peace-of-mind, especially when you are running a business that has steady, substantial power needs,” says Timmermans. “By investing in leading-edge power management systems and by building with innovative products like Thermapan’s SIPs, we are immune to unpredictable spikes in electricity rates that can make or break a business like ours.”

So if you are ever exploring Manitoulin’s beautiful outdoors, make sure to tune into some grid-free radio waves on 103.1 or 100.7. Or listen live anytime at or!