Facing a shortage of skilled labor with no end in sight, and increasingly stringent building codes that require higher R-values than ever before, Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) are getting a fresh look from builders, homeowners, and LBM dealers.
SIPs are not new. Indeed, the Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin is said to have introduced the concept back in 1935. In a nutshell, SIPs are high-performance wall panels made by sandwiching a core of rigid insulation between two structural panels—typically OSB. The panels are delivered to the jobsite in large sections, up to 8′ by 24′. Their size, combined with the fact that SIPs offer continuous insulation across the height, width and depth of each panel, results in fewer gaps and can result in more energy efficient homes.
According to SIPA, “A study conducted by R.S. Means shows that building with SIPs can reduce framing labor by as much as 55% over conventional wood framing.” While the savings in reduced labor is at least partially offset by the cost of having the panels placed by cranes on the jobsite, the growing shortage of skilled construction workers works in favor of SIP construction.
While SIPs offer some advantages over traditional stick-framed construction, a recent survey showed that most LBM Journal readers don’t sell them. In fact, only 3.5% of respondents report that they actively sell and promote SIPs, while 27.1% say that they’ll sell them when a builder or homeowner specifically requests them. For those who do sell SIPs, the top reasons after direct customer request include “Reinforces our position as a forward-thinking supplier” and “Help builders’ homes meet ever stricter building codes.” (Chart 1.)