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This is the third in a series introducing different forms of systems-built housing and the possibilities that exist when putting these concepts into practice. This issue: panelized building systems.
Home builders who use traditional stick-built construction can frame faster and reduce overall labor and materials costs using panelized building systems, a construction technique that also enables them to quickly gear up production as the housing market begins to improve.
With panelized construction, builders can create exceptional homes in a fraction of the time required by more traditional building methods. Skilled craftsmen build individual wall, floor and roof components in a climate-controlled manufacturing facility using high-quality materials before the various components are loaded onto a truck and delivered to the job site for assembly.
At the site, the panel, floor and roof systems are set in place quickly and easily using a light crane — enabling the home to be weather-tight within a matter of days and, consequently, reducing the likelihood of weather damage and mildew.
Because of its efficiency, flexible design possibilities and environmental benefits, panelized construction is one of the most widely used building systems in the market today.
The Builder’s Advantage — More Predictable Fees and Timetables
One of the leading advantages of using panel building systems is that all the components for a new home can be delivered to the site in a few truckloads — minimizing the need for builders to orchestrate numerous deliveries from a variety of local suppliers and vendors.
In addition, panel manufacturers typically perform pricing, estimating, engineering and architectural designs for their builder clients — stabilizing the production process and eliminating many of the builder’s production headaches. Knowing the cost of a manufacturer’s panel package gives builders the ability to bid more-predictable fees and production timetables to consumers.
Using factory-built panels and components also greatly reduces onsite waste, reducing the time and money builders would otherwise spend on maintaining their job site.
According to the results of the “Framing the American Dream” demonstration project by the Structural Building Components Association (formerly the Wood Truss Council of America) and the NAHB Building Systems Councils, of two identical 2,600-square-foot homes, the one built using panel construction realized 16% savings in labor and material costs over the one built using traditional stick-built techniques.
According to the Structural Building Components Association, panel-built houses typically use 26% less lumber, saving valuable resources, and require 37% less construction time, enabling builders to complete the home faster, while yielding significant financial savings.
Panelized System Options
Much like other systems-built construction techniques, builders can choose from a variety of panelized systems from among four primary systems:
Whole House/Open Wall Packages: Requiring less onsite labor than precut packages, panelized houses are delivered to the building site as a complete set of engineered exterior and interior wall panels, structural floor systems and roof and floor trusses — all of which have been constructed to the exact specifications of the home’s footprint in a factory-controlled environment.
Some packages only include the structural components of the home, while others can include everything from windows and doors to siding, paint and even appliances.
Structural Insulated Panels: Although individual products from manufacturers can vary, structural insulated panels (SIPs) share the common characteristic of a rigid foam core sandwiched between two exterior “skins” — usually made from oriented strand board.
Even though this building system has been available for decades, it remains one of the best-kept secrets in construction. Builders point to labor savings, strength and thermal performance as the top reasons they switch to SIPs.
Home owners appreciate the benefits — the comfortable environment and the savings on heating and cooling they can enjoy — that result from the tight, energy-efficient building envelope created by SIPS.
Post and Beam/Timber Frame: This modern application of a centuries-old building technique creates rustic yet elegant homes from timbers, posts and beams that are precut at the mill and that quickly come together as “bents” on site.
With this construction technique, a timber framework of horizontal posts and vertical beams can be tied together at the roof using a variety of truss systems — from the simple king-post to the intricate web of a hammerbeam roof.
Among the various post-and-beam homes, builders of timber frame are often considered some of the true craftsmen of the industry. These homes are held together by wooden pegs rather than metal fasteners and SIPs are often used to enclose a post and beam.
Round/Geometric Structures: Builders who like to create homes outside the box, often build using panelized circular and geometric structures.
Round, octagonal, dome and other geometric structures can easily be built with panels and offer buyers stunning panoramic views — and enhanced wind resistance.
The Panelized Building Systems Council, part of the NAHB’s Building Systems Councils (BSC), is America’s premier resource for panelized home construction information. The council connects manufacturers, builders and customers and educates them on the advantages of building with panel systems. For more information, visit www.nahb.org/Panel. Search for manufacturers by building type at www.nahb.org/PanelizedDirectory. To view a gallery of homes built using panelized building systems, visit www.nahb.org/PanelizedHomePhotos. To view a short, informative video about the benefits of panelized construction, visit www.nahb.org/PanelizedVideo.
Some content used with permission from Home Buyer Publications (www.homebuyerpubs.com).