PATH - A Public Private Partnership for Advancing Housing Technology

July 27, 2006

SIPA and PATH Release Prescriptive Method for Building with Structural Insulated Panels

After nearly a year of testing and evaluation, the Structural Insulated Panel Association (SIPA) and the Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing (PATH) have released Prescriptive Method for Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) Used In Wall Systems In Residential Construction.

The development of the Prescriptive Method was initiated by the PATH program, a division of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) dedicated to improving housing technology for American families. By creating a prescriptive standard for building with SIPs, PATH hopes to make SIPs more available to builders and homeowners.

"Some consumers are hesitant to purchase a home using new technologies such as structural insulated panels because they don't understand SIPs and the value that they provide to a home," said PATH Research Engineer Dana Bres. "This will also help builders gain approval for the use of SIPs in their communities," he added.

Bres hopes that the Prescriptive Method will eliminate homeowner apprehensions about this emerging building technology. "The Prescriptive Method helps assure both homebuyers and builders that this has been fully considered, and tells them SIPs are a solid technology that provides high structural and energy performance," said Bres.

Collaborating with SIPA and SIP manufacturers across the country, PATH was able to develop a performance standard for SIPs. SIPs achieving that standard were then tested and evaluated to create a comprehensive manual for SIP walls systems in residential construction. SIPA has submitted a code change proposal based on the provisions in the Prescriptive Method to the International Code Council for inclusion into the International Residential Code (IRC).

According to Nader Elhajj, a Senior Structural Engineer at the NAHB Research Center, who conducted most of the testing for the Prescriptive Method, acceptance into the IRC will streamline the SIP construction process for both builders and code officials. The standardized specifications provided by the Prescriptive Method will make it easier for builders and architects to specify and use SIPs.

"The Prescriptive Method gives the engineer, the architect, the builder, the designer, the code official and the inspector the mechanism, the requirements, and the provisions, so they don't have to go anywhere else," said Elhajj.

Prior to the development of the Prescriptive Method, builders using SIPs needed the approval of a licensed engineer or architect to be in compliance with building codes. Using the Prescriptive Method eliminates the need for an engineer or design professional approval, and the additional cost for that service that affects both builders and homeowners of SIP homes.

"This is really important for builders, because involving the engineer or architect in certifying or sealing the plans adds cost to the home that they might not be able to recognize when they sell the home to their ultimate consumer," said Bres.

According to Elhajj, the Prescriptive Method "levels the playing field" between SIPs and traditional wood framing, as well as other alternative construction technologies such as light gauge steel framing and insulated concrete forms (ICFs).

PATH has worked with other industries to develop Prescriptive Methods for these building technologies in the past. Bres predicts a market increase for SIPs similar to that experienced by the light gauge steel framing industry and the ICF industry in the past.

"Our experience with steel framing and ICFs after the Prescriptive Methods were introduced and integrated into the building code has been very positive. ICFs have seen a dramatic market increase in their market share as well has light gauge steel framing," said Bres. "The Prescriptive Method will help builders provide quality, high performing homes that are affordable."

Currently, the Prescriptive Method for SIPs is limited to walls only, two stories above grade, and in certain seismic and snow load conditions.

SIPA Executive Director Bill Wachtler commented that the current Prescriptive Method is a forerunner for further SIPs performance research.

"Our next objective is to explore the possibility of developing a Prescriptive Method for SIP roofs," said Wachtler.

SIPA extends special appreciation to the following members: APA - The Engineered Wood Association, Premier Building Industries, and Ainsworth Lumber Co. for contributing to the development of the Prescriptive Method.

For more information:

Chris Schwind

Kate Fried

Content updated on 7/27/2006

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