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July 31, 2006

PATH Study to Determine Best Ways to Connect Concrete Wall Systems and SIP Roofs

Workers maneuver a precast concrete wall panel before it is braced and welded in place. As energy prices increase, more homebuyers are demanding the most energy-efficient homes possible. Combining concrete wall systems with wood-based structural insulated panels (SIP) on the roof creates a high-performance, energy efficient home, but builders lack specifications for connecting these two products.

The Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing (PATH) hopes a new study will resolve this. With PATH financial support, the Portland Cement Association (PCA), the Structural Insulated Panel Association (SIPA), and the National Association of Home Builders' Concrete Home Building Council will develop cost-effective prescriptive guidelines for connecting concrete walls to structural insulated panel roof systems in residential construction. The NAHB Research Center will conduct the research. The study is expected to take less than a year to complete.

"The research will produce information that enables builders to reduce costs and improve the quality of the homes they build," said Michael H. Weber, PCA's director of residential promotion. "This will be a truly collaborative effort that brings together all the different concrete building system manufacturers with the SIP manufacturers to ensure all the practical solutions of the new technologies are addressed."

Concrete wall systems such as concrete masonry, insulating concrete forms, removable form systems, precast wall panels, and autoclaved aerated concrete products utilize concrete's high thermal mass to produce homes that stay warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. Plus, concrete wall systems form solid, continuous, and airtight walls that prevent heated or cooled air from leaking, the main culprit of home energy loss.

Steel SIP walls are placed into their bottom track, braced, and then fastened in place after installing the top track.SIPs also reduce air leaks. The system is composed of a rigid form core sandwiched between two structural skins, typically made from engineered wood. Because SIPs are manufactured in large segments up to 8 feet by 24 feet, there are fewer gaps than in a traditional wood-frame home. SIPs can be used for wall systems, but when applied as roof panels over concrete walls systems, they become an extremely efficient part of the building envelope.

"The current lack of standards increases design costs and leads to ad-hoc solutions that also increase construction costs," said Bill Wachtler, executive director of SIPA. "This study will allow for the formation of a cross-industry advisory committee to develop specific guidelines for builders and result in an extremely high performance building envelope for homes."

Brian Sullivan

Pattie Flescher

Content updated on 5/19/2009

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