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PATH Case Study

Steel Structural Insulated Panels:

Hybrid Combines the Strength of Steel with the Speed of SIPs

Printable Version [.pdf, 595 KB]

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Fred Ballard
Blue Horse Building & Design
Austin, Texas

Builder Type:

Small Custom Homebuilder

The Technology:

Panelized Wall and Roof Systems with Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs)

The Project:

The exterior walls and roof of this large custom home west of Austin, Texas are constructed of steel SIPs.

"Using steel SIPs can knock 3 to 5 weeks off your framing and insulation schedule."

-- Fred Ballard



This house was designed with the latest in steel SIP technology to make the construction process as appealing as the home itself. Fred Ballard is a second-generation carpenter who became interested in better methods of construction while traveling abroad for an international company. When he discovered steel SIPs, he was intrigued with the idea of combining the strength of steel-engineered walls with the speed and insulating advantages of panelized construction.

"It struck me that if we used panelized building products, our homes could be built much faster, without sacrificing strength or quality," says Ballard. "With pre-manufactured steel SIPs, you also don't have to worry about warped walls, mold issues, or termites."

"The first home we built with SIPs had a 20-foot top plate. After a few hours of connecting panels, it was amazing how consistent and absolutely straight the walls were. Even better, they can knock 3 to 5 weeks off the framing and insulation stage of construction."

"Steel SIPs are also able to withstand extreme weather conditions during construction. They're waterproof, which means we build more houses since our construction schedule is less dependent on the seasons. Our homes are engineered to withstand hurricane-force winds, making them safer as well."

"Using steel SIPs has made us more competitive because people realize they are getting a better house. We pride ourselves on continual innovation, and using metal SIPs has only enhanced our business. The speed of construction and quality of our building envelopes is hard to beat using any other building method. Clients respect the fact that we strive to place more of their investment dollars into superior materials that streamline the construction process and get them into their homes faster."


"We are set on building homes with good thermal building envelopes, indoor air quality, water quality, and natural light to improve the quality of living for the clients we build for. The attributes of steel SIPs include the tightness of construction, improved indoor air quality, and superior thermal properties. This all combines to create a healthier, more efficient, and more affordable home."

"Steel SIPs add between 5 to 10 percent to the overall cost of construction, so we try to determine in advance whether the budget is the client's primary consideration. If our clients plan to live in a home for more than five years, then the increased cost can be offset by monthly energy savings of 30 to 50 percent. The investment in steel SIP construction is usually recouped within ten years."

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Fred Ballard

Blue Horse Building & Design was established in 1992 by Fred Ballard and Jake Bradley, design/build contractors specializing in residential, multi-family and light commercial projects. Blue Horse builds about five homes a year, ranging in price from $650,000 to $1.4 million, and has built over 20 homes using steel SIPs since 2001.

Why Ballard builds with steel SIPs:

"It's almost like building with Legos--it's truly that easy."

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Content updated on 9/27/2006

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