PATH - A Public Private Partnership for Advancing Housing Technology

PATH Case Study

Vermont Built Erects Home Envelope in Only Eight Days


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[IMAGE: Once the foundation was laid, the crew was able to erect the building envelope in only eight days, before harsher winter weather arrived.]

"Erecting a home requires at least a four-man crew, but most of the time we use a six-man crew. To set the panels, it really requires two men on the deck, one man on the truck hitching the chain, and one operating the crane."

"However, by using a six-man crew, we can do other things, like completing bridging, installing housewrap, and other odds and ends, while the rest of the panels are being put into place. All of this just speeds up the process even more."

"The panels we use are all open pre-engineered panels with the studs and the sheathing on the exterior walls. There is nothing in the panel. In other words, we do all the plumbing, wiring, insulation, and sheetrock after it is erected. Only the door and window openings are cut out when the panels are delivered."

All exterior panels are a minimum of 6-inch walls. Interior partitions are constructed using 2 x 4 studs, with the exception of plumbing walls.

"The accommodations for the subcontractors are already structured into the panels. For instance, when we are installing floor joists, if there is a toilet or a tub, special spacing is built into the deck to accommodate the plumbing," Truax says. "We can also provide raceways, if necessary, for plumbing or fireplaces. Other features are included when the pre-engineered panels are constructed, such as 6-inch interior plumbing walls, blocking for kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanities, and other special requirements."

[IMAGE: While some of the panels are still being set, other crew members get to work on other tasks, such as completing bridging and installing housewrap. Once the structure is complete, the entire crew can focus on windows, doors and siding.]"Safety on the job site is a prime concern for us. Using pre-engineered panels that are lowered into place by a crane reduces the risk associated with building a section of wall on the deck and raising it into place. The cable is not released from the panel until it is secured into place, as opposed to the risk when a wall section is raised from the deck by workers--with the worker being the only holding system until the wall section is secured. Sawing and nailing is reduced, which leads to additional job safety. Scrap lumber, which can become a hazard, is substantially reduced, which also reduces the cost of disposing of these waste products."


Panelized systems take many forms, from structural components, like trusses, to all-in-one panels that include framing, insulation and sheathing. For Vermont Built, the panels produce an end product similar to traditional stick-built framing. But instead of building each panel on site, all of the wall panels and trusses are constructed under controlled conditions in a production facility, and then delivered on a tractor-trailer with an attached crane to the house site. The Vermont Built crew places panels into position using the crane. Panelized homes are erected faster with less cost for labor and less material waste.

Read Three PATH Field Evaluations:

After years of working with traditional stick-built framing, Truax became a believer in panelization when he started using pre-engineered panels. He decided there were just too many advantages for him and his clients not to focus solely on this method of construction. Beyond speed of construction, Vermont Built also gains more cost certainty in framing.

"We are not caught off guard by changes in lumber prices," Truax says. "We are able to mark the entire price for framing of a house. Sometimes we can lock in a price for up to 60 to 90 days."

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Content updated on 9/27/2006

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