September 27, 2005
New Study by PATH Finds That Panels Save Time and Money in Housing Construction, and Increase Overall Quality
Homebuilders who use panelized housing technologies are rewarded in several crucial ways, finds "Integrating Panels into the Production Homebuilding Process," a new study released by the Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing. The study surveyed twenty-four builders in the Southwestern and Southeastern United States where building activity is currently heaviest and found that long-term cost savings, shorter construction times, reduced labor and material costs, and enhanced energy performance were all key factors in their decisions to integrate panels into their building practices.
Builders also cited increased business opportunities as a result of using panels. Because panels decrease project lengths and costs, many have expanded their practices to include supplying and fabricating panels. Those who have found success using Structural Insulated Panels (SIPS) have created niche markets around their energy efficiency benefits. Others reported that because using panels often requires educating subcontractors, consumers and building inspectors about their benefits, they have grown savvier in their marketing efforts.
Factors dictating builders' decisions to use panels varied according to the number of projects completed annually and customers' preferences. Large-scale builders are more likely to choose panels due to their ability to cut time and production costs. Builders who produced fewer units were more concerned with quality and energy performance. Among those who serve the affordable housing market, the energy efficiency attributes of panels was found to be a key factor in their use, especially since these builders indicated that there is little difference between the cost of panels and stick construction.
Half the builders surveyed reported resistance among local code and inspection officials regarding the adoption of panel technologies. Those officials in the Southwest were said to have displayed a greater resistance to panels than those in the Southeast. Builders reported that once educated about panels, most code officials and inspectors were amenable to their use and some have even come to prefer panel systems because they are easier to inspect and the construction quality is higher. Other barriers to the implementation of panels included fabrication errors, miscommunication with manufacturers, late delivery, and the need to train construction crews.
According to the study, the further use of panels could be encouraged by educating builders about the true costs of panels; teaching code officials about the benefits of panels; marketing panels as more of a commodity and making them available in major chain retail outlets; adapting panel designs to make them more generic and interchangeable; and training constructions crews on how to use them. Panel technologies offer builders enormous benefits but further research and development is necessary to ensure that their advantages reach others within the building industry.
The Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing is a public-private initiative dedicated to accelerating the development and use of technologies that radically improve the quality, durability, energy efficiency, environmental performance, and affordability of America's housing. PATH is supported by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
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Integrating Panels into the Production Homebuilding Process."
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Content updated on 11/9/2005