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PATH Case Study

Hybrid Combines the Strength of Steel with the Speed of SIPs


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"The electrician, plumber, and roofer are all affected by our use of SIPs, but training usually just involves a brief explanation of how their respective jobs will be handled in order to hit the ground running."

"Most SIPs have chases already pre-made for electrical and plumbing. Some SIPs require furring with a 5-gauge hat-channel (16" on center) to run piping for stacks or drain lines. We typically run lateral electrical, plumbing, and other lines and leave a 12" gap above the finished floor to match the wirechase height on the panels. Another way to run floor-level lines on walls without a chase is behind hollow baseboard trim and around door casing. We are still perfecting our technique for concealing the lines to the overhead lighting from the switch."

"On interior wall surfaces, standard gypsum board can be attached directly to panels containing electrical and plumbing chases. Otherwise, drywall is attached to the hat channels on furred walls and finished with conventional tape and mud.We frame interior partition walls conventionally with either finger-jointed wood studs or light gauge steel and insulated with either fiberglass batts or spray-applied foam. For fireplaces and chimney shafts, we use Isokern® systems that are modular masonry units made from volcanic pumice that can be installed in under a day."

"The most common exterior finish we use is conventional cementitious stucco over building paper and lath secured with Tek® screws. The project includes a stone veneer wainscot with conventional stucco above. Depending on the panel coating, synthetic stucco is another exterior finish possibility."


Most panel sizes are conducive for easy transportation. Panels are also labeled according to their placement to speed installation.

"We sometimes get strange looks when submitting plans showing steel SIP construction. During the permit process, we combine product testing information and project-specific design calculations to obtain approval from building department officials. Usually a structural engineer evaluates the project design and signs off on its structural efficacy. Since many building inspectors are unfamiliar with the panels, we have had to produce span charts to prove the product's structural capabilities. Even after our sixth project involving steel SIPs, we are still educating the inspectors about the advantages. The irony is that steel SIPs are actually stronger than many other building methods."

"When choosing between different steel SIP systems, pick a manufacturing company that has engineering capabilities and can provide personal consultation and training during your first installation. It is crucial for the SIPs manufacturer to be able to provide panels for a building with the back-up engineering for building departments, building inspectors, architects and structural engineers who are not familiar with SIPs construction."

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Content updated on 9/27/2006

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