Pulte's Switch to Panelization
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"We manufacture and ship wall panels that are up to 36 feet long and deck panels that are up to 45 feet long," Runnels says. "With long panels, the installer installs fewer pieces in the field, so he has fewer connections and alignment problems to deal with."
"For small houses, we can install the pre-cast concrete foundation, install our floor system to support it, and backfill in a 10-hour day. Larger homes [5,000 to 6,000 square feet] will take us about a day to lay the foundation walls, and another day to clean up and install the deck."
"For the entire process, we leave a 23-day window from the day we start to stake-out and dig to the day we turn the house over to the mechanical contractors. We generally take an average of 19 days, based on the last six months of homes built. That's getting it all under the roof. The speed minimizes weather-related problems because building components are less exposed, which in turn gives us a better finished product."
- Early contractor trade education and integration is critical to success.
- Educate code officials early for easiest acceptance.
- Use whole-house thinking to maximize benefits.
- Insulate the foundation with rigid foam on the exterior for optimal performance and to prevent condensation.
- Use galvanized G-60 coating on steel.
Installation costs are much lower because a smaller, less-skilled crew assembles the house more quickly.
"We no longer need a large crew of carpenters," says Runnels. "We've done time studies that compared crew size, from four-man crews to eight-man crews, and we've narrowed it down so that the best size crew is five people. Before, you had a massive group of carpenters; now, you only need one carpenter and four installers. The carpenter is there only to manage the crew for any building that needs to take place inside the house."
"We do a lot of training of the crews so they are able to adapt to this particular system. It does take them some time to learn how to install it. We usually allow framers five to six houses to be able to get up to par."
"Our customers tell us that they are seeing substantial energy savings per month," Runnels says. "Some of our homeowners have compared utility bills with friends and neighbors who live in conventional houses of similar size and style and are very satisfied with the savings they are realizing."
"As far as the structure, we have case studies that show Pulte SIPs are 1.5 to 4 times stronger than conventional walls in different types of loadings. After the recent storms and flooding in the past month in Virginia, we've seen that the precast concrete foundations have had hands down fewer problems than conventional basements."
"It's taken a while to educate the inspectors since the technology is so new to them," Runnels says. "Often, they're just so pressed for time they don't have time to learn about a new technology. We've also had to educate the officials that do plan reviews. What we've learned is that it's a dollar well spent to educate inspectors up front."
"Educating the inspectors from the beginning has helped with getting permits approved and getting inspections without any problems," says Chippero. "Now we see no resistance from code officials and inspectors who have been educated, and permits and inspections go quickly."
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Content updated on 10/18/2006