The economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic were experienced by all business and industry segments, including construction. Many residential and commercial projects were delayed or suspended in 2020. Now, with vaccinations on the rise and the pandemic waning in the U.S., the country is open for business once again and projects are ramping up dramatically. However, many contractors are facing complications due to one of the ongoing aftereffects of the pandemic – supply chain disruptions causing shortages, delivery delays and unprecedented price spikes for materials needed to complete projects.
Lumber price increases and availability issues are among the most persistent problems vexing contractors and project owners across the country. According to an April 2021 report by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), lumber prices effectively tripled during the prior 12 months, adding almost $36,000 to the average price of a new, single-family home.* Commercial projects are, of course, experiencing the same challenges.
“Lumber prices have increased to such a degree that we are seeing a lot of already designed projects put on hold until the market stabilizes,” said David MacDonald, Director of Business Development for the WT Group. “And while most industry watchers agree that lumber prices are likely to moderate in the near term, a lot of contractors and project owners are seriously looking at different methods of construction.”
Among the top contenders on any list of new construction methods are Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs). These innovative materials are experiencing a surge in interest as viable substitutes for traditional stick-built framing and insulating techniques.
SIPs are strong, high-performance, manufactured interior and exterior wall panels consisting of an insulating foam core sandwiched between two structural facings, typically oriented strand board (OSB). SIPs are manufactured under factory-controlled conditions and are delivered to a jobsite ready for installation. Once assembled, tighter fits enabled by Computer Assisted Design (CAD) manufacturing deliver great structural integrity and insulation values superior to traditional building envelopes. The Structural Insulated Panel Association provides a wealth of detail addressing the utility and value of SIPs construction techniques.
“Utilizing SIPs technology, Porter Installation Crews erect a typical, 5,000-square-foot building in three or four days, versus a minimum of two to three weeks for traditional construction, and we provide a 20-year warranty,” said Sean O’Malley, Business Development Manager for PorterSIPs, a division of Porter Corp. “The savings in labor costs are obvious, saving weeks in general conditions. And with superior R-Values, near airtight continuously insulated building envelopes (building shell), SIPs buildings can be 40% to 60% more efficient in terms of energy use for heating and cooling. We have seen demand for our product grow exponentially over the last five years. The crunch in the lumber and steel markets is only driving greater demand.”
“The WT Group has designed some SIPs buildings recently, and we have been very impressed by the results,” said MacDonald. “The first SIPs project I worked on was a 7-Eleven retail site, and I was frankly amazed to see how quickly and efficiently it went together. The wall panels themselves look exactly like wood, are just as strong and durable and saved quite a bit on money and time. In addition, the typical HVAC mechanical system requirements are also reduced due to the buildings being designed and constructed so tight. That means additional savings.”
The WT Group is now partnering with PorterSIPs for expanded application of SIPs. The mission will be to demonstrate to potential clients the many design and cost benefits of utilizing what is clearly a 21st century building material for commercial and residential applications.
“We are excited about our partnership with PorterSIPs and are actively seeking opportunities to put this cutting-edge technology to work for our clients,” MacDonald said.
* “Skyrocketing Lumber Prices Add Nearly $36,000 to New Home Prices.” National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). 23 April 2021.