Alternative House Building Methods for the 21st Century
With the boom in new home construction, builders, architects, and homeowners are looking to alternative house building methods that can meet the challenges and requirements for home building in the 21st century. Four alternative home building methods include structural insulated panels (SIPs), light-gauge steel, Bautex insulated concrete form (ICF), and adobe.
Builders Consider Alternative Building Methods to Combat Rising Material Costs and Labor Shortages
Many factors are driving new home builders to consider alternative building methods over wood frame home construction, which has been widely used in the United States (U.S.) for over 100 years. Builders must contend with rising lumber costs, due to Canadian lumber tariffs. In fact, Robert Dietz, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), predicts that the tariff will increase the expense of an average newly-built wood framed home by about $9000.
Another challenge to builders is labor shortages which have resulted in a 5 percent annual increase in labor costs for residential construction workers. The blame for labor shortages is due to the difficulty of recruiting younger and skilled workers, along with stricter immigration policies. Material costs and labor shortages are driving builders to consider alternative house building methods over wood frame construction.
Homeowners Want Energy-Efficient, Disaster-Resistant, Low Maintenance, Durable and Healthy Homes
The demands of new homeowners are also a driving force behind the use of alternative house building methods over wood frame construction. Today’s new homeowners want energy-efficient, disaster-resistant, low maintenance, durable and healthy homes.
The challenge, of course, is finding building systems that can help keep construction costs down and increase building performance. While this may seem like a lot to ask, many of today’s homeowners are expecting a true 21st century living experience in thier new homes.
Four Alternative House Building Methods
New residential construction spending is projected to increase to about $672 billion (current) U.S. dollars by 2022, a 62.4 percent increase over 2011 of $252 billion. Builders and architects that want to take advantage of the booming market are wise to consider alternative building methods that address the increasing material costs and labor shortages and also meet the demands of today’s new homeowners.
Four alternative house building methods for new home construction include structural insulated panels, light-gauge steel, Bautex insulated concrete form, and classical adobe.
1. Structural Insulated Panel Homes
Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) are 4- and 8-inch thick rigid foam panels, sandwiched between two rigid sheathing materials. Extruded polystyrene (XPS), expanded polystyrene (EPS), polyisocyanurate (PIR), or polyurethane (PUR) is used to make the foam panels for SIPs. With XPS and EPS foam, the foam and sheathing is pressure laminated together. With PIR and PUR, the liquid foam is injected and cured under high pressure. The common sheathing boards for SIPs are 7⁄16 inch thick oriented strand boards (OSB). Other sheathing materials include plywood, gypsum sheathing, sheet metal, fiber-cement siding, magnesium-oxide board, fiberglass mat, and composite structural siding panels.
The Benefits of SIPs
SIPs have a higher level of insulation, air tightness, and strength over wood-framing.
Also, because SIPs are factory assembled, wall construction is quick, which lessens labor costs and construction waste.
However, there are several problems with SIP wall systems.
SIPs lack adequate fire performance ratings, especially those constructed with plywood, OSB, and composite structural siding panels
SIPs can develop durability problems, especially when using OSB and plywood facings. When OSB and plywood get wet, the walls may mold and degrade.
SIPs have low thermal mass. Products made of high thermal mass can stabilize the temperature within a home and ultimately save energy and money.
Because SIPs are panels, the design of a SIP structure is best coordinated and planned with the panel’s dimensions, without many jogs, bump-outs, or non-90-degree angles. A non-panel friendly design will escalate waste, cost, and diminish the performance of the wall system.
2. Light-Gauge Steel Homes
Metal sticks or studs are used to construct light-gauge steel homes. The benefits of steel are it won’t rot, burn, shrink, and it is resistant to termites. When correctly engineered, steel is stronger than wood. Also, because steel doesn’t warp or shrink, a steel home is less susceptible to drywall cracks. Steel is also recyclable, which makes it an environmentally friendly product.
There are several disadvantages of light-gauge steel homes.
Steel is not flammable, but it is a conductor of heat. If a fire is in contact with steel, the fire will quickly spread to any material the steel touches. Also, extreme heat can weaken and warp steel, which will damage the structural integrity of a home.
Untreated steel exposed to outside elements is prone to electrochemical oxidation or rusting. Rusting weakens the cohesiveness of the steel and makes it brittle.
Excessive tension, caused by strong winds, will weaken the steel.
Metal framing is more expensive than wood.
3. Bautex Insulated Concrete Form Homes
The Bautex insulated concrete form (ICF) wall system is a suburb building option for new home construction. The Bautex Wall System helps builders efficiently construct an energy-efficient, disaster-resistant, low maintenance, durable and healthy home.
Bautex Wall System Saves Builder Time and Money
As wood prices increase, a shift towards alternative building systems, like Bautex Blocks, can save builders money. The Bautex Wall System saves time and money because it is an easy and fast to install and reduces the number of steps needed to build a home. It also provides structure and continuous insulation in one product. Contractors using Bautex can count on quick and easy construction.
Bautex Wall System is Energy-Efficient
The Bautex Wall System is a high thermal mass material that provides continuous insulation and reduces air and moisture infiltration, creating the ultimate energy efficient home. The Bautex Wall System provides an R-14 continuous insulation that meets, if not exceeds, the latest energy codes and standards.
Bautex Wall System is Disaster-Resistant
Bautex Blocks are fire-resistant and achieve and holds the industry’s highest standard for fire resistance. The Blocks have an ASTM E119 fire rating of four-hours and an ASTM E84 reported values for flame speed of zero and smoke development of twenty. Because the Bautex Blocks meet the NFPA 286 and E84, they also meet the NFPA 101 basic life safety code.
The Bautex Wall System does not contain any organic material and does not support the growth of mold.
Bautex Wall System has zero percent volatile organic compound (VOC) content.
4. Adobe Homes
Adobe brick building is an ancient method common in the Middle East and Americas. Earth with high clay content and straw are used to make Adobe bricks. The bricks are sun-dried. When used for home construction, the adobe bricks are assembled into a wall using an earth-based mortar. The finished walls are smoothed down before drying. Typically, there is an application of a surface coating of clay plaster to the adobe wall.
The benefits of Adobe construction include suitable seismic resistance capacity, durability, excellent acoustics, a superior thermal performance due to high thermal mass, healthy, and fire-resistant.
The disadvantages of Adobe construction are it is best suited in dry, temperate climates, high maintenance, labor-intensive to build, and susceptible to critters burrowing through the bricks and weakening the walls.
Of the four, the Bautex Wall System can best meet the demands and requirements of both builders and homeowners.