This post may seem a bit long for a blog, but this has been written in reply to a comment made by ContainerBuilder found here .
Getting a Straight Answer relating to SIP panels price per square foot cost from SIP Manufacturers
It would be very easy to publish the cost for a typical panel system that you could use as a number for estimating, ONLY if you wanted to create more work for the manufacturer, contractor, architect, etc.
Example: Say you had a 3,000 sq. foot house and the estimator wanted to use a sq. foot number for the cost. Now you have a sq. foot price for the panel with 5,000 sq. feet of panels and your cost for a typical panel is say $6.00 SF. Ok… $30,000 dollars for the panel cost plus shipping, taxes and accessories so a total of say $35,000 dollars. Now how do you figure the beams, trusses, snow load requirements, wind load requirements, etc.? A lot of factors play a part in the real world cost of SIP construction and each of these items could change the price per sq. foot. How many electrical boxes do they need? How many low voltage boxes? How are they running the electrical? How many corners are in the structure? All these details needs to be evaluated by the estimator for the SIP manufacturer to get a final number that will create a real cost. Without all the details being evaluated, the architect and others are “bidding blind” so to speak. HVAC, floor systems, how the 1st and 2nd floors are connected to create a sealed envelope are a also major part of the SIP panel system. So it would not be a smart move to have the architect draw a structure for SIP construction and then have to change many details resulting in extra costs and time for everyone.
We understand that you have to start somewhere, so our suggestion is to take the sq. footage of the floor plan and x’s it by a higher number, in most cases we say between $17 and $20 per sq. foot. So back to the 3,000 sq. foot home example at say $17 now you’re at $53,000 – a huge difference from using the original sq. foot price. And then you can get into custom projects that require much more time to build. We’ve had projects run as much as $75.00 per sq. foot of floor space.
As you can see it’s very difficult to publish a sq. foot price that works for every project.
Stick Frame construction and the typical stick frame contractor devaluing the SIP panel system
We’ve found that most stick frame contractors really don’t understand the SIP construction process, therefore when asked to bid a project they really don’t know how to bid and feel comfortable with a hard bid price. I call this bidding in unknown territory and that can be a bit intimidating and cause a liability issue to be red flagged. So many times this is when a stick frame contractor starts to tell the homeowner or others that SIPs are not the way to go.
Below is a comment I’ve heard quite often from clients:
“The contractors want to know how the electrical works, are the boxes in the panels and is the conduit in place?”
Depending upon the answer, this is an issue that could result in the contractor having increased project costs. Why? Because in many panel systems, and mostly EPS type panels, the electrical boxes are neither in place nor any conduit that could be required by building officials. The cost in cutting boxes for electrical is labor intensive and creates considerable cleanup for the contractor. Most polyurethane panel manufacturers do have the electrical boxes foamed in place with electrical conduit connected and run both horizontal and vertical depending on the design. EPS panels typically have no conduit and have only a hole bored through the foam for pulling the electrical wire. Many times we’ve had feedback stating that this causes extra time in pulling because the wires get lodged in the foam. However, after a contractor gets the system down and has some experience this should not be an issue.
ContainerBuilder, you mentioned $4.00/sf in your panel price estimate. $4.00 per sq. foot is not a real world condition price. That’s like advertising the sports model and when you come in and expect that sports model for the advertised price, you are presented with the base model. You may buy a cheaper panel or panel system for this price but that’s not a product that I would want to build with and put my name on.
Many (EPS) panels can be purchased for this advertised $4.00/sf price, but as I stated above, you have no electrical boxes in place, so now figure the labor and materials costs for adding this and the cost for cleaning up the pieces of foam scattered everywhere. Then you have to add splines so this adds another cost for materials and labor. When cutting foam you need a hot melt gun that may be included, but you’re still paying for it. I also want to mention that you may also have to add costs for framing windows and doors, more materials and labor. Considering these extra costs and labor, your real cost is now undermined – another cause for contractors not having the ability to determine the real cost – too many unknowns. In fact this has been such an issue, making fair SIP Panel comparisons, that we’ve made a checklist and worksheets for users to make a fair comparison between manufacturer bids.
The SIP Solution from our experience
When building or considering a SIP panel system the best way to determine cost is this:
Have the architect, builder or homeowner draw a simple floor plan with elevations. Do your best to show window locations, roof pitch, electrical outlets, etc. Send it to us at SIPsupply.com and have us review and comment on any changes that may make the structure more “SIP-Friendly.” This will make the project easier to install, possibly cheaper to build and you get started off on the right foot from the beginning.
If you’re looking for a cheap way out, go with your cheapest bid. Although not recommended, sometimes this is perfectly fine for certain projects.
But if you’re building your dream home or looking for a superior SIP Panel System use (PUR) Polyurethane Foam Core panels such as our Greenix Panels with all windows and doors, electrical boxes, headers and required framing already built in. This will allow for an easy to install, energy efficient, green building SIP system to create a sealed SIP envelope.
Most importantly, educate yourself on SIPs and you’ll find that building with SIPs is not only ecologically friendly, it provides you with a lifetime of low utility costs, increased sound proofing properties, and you have one of the very best wind rated SIPs for hurricanes and tornado areas. Your cost is well worth it in the long run.
The Team at SIP Supply is always willing to discuss your projects to determine what you need, what we need to do to get there and how to make it work for you.
Darrell Simpson Sr.