Recently I’ve received a few recommendations to check out an alternative to SIPs that uses light gauge steel to give insulated panels structural integrity rather than sheets of OSB. The most local company that provides such a product is the ThermaSteel Corporation located in Virginia.
Some of the touted advantages include the following:
- Using light gauge steel increases the % of post-consumer recycled content in the panels and can be recycled again if the building is torn down
- The design eliminates or greatly reduces thermal bridging
- The panels are lightweight and easy to assemble by hand
- The system can be very cost effective due to reduction in labor
- The panels form a vapor barrier and allow many types of traditional siding to be screwed directly to the exterior without needing an extra layer of house wrap or rain screen system
The main advantages over SIPs seem to be the vapor barrier feature as well as how light and easy to assembly the panels are. Also, if you were to go with light frame steel for the entire home, you would have very little waste and the entire home could be screwed together in a matter of days.
I called up the crew at ThermaSteel and they were kind enough to provide an estimate in a matter of hours. I was a bit disappointed at first but think that there is room to improve the pricing. The original estimate came back at about $25K for the 100K home and $28K for the corner home. The sales rep, Mike, and I talked through a few ways we might be able to knock a couple grand off the estimate by changing some of the windows as well as other minor changes. Since many of our window openings are over 40″ wide, they must include custom panels and reinforcing members to accommodate them. Also, a big 25% discount could be received if we wanted to commit to this building system long-term and become a distributor. The fee for this is $7,500 but we would get intensive training and would be licensed to sell to other builders in the area (not necessarily something we’re interested in).
Time will tell if this is a viable option for us this time around or in the future. We have a very important design meeting with our architect and builder tomorrow where we will review the full estimated construction budget and any final design changes needed to reach our goals. We will discuss SIPs, ThermaSteel and traditional stick framing with high-performance insulation at this meeting.