Following increasing calls for the industry to modernise its approach, off-site and modular construction has become a big topic, with more developers and contractors favouring off-site and modular methods over the more traditional. Here, Rod McLachlan, SIPS Category Manager at Marley Modular Systems, discusses the increasing role of Structural Insulated Panel Systems (SIPS) within the housing sector and how they have helped to innovate off-site construction.
With an estimated 340,000 homes needed to be built every year between now and 2031 in order to satisfy the demand for social, private and affordable housing1, it is no surprise that offsite and modular construction are often dubbed as a potential solution. Indeed, the modern methods carry many benefits; with perhaps the primary one being the ability to save valuable time on site, with large portions of the structure pre-assembled in a controlled factory environment and less likelihood for delays caused by poor weather. Indeed, projects that implement off-site construction can be completed between 30% and 50% faster than other, more traditional methods2.
As a result of this change in approach, architects and contractors are increasingly embracing new products and materials that offer a more efficient, adaptable and modern way of working – one of those being SIPS.
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While the concept of SIPS was first developed in the US in 1930’s, since then the technology has fast evolved, and it is now a well-established building method. Indeed, the use of SIPS in the UK continues to grow at an exponential rate – no doubt driven by the modern offsite approach and the urgent need for high-quality housing to be built quickly and efficiently.
A Structural Insulated Panel is perhaps one of the most energy efficient and advanced modern building materials. Constructed from an insulated core, sandwiched between Oriented Strand Boards (OSB), the panels offer a well-established alternative to traditional building techniques. As well as providing a high-strength and lightweight building solution, the systems also offer excellent inherent fabric performance and airtightness, alongside thermal and acoustic properties, to deliver a simple and streamlined construction programme, with the insulation already built in.
What’s more, many reputable SIPS manufacturers will provide the option of specifying either standalone panels or panelised walls suitable for volumetric construction, ready for on-site assembly. For example, Marley Modular System’s SIPS, which is both BBA and NHBC certified, can be supplied in prefabricated wall or roof sections, all of which are complete with structural openings for doors and windows, allowing for ease of assembly. Manufactured in a state-of-the-art factory, the panels are fabricated to exact customer dimensions for each project, allowing the overall building to be easily assembled on site, with less likelihood of snags occurring or re-work being required.
Of course, as well as considering the speed and ease of assembly, it is also important to ensure that the houses being constructed are of sound build and high-quality, providing their occupants with a comfortable space in which to live. This is another area that SIPS can exceed in, being incredibly versatile in terms of design and capable of easily meeting the Part L requirements of the Building Regulations. Passing the SAP calculation is also greatly simplified, due to the panels’ avoidance of linear heat losses at junctions. Indeed, Marley’s factory-assembled bespoke wall and ceiling panels can be produced with foam filled joints to help further improve the thermal performance of a building, in turn translating into lower energy bills for occupants and end-users.
A building’s acoustic performance is also an equally important concern, with nuisance noise being a major problem in the built and urban environment. As a result of its multi-density make-up, high-quality SIPS can help to cut sound transmission by 38dB – a significant reduction.
SIPS are also an extremely cost-effective choice. While savings will ultimately vary depending on client specification, the completed cost of the project can be as much as 30% less than those employing traditional construction methods, making SIPS a particularly good building material for local councils and authorities, where budgets may be tight.
If it’s a cost effective, versatile and efficient building solution that you need, then SIPS are the perfect option. The benefits of specifying the offsite, factory-produced system are clear, enabling it to be delivered to site as and when required, saving on valuable site space, as well as being quick to assemble, with virtually no waste and minimal re-work required, a result of it being fabricated to specific customer requirements.