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By Michael in Satellite Beach, FL on 12/13/2005


Does anyone have experience or knowledge of Sunlight Homes? They design and sell SIP homes. sunlighthomes.com. I am impressed with the depth of info and attention to detail provided on their website. They support O-B's and seem to offer a very comprehensive service. Will be building in Weatherford, TX (near Ft. Worth/Dallas). Thanks in advance!


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By Carson in Henderson, NV on 12/29/2005


Michelle,


We are going to be putting up an SIP home too. I don't know anything about Sunlight, because they don't have a facility near me. Have you tried Premier? They are great with information too. They have three plants, and I don't know if one is near you or not, but you may want to check them out. Let me know what you think, okay?

Carson 

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By Michael in Satellite Beach, FL on 1/1/2006


Carson,

I am not familiar with Premier, but will check them out. I understand there are many SIP suppliers around the country and I have looked at several. Sunlight caught my attention because they don't offer canned designs. They visit your building site in order to design the home accordingly, taking into account the views, sun, prevailing winds, your lifestyle, etc. They supply anywhere in the continental US. It seems their product and service is much more comprehensive than typical SIP suppliers, which is why I asked for input from the O-B's. Thanks for the reply.

Mike


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By David in Ocoee, FL on 7/21/2006


Mike,

Sunlight does not manufacture SIP panels. They are basically an architectural firm and building contractor all rolled up into one. Please allow me to suggest a way that can save you a lot of money and allow you to end up with a better product in the interum.

First select what type of SIP you are going to use; OSB, cement fiber or metal skin. I can give you several references upon request. After you have made your panel selection and manufacturer (I can help you with that as well if you wish), talk to the local rep. and get a recommendation for one or more architects. Then go to the architect and give them an idea of what you want to be built. They will perform basically the same service as Sunlight, but at a much reduced cost when compared to Sunlight. And you won't have to pay a middle man for the panels.

Thanks

David from Orlando, Fl


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By Gary in Derry, NH on 8/2/2006


David,

Do you believe it's necessary to use an architect who is experienced in SIP's? Many SIP manufacturing sites state that this isn't required. Thoughts?

I very interested in SIP construction for use on my O-B house. I'm not scheduled to break ground for sometime yet, and would welcome any additional input/advice you are willing to share.

Thanks!

Gary


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By Kenneth in Lees Summit, MO on 8/3/2006


I will take a shot at answering this, not as someone who has any background with SIP though. I built with ICF, there are certain things you cannot do with ICF that are very common with traditional construction (ie. cantilevers is one). To maximize the ease of construction with ICF, I wanted a designer familiar with this material - this was not necessarily an easy thing to find.

If you can't find an architect familiar with SIPs, I would at a minimum take your prelimiary plans to a SIP supplier and ask them for suggestions to make the project SIP-friendly in the final design. I shopped my preliminary plans to one ICF supplier to get this feedback, and suggested the architect make several changes that made the house much easier to construct with ICF (and he had experience with ICF). After actually building it, there are a couple of other minor design changes I would incorporate if I was building this same house again that would make it easier still.

Any alternative building techniques pose unique challenges, you want your design to address these issues.


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By David in Ocoee, FL on 8/5/2006


Gary and Ken,

To answer your question; every architect that I have spoken to thus far has told me that there is a definite learning curve, no matter what the material of choice is. The question then becomes: Do you mind the fact that the architect will be learning as they design your home, or do you want one that is already experienced with your material of choice.

I will take this argument one step further and say the you the O-B should know how the system works before you even sit down to draw your preliminary plans, so you know how to construct the most house for the least amount of money. For instance, with SIP's you want to build everything on 4-foot increments to save panels. Any panel manufacturer is either going to have a draftsman (or architect) and engineer on his team, or they will be able to refer you to a firm that has experience. I recommend going the experienced route.

Ken, I would like to correct you when you say that you can not do cantilever decks with ICF. Go to this website and see one icfbuilders.blogspot.com. Anything can be done with any material. You just have to find the product or contractor that will do it for you. I would also argue that "alternative" building techniques solve way more challenges than they present. Like being able to build a house in two or three days (on site) with three or four unskilled laborers, that is able to easily pass a blower door test, with a true whole-wall R-value of 26 in the wall and 50 in the roof, using no wood whatsoever, for under $30 per square foot of floor plan for the dried-in envelope.

You cannot touch SIP's for ease of construction and cost.

David from Orlando


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By Kenneth in Lees Summit, MO on 8/6/2006


You are correct, ICF does pose less limitations, but a common thought is you have to have a wall below to support it. My ICF subcontractor built his house showing the fallacy of this common misconception, you simply need an engineer stamp to make it work as it doesn't show up in the IRC code book as a standard option. However convincing an ICF builder that has never done it to try something new, and now you have an inexperienced crew working on your house. Who would you rather pay to learn, the architect designing the house or the crews building the house?

As to designers or architects experienced with ICF, I started with the ICF suppliers and asked them who they would use. I also started with ICF O-B's and asked who they used. Unfortunately none of them were terribly pleased with their designers/architects. So I did the unthinkable and went to the Yellow Pages and simply called every one listed to find an architect familiar with ICF, which quite honestly wasn't a very big number. I checked his references, he wanted to work on the house, we agreed to a flat rate for a certain level of service, so I don't think I was paying for his learning curve. As I shopped my plans to ICF subcontractors and suppliers, I think he definitely was put on their short lists of people they would recommend experienced with ICF construction.

I have never seen an SIP house local to me; I can drive to entire subdivisions built with ICF. This was my decision to use ICF over SIP. However SIP intrigues me from what I have learned online, I still haven't seen one though and would be interested to watch one go together. I think combining SIP with a Superior wall foundation would be the fastest way to get closed in with a superior building envelope, certainly much faster than ICF and arguably equal efficiency. Either way far superior to traditional construction.


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By David in Ocoee, FL on 8/7/2006


Kenneth,

The following phone number is to a Florida architect: 239.434.9364. This architect has experience designing homes with structural insulated panels. He had completed a contract to design plans for a 167 unit neighborhood in the St. Petersburg area where the houses were to be built with CMU's. Just as he completed his contract, the developer called him and had him convert all the plans to SIPs, ThermaSteel in particular.

If you are interested, I can dedicate some spare time and get you names, numbers and locations of neighborhoods that are built with pour in place, tilt-up, SIPs, ICFs, AAC (autoclaved aerated concrete) or any other type of building material that you can imagine. I don't know what we would be accomplishing by doing so. I would much rather dedicate my time to explaining to folks the pros and cons and costs of whatever type of building material they choose to build with. One thing is for certain, any one of the systems above will be vastly superior to CMU's or wood frame. That is for sure.


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By Kenneth in Lees Summit, MO on 8/7/2006


I agree it would accomplish little. I already have a house, and am not exactly interested in doing another one for awhile. However I have always been interested in building construction and different techniques, and also always interested in learning and staying current. If there was a SIP house close by, and I knew what the schedule was, I would certainly call either the owner (if O-B) or the GC and ask to watch, or at least get a tour and ask questions.

 

This was how I learned ICF, I called a local supplier looking for O-Bs using ICF and then called the O-Bs volunteering my services (although I hoped to get some in return when it was time to build my house, none returned the favor). I helped stack, brace, glue, plumb, square, pump, consolidate, everything on someone else’s house. Sure it took me some time, but it was time well spent as I learned a tremendous amount. I learned red-iron steel framing and LGS framing from daily tours through a construction site and watching progress and noting differences I recognized from more “typical” construction. I also volunteered for Habitat for Humanity so I could learn enough about “typical” residential construction, trades and language, as this is still relevant even with alternative construction methods. Prior to my project, all of this data was valuable as it helped me make better decisions about my project (and yes, I did receive a SIP material bid on my house). 

 

Now, it is just for fun and to keep current, and so I don't want to impose my time requirements on vendors, suppliers, or contractors when they have no benefits to themselves from the time commitment. I am happy to have professionals contribute to these (and other) forums that answer my questions and share information though. 


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By Forrest in Upper Marlboro, MD on 4/10/2007


David,

I've recently joined this forum but haven't posted anything as of yet; this is my first. My wife and I are working with an architect in Baltimore, MD who has experience in both commercial SIPs and residential in North Carolina and has experience in developing plans for SIP buildings. He has indicated that with his residential customers they shy away from SIPs, as they feel they are too expensive to build. Myself, after some lengthy research we have decided to go with SIPs for custom building a 4,100 sq foot home in North Carolina.

From what I have read, the SIP approach seems very compelling. You seem pretty knowledgeable about SIPs; not sure what the shell will cost and what companies provide any floor trusses/SIP packages. I shall endeavor to become fluent on the ins and outs of SIP construction. Though a great way to build, everything has positive and negative aspects to any type of construction. Anything that you could pass off on going the SIP route would be greatly appreciated. We'll be willing to post our project out here when my wife and I get to the point where we are ready to build. We have a long way to go before we get to that point.


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By Dale in Richland, AZ on 4/10/2007


You may want to browse through and join the SIP discussion located in the green building forum.

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