Alternative building methods– structural insulated panel systems

  • Creation Date: Wednesday, 29 May 2019

In dealing with alternative building methods in South Africa, apart from the very traditional brick and mortar, I have dealt with timber and light steel frame and with Shipping Container construction.

In this article, I want to highlight the Structural Insulated Panel System (SIPS) construction.

There are probably 10 or more SIPS building systems available in South Africa. The most well known, resulting from the many American and British YouTube videos around would be the OSB/polystyrene sandwich. Others have a Magnesium Oxide/polystyrene sandwich or steel sheets while others are made of lightweight concrete plus a few other variations on the same theme. There are also a few systems where the core is a polystyrene slab which is plastered with various specialist systems. Some systems are also conducive to double story constriction while many are strictly for single story buildings.

If I was honest, this would be my favourite building system if I was to build a house for myself. The major advantages of this system are the huge insulation value of the walls and the speed of construction. The two “Kit Houses” that are advertised on this website are built using a SIPS building system.

If you are considering building your house using a SIPS building system, then I would advise on a few points. Firstly establish whether there is a supplier of a SIPS system within say, 150km of your location and whether they have a certified installer for their system. Secondly, find out if your architect/designer is familiar with modular design and invite the supplier to liaise with them regarding the design of your house.

All these building systems need to have an Agement Certificate which your architect will need to assist with the design and also for submission to your local municipality when submitting drawings for approval.

An issue that you will need to consider is that there is usually a significant labour saving when building with most SIPS systems as the walls are generally erected in a week or two for an average sized house. There is also virtually no mess as all the components are made in a factory and transported to site where they are erected.

If you wish to investigate this method of construction, there are many YouTube videos (usually American) which quite accurately show how the panels are made and how the whole construction process goes.