In our experience, one of the primary misconceptions about prefab structures is that they’re not as high quality as those that are traditionally built. While that may have been true 30 years ago, today’s modern prefab is on par with site-built structures. In fact, we’d argue that prefab homes are even better. State-of-the-art modeling technologies, design-driven engineering, and indoor manufacturing mean less time that materials are exposed to the elements outdoors. For wood panels, the type we use at Stillwater, any reduction in swell and shrink due to water absorption is a real benefit to maintain structural integrity.
In panelized construction, materials are the same as they are in traditionally built structures — wood, steel, and concrete. When deciding on the materials for your prefab project, there are several factors that influence which direction you should go. Framing impacts a number of aspects of the build, including design, assembly method, transportation, labor, and cost. Even more important to the client or end-user, consider how material choice will impact architectural authenticity and long-term livability concerns like overall comfort, energy efficiency, and material lifespan.
Top 5 Advantages of Wood Panels - The Preferred Choice
Stillwater Building Systems prefabricated wood panels are a great all-around choice for commercial, industrial, and residential applications. There are many reasons why wood construction has withstood the test of time and is the preferred framing material choice for many architects, engineers, and specifiers. We’ve narrowed them down to our top five benefits.
1. Simple, Cost Effective Construction
Wood construction components have been used for structures for hundreds of years, and decades of advanced technologies and engineering have created simple and repeatable processes and assemblies. Unlike steel and concrete, wood panels are not overly complex and do not require highly specialized labor. There is a selection of wood products from which to choose to tailor your budget. (Read about our Laminated Strand Lumber here.)
2. Sustainable Material
Responsibly sourced lumber is a renewable resource, and engineered wood helps further decrease project waste and disposal costs.
3. Faster Construction Times
Wood panel framing production time frames are typically faster than steel and precast concrete. Well-established production processes in a closed and controlled environment create more project cycle predictability. Panels are sturdy yet relatively lightweight, making them easier to transport than other materials.
4. Healthier Indoor Environments
Wood panels have demonstrated fewer toxic emissions than their steel and concrete counterparts. Their higher R-value also increases energy efficiency when assembled with high-quality insulation.
5. Fewer Carbon Emissions
The construction industry accounts for 38% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and the AEC community continues to seek out ways to reduce new structures’ carbon footprint and lessen their environmental impact. Wood used for construction captures its carbon for the life cycle of the building instead of releasing it into the soil and atmosphere during decomposition. In fact, 10 to 45 million tons of carbon dioxide are stored in new wood products.
Other Types of Panel Materials
Light gauge steel has come a long way over the years, and its proponents offer it as a viable alternative to prefab wood panels. Its panelized construction can closely match that of wood’s stud for stud and joint for joint, making the transition from wood to steel assembly on-site less of a learning curve. Steel will not warp or rot, and there’s no risk of insect infestation, which can increase its overall longevity.
The major caveat to prefab steel panels is their high-heat conductivity. A structure runs the risk of creating severe thermal bridging from exterior to interior if there are no efforts to mitigate it, resulting in uncomfortable interior temperatures and significant energy costs.
Steel does offer more predictable pricing compared to the market volatility we’re seeing in lumber currently, however, the cost of light gauge steel is higher than wood and should be taken into consideration in a project’s overall budget. Steel panel advocates claim that lifecycle costs are considerably less, but a client’s budget simply may not be able to support the additional upfront price increase.
Precast concrete panels are most often used in commercial and industrial projects, however there’s an increased interest in their use in residential applications. Concrete is water and fire-resistant, and its high R-value makes it incredibly energy efficient. Its strength and durability make it a popular choice for large structures and is especially beneficial in severe storm-prone areas. That said, concrete is heavy and is more expensive to transport than wood and steel. And because it’s not yet widely used in homebuilding, assembly labor costs can be substantially higher as well in commercial projects.
Contact us to discuss your next project and to learn more about SBS wood wall panels, our process, and what sets us apart at (775) 501-9001.