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SIP Industry Grows Market Share Despite Retreating Housing Market

Industry survey reveals gains in residential market share helped producers dodge full force of construction downturn

July 1, 2010 – Despite four years of declining U.S. housing starts, the structural insulated panel (SIP) industry has avoided the full force of the economic recession, according to a recent survey conducted by the Structural Insulated Panel Association (SIPA).  Results indicate that the industry experienced a 12 percent decrease in residential production volume in 2009, compared to a 28 percent drop in U.S. single family housing starts over the same time period.sip_grow
2009 is the fifth consecutive year the industry has gained share in the residential market.  It is now estimated that the panelized building system accounts for between one and two percent of U.S. single family home starts.  SIPA Executive Director Bill Wachtler attributes much of the industry’s growth to the increasing popularity of green and energy-efficient homes.  SIPs are composed of insulating foam sandwiched between two structural facings, creating an effective thermal barrier that can save homeowners up to 50 percent on heating and cooling costs.

“The rising cost of energy and concern over global climate change has really pushed green building into the mainstream,” said Wachtler.  “SIPs give architects and builders an easy way to create an airtight building envelope that will improve the energy efficiency and durability of any home or light commercial building.”

Of the total 42 million square feet of SIPs produced in North America in 2009, 43 percent went to residential buildings, 32 percent to non-residential buildings, and the remaining 24 percent were used for non-building purposes, such as industrial coolers.  An estimated 1,300 commercial buildings were constructed with SIPs in 2009, including schools, retail stores and agricultural buildings.  Non-residential production declined 19 percent from the previous year.

“Like all industries we are affected by the recession and the drop in new construction,” said Wachtler.  “But the strong market share gains we’ve experienced in the residential market indicate that the SIP industry is likely to see a significant boost in production as the economy recovers.”

Several different combinations of materials are used to construct SIPs, but the basic concept remains the same.  The most popular facing materials are oriented strand board (OSB) and metal.  Plywood and other materials such as fiber cement board accounted for only 6 percent of SIPs used in building applications.

The survey also polled SIP manufacturers regarding their geographic distribution.  The top ranking regions for SIP use were the Mountain, East North Central (upper Midwest), and Pacific regions.