IT'S NOW MUCH EASIER FOR builders and architects to specify SIPs for walls, thanks to a new set of prescriptive methods for the building system. A joint effort between the Structural Insulated Panel Association (SIPA) and the Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing, the prescriptive methods allow users simply to consult the performance standard when building exterior walls with SIPs.

This is a significant development, says Chris Schwind, communications manager for SIPA. “Architects and specifiers no longer have to look at load tables for each manufacturer,” he says. “Now, they can just look at the minimum standards for a panel, so it simplifies the process.”

The document benefits builders, too. Before the standards, builders who were using SIP walls needed an engineer to stamp and sign each floor plan, at a cost of $400 to $1,000, Schwind says. “Now, as long as their building is within the prescriptive method, it is simple and saves [a significant] amount of time and money,” he notes.

SIPA has been working on developing the methods for several years, and the group has submitted a code change proposal to the International Code Council for inclusion in the International Residential Code. The proposal's acceptance, SIPA says, would streamline the construction process for builders and code officials. For now, the prescriptive methods are limited to walls that are two stories above grade and are exposed to certain snow loads and seismic conditions, the association says.

A copy of the methods can be downloaded for free at