A SIP-and-timberframe builder hits the beach
Hurricanes teach lessons. Residents of Bolivar Peninsula, ground
zero for last fall's Hurricane Ike, got a crash course — and
for some diehard Bolivar residents who are determined to rebuild,
the lesson was to bring the heat next time. Illinois-based Eagle
Panel Systems has something for those Texans, says company CEO Ken
Disch: A hybrid timber-frame and structural insulated panel (SIP)
house framing system trademarked TRISIP Cat-5
engineered for 185-mph winds.
Eagle Panel already had a souped-up SIP on the market before the
storm — a panel with 2x4 or 2x6 framing embedded into the
foam-and-OSB sandwich. And they already had a system for combining
their panels with timber frames, developed in cooperation with
Amish timber framer Ozark
, LLC (www.ozarktimberframe.com). But when Ozark
owner Danny Schwartz traveled to Texas for a relief mission on the
Bolivar Peninsula, he came back with a new determination to kick it
up a notch. As Ken Disch puts it, "Our position is that you can't
stop people from building on the beach — they love that
location too much. But if you are going to build down there, those
houses should be overbuilt, not underbuilt."
Like Ozark's and Eagle's existing systems, the new beachfront
houses go up fast — it took four days to frame two houses on
the peninsula this spring (see photos). And they're energy
efficient (houses typically earn the Energy Star label). What's new
is an increased emphasis on redundant wind-resistant structural
The embedded studs in the wall panels are screwed to the OSB
skins. They also serve as anchoring points for wind uplift
strapping. This allows a complete load path from the pile
foundation girders, through the wall studs, and up to the 6x6
horizontal timber beam at the wall top, without relying on any
attachment to the OSB skin. "That top beam is the secret to the
strapping, because you're screwing into a 6x6 beam," says Disch.
Timber roof trusses are bolted to the wall sill beam also, and SIP
roof panels are screwed to those trusses.
But in addition, house corner trusses receive a 3/4-inch steel
rod through the top of each truss, down through the wall, and
bolted to the elevated house foundation's deep timber piles. "It's
as hurricane-proof as anything that I've seen done, short of a
concrete bomb shelter," says Disch.
Step one in a four-day, two house build:
Standing SIP walls atop stick-framed floor systems on elevated pile
foundations. Two-by-four framing embedded into the panels on
16-inch centers serves for attaching metal structural connectors as
well as fiber-cement siding.
With corner posts and wall beams set, a
pre-skinned gable-end timber truss is flown in by crane. A steel
rod will tie the truss directly to the foundation.
Eight-inch roof panels with tongue-and-groove
wood facing complete the assembly. Insulation levels and
air-tightness in these homes will surpass Texas energy code
Will the system take off in Bolivar? Disch is guardedly
optimistic, given the difficult situation on the peninsula. "There
are people who were uninsured, or are underinsured, or are still
fighting with their insurance companies," he notes, "and there are
people just waiting to see what the hurricane season has for us
this year." But he says there's a buzz growing for his product. "We
got a lot of press and TV coverage for that two-house build," he
says. "I've got another one being delivered August 10th that is a
Currently, Disch is looking for a local builder to represent the
idea in Texas. "Builders generally aren't the type to go out and
promote new things," he observes. "But my rep is going down there
on the 10th too, and his purpose is to find a builder that will put
up a model home, out there on the Bolivar. Once we have that in
place, I think we're going to sell a lot of houses down there.
Cause there is no reason to rebuild the Bolivar back the way it was
before — there's no way it can stand."