After 30 years of remodeling, I figured I had done just about everything there was to do — until I took on my first structural insulated panel (SIP) renovation. The project involved using SIPs to transform a modest cape into a country French-style home, with a roof featuring numerous irregular hips, turrets, steep pitches, and radius-top dormers.

Original estimates for stick framing the roof ran as much as $80,000 higher than the SIPs plan presented to the owners by project architect Bill Chaleff, of Water Mill, N.Y. Chaleff designs exclusively with SIPs and takes advantage of their structural characteristics — their ability to act as diaphragms, for example, or large flat beams. This...

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