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News and Articles. Stay Connected Get the latest news and information from Echelon by signing up to receive our monthly newsletter. GOAL: Reduce costs by eliminating the need for footings. GOAL: Provide the structural strength for a mixed masonry wall. GOAL: Increase construction efficiencies. Patented pumpable mortar further speeds installation of this system. The alternatives include steel, modular, structural panels, and concrete. When properly engineered, steel can be stronger than a wood frame.

The lower market share for steel-framing is mostly due to price and familiarity.

A steel home costs more to build — around 3 percent more according to most estimates — and few residential builders have the tools or skills needed to work with it. Note: All costs in this article are very rough averages. Building materials fluctuate in cost from month to month, and also vary from region to region.

Steel studs also pose different challenges for plumbers and electricians, and because steel conducts heat, the insulator has to take steps to isolate the frame from the sheathing — usually by wrapping the home with rigid foam insulation. Modules are built in a factory and finished on the inside.


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The local builder knits them together and adds finishing touches, like decks. Modulars come in all quality levels and price points, and some manufacturers combine custom-built modules in different ways to create complex designs, that include cathedral ceilings and other popular architectural features. In principle, the factory environment offers better control over everything from the framing to the insulation, but in reality the product varies.

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Other modular builders have been known to cut corners — for example, with thin interior walls that offer little privacy from noise. Ask lots of questions, get references, and scrutinize the product specs as carefully as you would with any home. Expect higher quality to carry a higher price tag. SIPs come with pre-cut window and door openings as well as conduit for electrical wiring. Specially trained crews assemble them on the jobsite.

A SIP home tends to be well insulated and draft free, so it needs less energy to heat and cool than a typical stick frame. As such, you may need a smaller heating and cooling system. While the materials for the building shell will cost more than a wood frame, builders who offer this system claim that overall cost roughly equals stick framing, and may even be lower. Wood framing is used for floors, ceilings, interior walls, and roofs. Chemical reactions between the materials form microscopic air bubbles that act as insulation.

Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction - Steven Bliss, a book review by Daniel Friedman

Costs will be somewhat more than standard CMUs. ICF walls offer thermal mass and provide insulation values of up to R — higher than most wood-framed walls. That makes them a good fit for any climate. About 30 ICF manufacturers serve the U. Costs are at least 2 percent to 5 percent more than a wood framed home of similar design, but the actual price depends on the local market and could be much higher.

What sets an ICF home apart is its sheer mass.

Concrete stands up well to high winds, so ICF manufacturers and builders position the system as a good choice in hurricane-prone areas. But remember that, in most cases, hurricane damage starts with roof uplift, and the home still has a wood framed roof. The heavy walls also deaden street noise so, when fitted with quality windows and doors, the home should be quieter than a wood frame. As a next step, discuss a method above that interests you with your builder.

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