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Comparing SIPs Construction with Traditional Methods

Published 24th April 2019

With so many decisions to be made when building your own home, the build method and construction material you choose will ultimately shape your self-build outcome both for the short and long-term. As well as looking at the obvious elements of aesthetics, construction costs and energy efficiency, consideration should also be given to design flexibility, speed of build and space efficiency in equal prominence.

One of the key questions to address and a major factor in your self-build project is… which building method you should use.

As the leading provider of the Kingspan TEK™ Building System we encourage comparison and here we look at traditional brick and block compared to the many benefits of SIPs construction.

Photo: Comparing SIPs Construction with Traditional Methods

Energy Efficiency

If you want to build a highly efficient, sustainable home with low U-values, superior airtight qualities and minimal thermal bridging or even build to Passivhaus standards, then the inherent qualities of the market leading Kingspan TEK building system, supplied by SIPS@Clays must be considered.

Each panel consists of two sheets of oriented strand board (OSB) sandwiched around a rigid insulation core. As such, the structural insulated panels provide ‘built-in’ insulation from the outset to give a sustainable home that will provide low energy running costs for the lifespan of the property.

When compared to brick and block construction, which requires insulation to be fitted between cavities during the build process, with more complex and costly solutions needed to achieve similar U-values to that of a SIP build, the benefits of structural insulated panels should be considered.

Like brick and block, extra insulation can be added to a SIPs build to improve the thermal performance but to much greater effect. Kingspan TEK™ is supplied in 142mm and 172mm SIP panel thicknesses and SIPS@Clays does recommend using 142mm panels coupled with additional internal insulation to achieve U-values - far lower than can be achieved with traditional methods of construction.

Whilst it is possible to increase the overall thermal performance of brick and block by adding extra insulation, the negative effects of what is termed, thermal bridging, in a traditionally built modern structures cannot be ignored. A significant component of heat loss, thermal bridging must be a key consideration when embarking on your build project.

A SIPs system and in particular the Kingspan TEK™ Building System, significantly reduces the effects of thermal bridging to give an energy efficient air tight envelope. As such, the superior airtight values achieved, result in reduced heat loss, outstanding energy efficiency and minimal heating requirements, all of which are major factors in building a high performance sustainable home and make significant contribution to achieving Passivhaus certification.

Photo: Comparing SIPs Construction with Traditional Methods

Speed of Build

Time is money and as such the build time of your project is critical. Traditional methods of construction are reliant on a variety of external factors, for instance, availability of trades; knock on delays and of course, bad weather. Traditional builds can become seriously delayed by prolonged spells of rain, snow and freezing temperatures, with interruptions in the programme creating a ripple effect that inevitably wastes time and eats into your budget.

Building with SIPs however, is not subject to the weather being good, the availability of skilled wet trades, or any other on-site delays. In fact, as the SIPs panels are precision engineered off site and delivered to site ready for immediate erection by a fully qualified, BBA certified, erection team – which typically takes between two and three weeks, depending on size and complexity of the build - a predictable and accurate build programme can be created, ensuring both timescale and budget is adhered to.

Photo: Comparing SIPs Construction with Traditional Methods

Design Capabilities

There is a common misconception that SIPs structures have to be boxy and boring, in fact it’s quite the opposite. The flexibility in design and ease of construction means there are no limitations to what can be achieved and design complexity is no barrier to building your new home with SIP panels. Many architects are now suggesting structural insulated panels as a preferred method of construction to their clients.

One of the many design benefits of using SIPs, and in particular the Kingspan TEK™ building system, is that it will always provide a larger floor area than traditional build methods due to its thinner construction elements. This is particularly evident within the roof space for example, where unlike brick and block builds that require roof trusses, a SIPs build is precision engineered, and regardless of the roof’s complexities, does not require the installation of trusses. This obvious benefit will maximise your living space (for the same external dimensions) to provide a room in the roof and subsequently add value to your new home.

Unlike many other SIPs providers, here at SIPS@Clays, we have our own in-house design team who work closely with you or your chosen architect to translate your planning drawings into a SIP friendly design. We use a 3D CAD system to create geometrically complex structures and we are able to design in or out elements of design that will enhance or impede your project. Even if an architect isn’t expert in a SIP building system, we will ensure you achieve your perfect home, with value engineering and cost saving efficiencies built in.


There are many factors to consider when comparing traditional construction with SIPs costs and whilst on the face of it, traditional materials can be more cost effective than market leading structural insulated panels, overall costs cannot be measured like for like. For instance, speed of build, fewer labour and equipment costs and ongoing energy outlay will all influence overall project cost.

Here at SIPS@Clays we would encourage anyone considering building their new home to contact to one of our expert team who will be able to advise you of the benefits of building with SIPs.