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Survey shows slight decline in structural insulated panel production for 2012

A strong finish for the recovering housing market in the latter half of 2012 was not enough to keep the emerging structural insulated panel (SIP) industry in net positive growth for the year, according to a survey conducted by the Structural Insulated Panel Association (SIPA). The annual survey compiled data from 55 companies manufacturing wood-faced structural insulated panels in 2012—18 of them members of SIPA.

SIPs are a panelized building system composed of insulating foam sandwiched between two structural facings, providing an energy-efficient building enclosure for both residential and commercial buildings.

Survey results indicate that overall SIP production declined 7 percent to 18.7 million sq. ft. in 2012. Among SIPA members, who represent 68 percent of all wood-faced SIP production, the decline was a modest 3 percent.

“The SIP industry is still experiencing the effects of the housing crash through plant closures, a scaled back labor force and other austerity measures,” said SIPA Executive Director Bill Wachtler. “It will take time for the industry to catch up to the market, but the housing recovery and growing interest in green building present great growth potential for SIPs in the near future.”

Although residential construction remains a popular market for SIPs, 32 percent of all SIPs produced went to nonresidential buildings, including schools, assisted living, retail, and agricultural buildings. Nonresidential SIP production volume dropped 5 percent from the previous year.

Residential SIP production volume decreased in 2012, but SIP manufacturers reported shipping more housing units than the previous year. The SIP industry experienced significant growth in residential market share during the housing boom and still hovers around 1 percent of the single family market.

SIPA’s production survey contains data for SIPs made with oriented strand board (OSB), plywood, or fiber cement facing materials. Eighty-five percent of SIPs manufactured in 2012 used OSB for both facings, and another 8 percent used OSB for one of the two facings.

The survey also polled SIP manufacturers regarding their geographic distribution. The top ranking U.S. regions for SIP use were the East North Central (upper Midwest) and Mountain regions.

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