How are Panel-built Houses Constructed

Panel-built houses are raised in a fast and easy way by assembling prefabricated panels. Each of these panels is designed as a complete construction element, such as a wall, a ceiling, or a roof that is manufactured and cut in a factory-like environment. The panels are always built off-site as two-dimensional construction elements that, once assembled, will define the overall volume of the house.

What type of house can be designed with panellised construction

Building a house with prefabricated panels offers significant flexibility since pretty much any house style or design aesthetic can be achieved with this construction method. With panellised construction, it is possible to influence the most important aspects that determine the house’s design style.

Main factors to consider when defining the type of house design:

  • The shape of the house: Each panel is designed and shaped individually to satisfy the design needs of each house. For example, if we want to design a contemporary-looking house, we can design a panellised house with square shapes. However, when the preference is a traditional look, it is best to opt for a shape that accommodates a pitched roof.
  • Finishing materials: The cladding selection for panellised houses is extensive: wood, plaster, stone, metallic sheets, or any siding material available in traditional construction. Some materials, such as steel or metallic sheets, grant the house a modern, industrial look. While materials such as natural wood can remind us of a more traditional, rustic style.
  • Decorative details: Panel-built houses can also add or eliminate decorative elements on the façades to contribute to the house’s overall aesthetic. For example, a façade with a minimal variety of materials and colours that cuts down on decorative details is seen as modern-looking. While a house with added decorative elements on the façade offers a more traditional look.

 

Norge House 182 - Square shaped design
The square-shaped design of this panellised house accentuates a contemporary style https://spassio.com/models/norge-house-house-182/

 

woodville mohma premium exclusive vaulted ceiling shape
The exclusive vaulted ceiling shape combined with the continuous metallic cladding grants this panel-built house a modern, industrial aesthetic https://spassio.com/models/woodville-mohma-premium/

 

woodec prefabricated house 182 - pitched roof shape, offer this panel-built house a traditional look
The variety of colours, materials, and details, combined with a pitched roof shape, offer this panel-built house a traditional look https://spassio.com/models/woodec-prefabricated-house-182/

What are the different types of prefabricated panels?

To raise a panel-built house, there are various panel types to choose from depending on the materials and building systems used to manufacture them. Each of these panel types is a highly engineered construction element built to serve two main functions: insulating the indoor environment from the outdoor space and often also sustaining the structure of the house. The panels can be manufactured with all the wiring and plumbing installations already in place, so just ready to connect the electrical sockets, the luminaries or the water tapes when the building is assembled.

Structural Insulated Panel (SIP)

SIP panels are one of the most common types since they are highly versatile and can be utilised in various building solutions. These panels are a simple structure formed by two timber boards sandwiching a layer of insulation that can be used to build walls, ceilings, floors, or roofs.

The two timber boards holding the structure of the panel can be made of different materials, the most common ones being solid wood, plywood, OSB, particle board or laminated timber [1]. The materials and thickness chosen for the boards will depend on each project’s structural requirements.

While the two boards’ main purpose is to create a strong structural element, the insulation layer is designed to create a comfortable indoor environment by maintaining the indoor temperature [2]. The thickness and composition of the insulation layer is defined by the energy efficiency requirements of the finished house.

Structural Insulated Panels (SIP)
Structural Insulated Panels (SIP). Image credit: Woodville https://www.bewoodville.com/concepto/

Timber-frame panels

These panels are the modern approach to timber-frame construction. They are built in a factory following the same traditional timber frame construction structure to achieve high-performance levels. These panels are very versatile and can be used to build walls, ceilings, floors, or roofs

Timber-frame panels are usually composed of a structure of studs and rails filled with insulation and covered with two boards that, in most cases, are made of OSB. However, this basic structure of the timber-frame panel is often complemented with additional layers such as finishing materials or waterproof barriers [3].

Manufacturing of timber-frame panels
Manufacturing of timber-frame panels. Image credit: Commod House https://www.commod-house.com/en/produktion/

Concrete Insulated Panels

This panel system offers a new approach to concrete construction: It simplifies the building process without compromising the qualities provided by concrete buildings. Concrete insulated panels consist of two precast reinforced concrete boards sandwiching an inner layer of thermal insulation [4].

Lightening the concrete volume with thermal insulation reduces one of the most significant inconveniences of concrete construction, which is the weight of the structure itself. However, it maintains the strength and flexibility typical of concrete buildings. Therefore, a house built with this system shows concrete-like qualities such as strong resistance to earthquakes [5].

Concrete Insulated Panels
Concrete Insulated Panels. Image credit: Farcimar http://www.farcimar.pt/en/products-and-services/panels/structural-panels/

Cross Laminated Timber (CLT)

CLT panels are made by glueing different layers of laminated timber together to create a highly resistant timber element engineered to offer superior performance. Though what enhances the strength of CLT panels is the position of these layers. Every layer is crossed over the previous one by turning it ninety degrees.

By alternating the orientation of the fibres, the resistance of the panel increases rapidly while maintaining a light weight. As a result, these panels offer structures resistant to earthquakes and fires, bringing wooden construction to the next level.

how are panel-built houses constructed
Panels made of Cross Laminated Timber (CLT). Image credit: KLH https://www.klhuk.com/

Alternative structural panels

While the construction industry evolves, new panel systems are being designed. Most of these alternative structural panels are designed to offer unique features such as sustainability or energy efficiency. EcoCocon, for example, has designed a timber-straw wall element almost entirely with natural, renewable materials to achieve these qualities [6].

Timber-Straw wall panel.
Timber-Straw wall panel. Image credit: EcoCocon https://ecococon.eu/

How are the structural prefabricated panels joined?

Once the panels are manufactured and shaped, they are ready to be assembled to create the house volume. This assembly can be done in two different settings: on-site or off-site.

On-site assembly: When the panels are assembled on-site, these are delivered to the property and put together right on-site to create the house’s volume.

Off-site assembly: the panels are assembled in a factory-like environment and are delivered to the property as a prefabricated volume already. This is a very common practice in modular construction.

How long does a panel-built take?

It takes around four months to assemble the panels and complete the necessary construction works for the house to be ready to be lived in. Assembling off-site offers the advantage of building most of the house in a sheltered environment with no weather disruptions. Though, in mild climates, it takes roughly the same time to raise a panel built on-site and off-site [7].

Why choose Panel Built

Panel builts strongly rely on off-site construction, where most of the construction process is mechanised, and the industrialisation of the process grants this construction method outstanding benefits.

The advantages of building with panels:

Fast construction: All the construction elements are integrated into one single prefabricated element: the panel, which simplifies and accelerates the construction process enormously.

Design possibilities: Every panel is designed and shaped individually, enabling the construction of unlimited house design options.

Construction flexibility: There are almost no limitations to this building system since, depending on the project’s necessities, the panels can be assembled both on-site and off-site.

Quality: The panels are fabricated in a highly industrialised environment which offers the ideal conditions to work with precision and reduce human errors.

Panel-built construction is an innovative system that has radically changed the house-building industry. Once built, a panellised house looks just like a traditionally built house, though their building processes are quite distinct.

References:

[1]ETAG 019 (2004) Guideline for European technical approval for prefabricated wood-based loadbearing stressed skin panels European Organisation for Technical Approvals (EOTA) https://www.eota.eu/sites/default/files/uploads/ETAGs/etag-019-en.pdf
[2]Features Woodville https://www.bewoodville.com/en/features/
[3]Paneles WES Wood Engineering Systems https://wesviviendasprefabricadas.com/paneles/#panel1
[4]Structural Panels Farcimar http://www.farcimar.pt/en/products-and-services/panels/structural-panels/
[5]Baupanel®, Reinforce concrete monolithic structures Baupanel System https://www.baupanel.com/en/efficient-building-solutions/
[6]A panel system designed by nature Eco Cocon https://ecococon.eu/the-panel
[7]Colegio Territorial de Arquitectos de Alicante (2022, May 2) Jornada WES “Claves para entender el nuevo paradigma constructivo: la construcción industrializada” (1:41:49) YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9pLuwmJ9LL0&t=2700s

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