Do Wall Panels Really Save Builders Labor and Resources?

By Ben Hershey, President, 4Ward Consulting Group, LLC

When making decisions on panelization of your structure, most builders find it fairly easy deciding to use roof and floor trusses: but when it comes to making a decision to use wall panels, there is an inadequate understanding of the benefits of wall panels.

Builders who elect to use wall panels see cost savings in the long-term, shorter construction cycle times, and better overall quality in the framing. Prefabricated wall panels are built in the component factory and take advantage of many of the same advanced technologies as roof and floor trusses. Builders provide BMC with the building plans and the wall panel design technician uses sophisticated software to design the wall panels for the building’s specific needs. Once the panels are designed, the parts are precision cut, nailed, and screwed together in BMC’s quality controlled manufacturing operations creating a stronger, more durable wall structure.

Prefabricated wall panels are dimensionally more accurate than framing in the field since they are made with higher quality lumber from a larger lumber inventory of material. After the wall panels are built, they are labeled to match the labeling on the placement diagram provided by BMC. The walls are packaged and shipped to the jobsite where they are erected in a minimum of time.

Traditional framing methods rely on the trade contractor to assemble all the pieces on the jobsite where the building is being constructed. Bad weather, scheduling conflicts, construction errors, and maintaining a qualified labor force can all lead to work delays or expensive rebuilds. In the Framing the American Dream study, using wall panels saved nearly 71% in framing labor time for a 2,600 square foot home compared with traditional conventional framing.

One of the most important deciding factors is labor, and the efficiency of using labor. When a builder can coordinate the field labor with BMC by working with them to supply the wall panels, scheduling the floor and roof trusses as part of the same jobsite package, the resulting savings are significant. And on projects where you have multi-lots this construction efficiency (cycle time) can be an even bigger factor. You save labor by moving your trade contractors faster from various sites because of the closer cycle time scheduling using components including wall panels without degrading the quality of framing. And because many builders today are struggling with the experience of on-site crews, panelization is even more important in saving money. Training crews takes time and money; using wall panels does not require you to train new crews on specified framing details including how to layout the studs, corner details, and framing around openings, etc.

Because wall panels are designed and built in the factory, walls are square, proper nailing patterns are used, and studs and headers are designed to support the applied loads. Besides quality issues, there are other drawbacks to conventional/stick wall framing methods. The framing trade contractor will need raw lumber on the job site to frame the structure leaving the lumber open to theft. Conventional framing also produces a large amount of job site waste adding to the costs of building the structure. A savings both in labor and material waste is gained by the exterior sheathing being applied in the manufacturing process. You also benefit from less pilferage at the jobsite because someone is not walking off with material that was not used awaiting pickup for another jobsite.

Builders using wall panels from BMC will reduce jobsite cycle time, reduce labor costs and improve the quality of the structures they build.