Addressing Skilled Labor Shortages with SIPs

Addressing Skilled Labor Shortages with SIPs

Originally posted in Construction Specifier Magazine, December 2014

Specification approaches for structural systems

Written by:  Joe Pasma, PE

The project team for the Jacob E. Manch Elementary School used structural insulated panels (SIPs) to reduce the project's framing time from 17 to 7 weeks

The project team for the Jacob E. Manch Elementary School used structural insulated panels (SIPs) to reduce the project’s framing time from 17 to 7 weeks

The good news is commercial construction is picking up after several dismal years, with construction spending projected to be 5.5 percent higher in 2014 than 2013. The bad news is the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) has pointed out “a skilled labor shortage in the country may threaten projected growth and the ongoinvg recovery.”

In an AGC/SmartBrief survey of building industry professionals, 63 percent of respondents said their company has experienced a labor shortage during the past year, and 30 percent reported turning down work because of a shortage of skilled labor. The study found labor shortages are not limited to specific construction sectors, but are a broad problem.

Since so many skilled laborers have left the work force, some construction industry observers are calling for increased training and apprenticeship programs. Rebuilding the construction labor force is a multi-year process, though, so it is important for building industry professionals to explore alternative approaches to shortages of skilled workers.

Although specifiers typically are not responsible for addressing labor issues, they can help solve the problem through selection of simpler-to-install, yet effective building systems. For example, to overcome the challenge of too few skilled framers, more building professionals are using alternative structural systems, such as structural insulated panels (SIPs).

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