Written By: Michael DeLaura
Contractors have been using prefabricated, EIFS Panels as an energy efficient and expedient construction process for over 40 years. Why does everyone love EIFS Panels? The panels, which can be structural or non structural, are manufactured off-site in a warehouse, offering increased quality control, highly engineered connections, no interruption during inclement weather, and improved productivity with little or no scaffolding required.
Another thing to love about prefabricated, EIFS panels is that they can contribute to LEED Points in several categories including:
- Energy & Atmosphere, Optimize energy performance
- Materials & Resources, Building product disclosure and optimization-sourcing of raw materials
- Materials & Resources, Construction and demolition waste management planning
- Indoor Environmental Quality, Low-emitting Materials, Thermal Comfort
- Regional Priority
Let’s Talk about the Construction
Construction of the panels begins offsite as the floors are being poured. Once the floors are completed, the panels are transported to the jobsite and installation occurs on site using a tower crane. The entire construction schedule is reduced by 30 to 40 percent as compared to an in place application. Additionally, the panels can be either structural or non-structural, depending on the type of construction and building height. A structural prefabricated EIFS Panel consists of many components including, a metal stud frame, exterior sheathing, air barrier, adhesive, insulation, basecoat, mesh, and finish.
A double silicone sealant joint installed between the panels ties them together, providing a watertight exterior cladding assembly. A 7/8” closed cell backer rod is installed in the ¾” expansion joint. The sealant joint has an hour-glass configuration with a width to depth ratio of 2:1.
A non-structural EIFS Panel consists of the same components without the metal stud frame and exterior sheathing.
The EPS insulation has a furring channel embedded in the foam with a sleeve on each end to allow for a mechanical attachment to the substrate. The panel is attached to the substrate with mechanical and adhesive attachment. There is no need to modify an existing structure for retrofits and remodels. A ship-lap design is used as one method for joining the panels. Sealant joints installed between the panels provides a watertight seal. Non-structural panels are ideally suited for existing low-rise buildings where disruption of the existing business is critical.
Don’t Forget Specialty Finishes
Prefabricated, EIFS Panels can replicate brick, granite, limestone, metal panels, and precast finishes. Specialty finishes are easier to install and can require fewer specialty trades than traditional cladding materials. The finishes offer a cost-effective aesthetic option, increase energy efficiency, and moisture protection. A specialty finish offers an identical look to the natural cladding, but is less heavy, allowing the creation of a lighter building with the potential for a more economical structure.
A Case in Point – The Mayfair Renaissance
The Mayfair Renaissance is a 36-story tower built in downtown Atlanta constructed to match an existing precast tower on site. The structural panels, built off-site in a controlled environment in Lexington, Kentucky, increased quality control and no days lost to inclement weather. The lightweight, prefabricated panels reduced the amount of structural steel as compared to the precast. Prefabricated, EIFS Panels have been a popular method of construction in the hotel industry for the last 30 years, reducing construction time and allowing the owner to receive revenue more quickly when compared to a traditional, in place application. In addition, EIFS panel are more energy-efficient with a blanket of continuous insulation to reduce heating and cooling costs.
Panels and Design
The decision to use prefabricated panels should begin early in the design process. The design professional must determine whether the project is suited for EIFS Panels. In many cases, not all areas of the project will be panelized – there could be an in-place application on a portion of the project depending on tie-ins and connections. However, for many projects, prefabricated, EIFS panels can provide significant savings to both the construction process and its costs.
Michael DeLaura is a contributing writer for various publications. With more than 30 years of sales experience, he also is an Exterior Cladding Specialist at Sto Corp., a leading German manufacturer of construction materials with offices in the United States and worldwide. Michael can be reached at Mdelaura@stocorp.com.