- ECSUS Design
SIPS Vs Kit House Construction
Updated: Oct 15, 2021
Making the decision to build your own chalet in the Alps is a big step. Often people start by looking into ‘kit houses’ in France, which are known as the ‘affordable’ or ‘budget’ option. However there are pitfalls and hidden costs with kit builds that often lead people to enquire with us about a bespoke SIPs construction instead.
Although SIP panels are precision-cut off site, with the ‘kit’ then delivered ready to install, it is not a ‘kit house’ package. What we offer sits between the self-builder budget option, and chalet ‘constructeur’ or ‘developer’ prices. As a ‘suivi du chantier’, managing all or part of your SIPs build from design to handing over the keys, we’re able to offer affordability without compromise on design.
To explain how it works, we’ve answered some of our FAQs below….
What’s the difference between a SIPs vs kit house build?
SIP panels offer almost limitless flexibility of design and can be adapted to any plans.
Kit houses often come pre-designed with standard details, offering little chance for you to make modifications or incorporate your own style. The pre-designed kits can be uninspiring, and if you go for more personalisation options any cost savings can be lost.
SIPs allow any type of cladding to be easily fixed to the panel. This can easily be changed at a later date. Changes can be made on site or later with a standard SIP structure, and in future years it’s easy to make additions like an extension, building into the existing panels. This flexibility allows clients to make decisions during the construction phase, as sometimes rooms can look quite different when standing in them to how they seemed on paper. The lack of ‘prefinishing’ does not add significant time to the build – standard SIPs are quick and easy to fix to, and the outside can be completed at the same time as the inside.
Kit houses often come with ‘prefinished’ panels with integral cladding, making it impossible to change the cladding if it’s damaged or your taste changes. It’s also difficult to change the position of openings (doors, windows, vents) at a later date, and if the panels also have built-in wires it’s not easy to change the location of internal fittings.
SIPs have more flexibility in that additional cuts and amendments can be made on site, and spare panels can be available to allow modifications if necessary as construction progresses, thereby cutting the risk of delays.
Prefinished ‘kit house’ panels are more difficult to replace in the case of on-site or in-transit damage. If any tiny measurement is out, affecting the structural design, it can be difficult to amend or correct. Waiting for extra panels to be shipped in can cause delays.
SIPs feature integral insulation properties so taking up important internal square meterage with thick insulation isn’t necessary.
Kit house panels often don’t have built-in insulation, meaning that it needs to be added later, taking up internal space and adding on build time and cost.
Is a bespoke SIPs build as affordable as a kit construction?
If a simple pre-designed chalet will do, a kit house could work for you as the budget option.
However, if design and creating a quality, eco property to your own style is important to you, working with us on a bespoke SIPs build could provide better value. Our recent fully-managed builds have come in at under €2,500 per square metre of habitable space, with luxury finish. The SIPs structure itself costs around €550-750 HT/M2 of habitable space. We then go on to make savings for clients by reducing on-site labour and waste. Plus clients save well into the future as our SIPs panels are so energy efficient household bills are significantly reduced. Our latest chalet was awarded energy ratings in the top 2% locally, and its annual heating bills were estimated at just €318, with hot water bills €189. Good for the bank balance and the planet!
What warranty will I get with SIPs vs kit house builds?
Our SIP chalets are installed by a fully French registered team covered by French decennale 10-year insurance, and all our chalets come with a 50-year manufacturer warranty.
If you were to buy a kit house from outside France, you would need to check whether it conformed to French government standards and if it was covered by French assurance. If not, it could be difficult to sell down the line.
What about lenders and SIPs vs kit house builds?
SIPs carry ATE (Agrement Technique Europeen) certification for use in France. We work with insurers and lenders on clients’ behalf to secure funding. Our recent projects have been funded by France’s largest lenders and insurers including BNP Paribas.
If a kit home is ordered from outside France it may not be covered by French insurance, plus it can be difficult to find a mortgage lender. Lenders often assume ‘kit houses’ not made in France are standard off-the-peg designs and need proof of quality and that it will meet the latest government standards for energy efficiency.
How do kit houses and SIPs builds meet French building regulations?
SIP panel jointing systems, as well as sealing and taping, allows our chalets to exceed even Passivhaus standards for airtightness. The U and R values of the panels, with a small amount of rockwool in service voids, mean our recent builds have easily surpassed the government’s RT2012 energy efficiency requirements.
If the kit comes from outside France it may not meet the strict RT2012 regulations. All new build chalets have to pass an air leakage test to ensure energy efficiency and check their eco credentials.
So what about you?
If you’re weighing up different types of construction, we'd be happy to talk through how your plans could work with SIPs, or show you round one of our builds. Get in contact here.