FAQ’s Page

Energy Efficiency made Simple

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Check out our frequently asked questions section to see some of the most common inquiries into the revolutionary Build SMART prefabricated building envelope system process.

I’m reducing costs by specifying Build SMART J-forms for my insulated concrete slab-on-grade. What do I need to tell my concrete contractor?
Build SMART E-Wall Systems are factory built to tighter tolerances than most site-built walls. This helps ensure effective air sealing and energy efficiency as walls rise up from the foundation to the roof. Though use of R-Guard Joint & Seam Filler or Build SMART Bond-N-Seal at all E-Wall panel edges - including beneath the bottom plate - eliminates minor imperfections, it’s important to ensure that your slab edge is flat and level. Specify a floor flatness rating of FF 30 – 35 and a Floor Levelness rating of FL 20 – 25. (In both cases, the higher the number, the better.) If your contractor only refers to a target “F” number, target F 30 or higher, all the way out to the slab edges. Without this precaution, slab edges frequently taper down and may require a thin layer of self-leveling grout before installing the treated bottom plate that your first level of E-Wall panels rest on. This can delay installation of your entire E-Wall system.
Why is Build SMART more expensive than conventional jobsite framing?
Because Build SMART does so much more than jobsite framing. We work with your design team to optimize building costs and performance. We vet, source, purchase, receive and quality-inspect all incoming materials used in your build. Everything that goes into your Build SMART systems is sorted, stored and secured – inside – to avoid risk of theft or damage caused by Mother Nature. All building materials are machine-cut to precise dimensions to ensure tight dimensional tolerances and minimize material waste. Nails and screw fasteners are augmented with air sealing adhesives to enhance structural integrity and building performance. Optional adhesive lamination of your continuous exterior insulation eliminates thermal breaks which may reduce building performance and durability. Factory installed windows are installed plumb, level and square then fully air-sealed in their intended location. Once proper window operation is confirmed, each panel is sequentially skidded. Each skid is then weather protected, loaded and secured for transport, offload, and easy panel installation.
How are rising material and labor costs impacting the cost of Build SMART Systems?
Though lumber prices fluctuate and are difficult to predict, Build SMART communicates regularly with our suppliers and leverages our buying power to reduce material costs wherever possible. In addition, we supply all of the tools needed for construction and provide enhanced worker benefits and predictable hours. This allows Build SMART to pay lower hourly wages than are typical for on-site construction. Build SMART systems also help control higher jobsite labor costs by substantially reducing the time needed for field assembly and dry-in.
My Build SMART quote came back higher than I expected. Why so high?
When comparing costs for Build SMART to quotes for conventional on-site construction, consider the time, money and frustration you’ll save on: Project Management Time Vetting and sourcing essential building materials, laborers and framers. Overseeing and inspecting work completed by site workforce. Dealing with trades and costly jobsite delays caused by inclement weather or scheduling conflicts. Offloading, storing, securing and weather-protecting essential materials. Coordinating completed Build SMART systems delivery. On-site Construction Time Constructing Structural framing Installing Structural sheathing Air Sealing the Building Envelope Walls and Rough Openings Installing Continuous Exterior Insulation Detailing the Weather Resistive Barrier within each E-Wall panel Sourcing customer selected windows (optional) Off-loading, quality inspecting and securely storing high performance windows (optional) Factory Installing high performance windows (optional) Managing and disposing of waste generated from the above steps Eliminating days-missed due to weather or trades scheduling conflicts By completing these phases of any building project while the site is being prepped and the foundation is installed, Build SMART shaves weeks off a typical construction timeline. Once Build SMART E-Wall systems arrive, a 3-man crew averages final installation of the completed building envelope at a rate of 35 – 40+ lineal feet per hour. This substantially accelerates dry-in time, reducing risk of further delays and property damage.
How can I control my costs without compromising building performance?
1. Complex projects cost more because they consume more material, more labor and generate more waste. This is true in every phase of construction, from initial site work until move-in. Simple structures are easier and less expensive to build. 2. Avoid design changes. Thoroughly think through how your home or commercial building will be used before initiating construction. Change orders delay construction and can dramatically impact the total cost to build.
Why do I need continuous external insulation (CEI)?
A building material’s Resistance to heat transfer is a measure of that material’s R-value. R-Value is determined by the amount of air or gas trapped in a material. Air trapped in the cells of kiln dried softwood lumber create an effective R-value of just over R-1 per inch. The most common types of fibrous, stud-bay insulations have an effective value of R 3.5 or more per inch. (Stud bays are the spaces located between vertical framing members – aka “studs”- of structural framing.) In walls that rely solely on stud bay insulation, the lower R-value of structural framing interrupts the continuity of the stud bay insulation layer. These interruptions – isolated areas of reduced R-Value that span continuously between interior conditioned spaces to the building exterior – create “thermal bridges”. In a wood stud wall framed 16 inches on center, 25-30% of that wall acts as a thermal bridge channeling heat out of the building. This reduces your insulative value by 15-20%. Installing continuous exterior insulation (CEI) over the sheathing and studs, reduces or eliminates this thermal bridging effect, dramatically improving the efficiency of your thermal barrier.
How do I convince my Client that wood frame and Build SMART are appropriate for my project?
How do you make the case?
It is difficult for some people to see the superiority of wood frame construction. People see wood frame as inferior mainly for two reasons: Architects don’t seriously consider wood frame as an option above 3 stories (even though IBC allows wood frame up to 6 stories). Second, because the wood frame oriented segment of the construction industry continues to build without regard to building science, many people think of it as poor quality. Among experts, however, there is no disagreement. Air tight wood frame can provide excellent, high quality and durable buildings, but they must be carefully detailed so the wall assembly “breathes” (doesn’t trap moisture, mold and rot). Build SMART has fully embedded all the best practices and has vetted the material compatibilities of its wall panel assembly. We've been refining our QA/QC for years. This simply can’t be replicated in the traditional stick built approach. Build SMART’s ultimate advantage is making it affordable to satisfy building code requirements, and even the very demanding Passive House standard without special skills or tools or even special builder knowledge. We really are the easy button. There are many advantages of wood frame. The big-3 are inherent cost effectiveness and a large pool of competitive bidders, quick construction, and sustainability (North American source material, low embodied energy, high embodied carbon, easy deconstruction and reuse). There are many advantages of the manufactured approach. The big-3 are superior quality that can be achieved in a controlled factory setting, it is a fast-track strategy (production begins while the team is still getting permit approval, preparing the site and pouring the foundation), and much faster assembly on site so that the building is dried-in and ready for all the trades to get started much sooner.
Describe your pre-construction services. Do you charge a fee?
Build SMART does not charge a fee for services. We are happy to offer our expertise to support the design team and help optimize the project. SD phase: Build SMART can comment on the orientation and window/wall ratios, the volume/skin ratio, the continuity of buiding envelope and ease of prefabrication. DD phase: Build SMART can comment on optimizing the energy and cost budgets. CD phase: Build SMART can provide model spec sections for the J-Form and Underslab Insulation System and the Wall panel system. Construction Phase: Build SMART provides shop drawings for approval before fabrication begins, then pre-installation instruction for the Contractor with panel delivery to the job site.
Can Build SMART help with cost estimating, coordination with the General Contractor, support with Architectural details, constructability and feasibility?
Budgeting and Pricing: Early in the design phase, for project budgeting purposes, we provide preliminary cost estimating for Build SMART’s exterior envelope components. We have a spreadsheet that allows comparison of our system with stick building or any kind of panelized system. We can run comparisons and or coach project members on using the spreadsheet themselves. When final bid documents are ready, Build SMART provides final pricing of our systems. Construction Coordination: We work very closely with the GC. The panels are very easy to install, however, we want to maintain and build on our excellent reputation, so we go out of our way to help. We can adjust our production to match the GC’s sequencing, phasing and delivery needs. Architectural Support: We make it easy for architects to work with our system. We also can involve air barrier and waterproofing experts free of charge from our sister company PROSOCO if there are any sealing challenges that go beyond the use of our panels. Generally, Build SMART has no impact on the A/E’s Construction Drawings and Specs. Floor Plans: Just show the wall thickness as agreed for the Build SMART wall panels. Provide outside dimensions and dimensions of the main door opening and any full height columns at the double height wall (the Contractor generally provides columns). Show any point load locations that may be required per your Structural Engineer (we can provide multiple studs in our panels for these locations. Elevations: Build SMART panels can accommodate any Contractor provided exterior cladding and trim that you want. Sections: Just provide section cuts at the primary conditions, with vertical dimensions. Window Schedule or notes on the elevations provide sizes, operation types, etc. Specify windows in the normal way. Support with constructability and feasibility: We recognize that Build SMART’s ultimate role is to provide a product – the building enclosure system - but our preference is to be considered part of the design and construction team. We believe the AIA Integrated Product Delivery report should serve as a road-map for interaction among project team members even where the contractual relationships are of the conventional type. The report states, “It should also be noted that a standard Design Bid Build project, or any project for that matter, would benefit from developing a strong team following bid acceptance. Byproducts of a strong team are a greater commitment to the project, improved communications and a willingness to work through disputes rather than resorting to an adversarial mentality. Although a traditional DBB project cannot be integrated, it can still benefit from the principles of integration.”
How has Build SMART's proprietary system been addressed on previous projects?
We assume here you mean the preparation of RFPs and specs for prospective bidders who would stick-build the same assembly or offer a competing panelized system. Architects have based their specs on the Build SMART model specification section, which allows for “comparable product by other manufacturers” in lieu of the basis of design Build SMART system. We can make it available for your use.
It is critical that my team, especially the General Contractor, understands exactly how Build SMART's panelized system reduces subcontractor costs and labor on site. What should I tell them?
The use of the E-Wall and J-Form slab insulation systems positively impact the project schedule by reducing project duration. Essentially, the Build SMART prefabricated systems are a fast-track strategy where building enclosure components are manufactured in our factory at the same time as the permit is being approved, the site clearing and foundation work is completed. When the foundation is cured and ready, the Build SMART panels show up sequentially numbered and arranged on the truck. The crew is building with panels instead of sticks so the building is dried in much faster. This is one of the big attractions to the Build SMART systems. Passive House air tightness is achieved in about half the normal time without special skills, tools or equipment. Once installed, Build SMART E-Wall panels look very familiar to all the trades. They are looking at normal stud walls. They don’t even have to know that they are working on an extraordinarily high performance building. Therefore, with Build SMART, there is no premium cost for the unknowns that are often associated with SIP and other innovative structures.
Why should I use Build SMART? What’s in it for me?
Build SMART building envelope systems offer ultra-energy efficient construction while saving time and money for Contractors, Architects, Energy Modelers, Developers and Owners from day-1. We’ve streamlined adaptability and have eliminated no-value steps. Here’s how Build SMART benefits you: For the Contractor, Build SMART systems provide the value-added building envelope components that are particularly demanding for a well-insulated and air-tight building. Commodity items like floor and roof trusses are readily sourced locally by the Contractor. With Build SMART, you build with prefab foundation insulation and exterior wall panels instead of sticks. Build SMART's wall panel system combines several construction steps in one and reduces or eliminates cranes, scaffolding and a whole lot of labor cost. Build SMART wall panel assemblies are familiar to every MEP subcontractor so NO premium cost for high-performance outcomes. Reduced stress for skilled labor because the enclosure building science is embedded in the panels (pre-installed windows, vapor controlled). No special skills, tools or equipment required. For the designer, there’s no more guessing about assembly air tightness, thermal bridging or COST! By using Build SMART components, designers can create a high-performance building with the confidence and assurance of both quality and price. In addition, the Build SMART assemblies do not limit the design. Build SMART protects the design intent because every project is produced per order as YOU want it; as substrate for any aesthetic, from traditional to modern. For the energy modeler, the Build SMART system offers modular R-values for climate-specific design. The meticulously modeled system uses the outside of the thermal envelope as the reference line, so increasing or decreasing the R-value of the components does not affect the initial modeled geometry - saving huge amounts of time in re-entering project geometry. For the Owner, Build SMART gives you the low-energy, high-performance building you desire without limiting the style of your design. The Build SMART system can reduce your energy bills by 60-70%.
Can Build SMART work with an existing floor plan?
Yes! Give us a call or simply send your design documents and project requirements to us. If you are early in the design phase, we will respond with optimization ideas and preliminary budgeting. With developed design documents we can provide a quote.
How much customization is possible using the Build SMART system?
Every Build SMART project is custom - produced per order - so that your design intent is protected. Earlier in Build SMART's history we were limited to standard components, but now with computer driven production equipment we can cost-effectively accommodate a range of designs.
How long does it take to construct a Build SMART structure?
Our representatives will let you know the production backlog that we have already committed to. Of course, while Build SMART is producing wall panels, you will be busy getting the building permit, then preparing the site and pouring the foundation. When you are ready, the Build SMART truck will arrive with panels numbered and conveniently sequenced for fast and efficient construction. Builders tell us that a Build SMART project can be dried-in in half the time of conventional construction. That time reduction saves the related cost of labor and overhead.
How long will it take the components to ship once I place my order?
We schedule the production of wall panels to meet our commitments on each project. Leadtimes will vary.
What kinds of finishes – exterior and interior – are possible using Build SMART panels?
Build SMART wall panels accommodate interior finishes and exterior trim, siding as you have designed them.
What about my mechanical systems? How do they integrate into a Build SMART design?
Mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems are installed just like any other project. We recommend submitting your MEP Rough Opening Details which will help move things along faster. The Build SMART Installation Manual includes instructions for properly sealing penetrations through the exterior wall.
What other products or services are available from Build SMART?
Build SMART is a provider of high performance building enclosure systems. We do not aspire to be Contractors or Architects. We do not build and we do not design buildings. Instead we collaborate with and support our team partners. We highly value their support and advocacy for Build SMART.
Can I talk to a real person for more information?
Of course! We would love to learn about your project. Call us anytime at 888-376-3424.
Does Build SMART offer Architectural design services?
Build SMART does not offer architectural services. We do not make Construction drawings. Typically we produce shop drawings after an agreement has been signed. Generally, the Architect produces construction drawings. Floor Plans: No impact due to Build SMART. Just show the wall thickness as agreed for the Build SMART wall panels. Provide outside dimensions and dimensions of the main door opening and any full height columns at the double height wall (the Contractor generally provides columns). Show any point load locations that may be required per your Structural Engineer (we can provide multiple studs in our panels for these locations). Elevations: No impact due to Build SMART. Indicate any cladding and trim that you want. Sections: No impact due to Build SMART. Just show the double height section and the floor structure at the Mezz. Section. Provide vertical dimensions. Window Schedule or notes on the Elevations: No impact due to Build SMART. Provide sizes, manufacturer and model, operation types, etc. Build SMART shop drawings will include window details, so you don’t need to include them in the CD set. Just send project documents (SD, DD, or CD's) and we will freely collaborate with the design team.
How much insulation do I need where I’m building?
Proper building design today starts with a good energy analysis. Build SMART systems give the Engineer a high degree of confidence about the thermal enclosure. We generally exceeding the minimum IECC insulation requirements because high performance buildings - even Passive House performance - is proven to be a very good investment with a very short payback period.
I already have a builder. How can our builder work with Build SMART on our project?
We offer training for builders at construction kick-off so that crews work efficiently. Just provide us the contact information for your builder, and we’ll take it from there to meet your project’s needs at a cost you both can rely on.
How do I get started with Build SMART?
Call us as early as possible in your planning stage. Our representatives will be happy to freely assist you. We will help you optimize your energy and cost budgets. When you have drawings, send them across. It's that easy.
You say you can customize wall panels for each project, but I don’t see anything about choosing the type of lumber. Couldn’t I save money on my panel package if Build SMART used solid sawn lumber rather than LSL lumber?
It’s really a case of “pay me now or pay me later.” In addition to accommodating a more precise fabrication process, high quality engineered lumber ensures long term durability and energy efficient performance of your completed Build SMART envelope. Shrinkage of solid sawn lumber, caused as studs and wall plates dry and shrink down to equilibrium, can account for 1 inch of vertical shrinkage in a four-story wood framed building. Imagine what that does to the investment you’ve made in sealing out air and water leaks. What it does to the operation of high-performance windows and doors. The critical point, for example, is where the interior wood frame might abut a concrete block stairwell. This condition requires careful detailing by the Architect. Build SMART has addressed the issue at exterior walls and virtually eliminated by the vertical shrinkage by using engineered lumber. Build SMART employs advanced Laminated Strand Lumber (LSL) and Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) in all our assemblies to minimize building movement. LSL and LVL are engineered and manufactured at a moisture content that matches that of most fully enclosed and occupied structures (*FPL 2010) virtually eliminating shrinkage common to other structures. Builders will appreciate the time savings realized during site erection of these more precisely fabricated panels. Owners will appreciate the uncompromising performance and reduced maintenance/repair costs over time. Occupants will appreciate the trouble free, leak free performance of the walls that surround them. Engineered lumber is clearly an excellent investment in improved quality.
Does Build SMART have a solution if I want to use precast basement instead of a slab-on-grade?
When Build SMART has a project in the Eastern third of the US that involves a basement rather than slab-on-grade, we recommend Ideal Building Systems (IBS) insulated foundation panels. The Ideal precast basement panels have been shown to work well with our Build SMART panels. For above-ground walls that will be most familiar to contractors installing exterior and interior components to finish out a house, we believe the Build Smart panels are a better choice.

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