DALLAS — Phenolic composite panels are fairly common in high-tech transportation applications because of their strength and fire resistance.
Now a Nevada company is hoping to translate those qualities into a product for housing.
American Structural Composites Inc. of Reno, Nev., introduced a new modular home system at the International Builders' Show in Dallas Jan. 15-18. The system is based on glass-reinforced phenolic panels. The panels include an internal truss system for added strength and can be filled with foam for insulation. ASC is calling the panels C-SIPs, for composite structural insulated panels.
The panels are locked together on the building site with a PVC connector system and steel rods. The roof structure also uses the panels. Two workers can set up the lightweight panels on a concrete slab without using special tools or heavy machinery, according to company literature.
``The walls go together in three to four days, and the whole house can be finished in a week,'' Tim Faust, ASC's business development manager, said at the show.
Unlike some previous building systems — insulated concrete forms made with polystyrene foam, or PVC panels like that of Royal Group Technologies — the ASC C-SIP is not filled with concrete for strength.
``Our product is the structure,'' Faust said.
That structure is designed to withstand hurricane-force winds, as well as rot, water and insects, he said.
A sample home built near Reno has given ASC engineers valuable feedback about the system, Faust said.
``That was a prototype,'' he said. ``We're light-years advanced now.''
An ASC house costs about 20 percent less than a traditional stick-built structure, Faust said.
ASC produces the panels on a continuous lamination line.
``Part of our proprietary technology is processing the phenolic into a continuous panel,'' he said.
The company laminates the panels to phenolic I-beams pultruded by an outside source and polyisocyanurate foam for insulation and added strength.
A variety of surface textures can be integrated into the surface of the panels as they are being made, Faust said.
ASC plans to lease 50,000 square feet of a building in Reno to begin commercial production of the panels. Staff will increase from its current 14 to 20, Faust said, adding the new plant will be ``switched on'' in late February.
The first project for ASC and its increased capacity will be a 48-unit housing development for senior citizens in Reno, with groundbreaking scheduled for the first quarter of 1999.
``That will be our flagship project,'' Faust said. ``We will find out where the land mines and speed bumps are.''
Future plans include multistory designs. The system is designed to go up to six stories without widening the panels, but ASC has stuck to one-floor designs to speed up building-code approval, Faust said.
``We can build everything from a shack to a chalet with this stuff,'' Faust said.