Wood-Efficient Building Practices

Address lumber-use reduction in every phase of construction, from design to waste disposal.

Wood-efficient building practices reduce the amount of dimensional lumber used in home construction and make better use of the lumber that's needed, benefiting builders, homeowners and the environment.

Builders save time and money. For example, building with prefabricated framing components such as trusses and flat building panels uses 26 percent less wood than stick framing and eliminates the need for site cutting by the framing crew. Homebuilders who use wood-efficient building practices also can market their homes as "green," a distinguishing characteristic of growing importance with homebuyers.

Homeowners enjoy durable and energy-efficient homes. Many wood-alternative products last longer than their traditional counterparts and require no painting, staining or termite control. In addition to reducing the amount of lumber needed, advanced framing practices allow for better insulation, improving a home's energy efficiency and indoor comfort.

The environment is preserved. And wood-efficient building practices help preserve the environment, cutting back on global deforestation. In addition, fewer fossil fuels are used to harvest and process lumber for building.

Wood-efficient building practices can be incorporated throughout a new home project, from design through material selection, construction practices and waste disposal. Here's how:

Home Design

Size the home appropriately for its function, and design floor plans to maximize usable area. Extra-large rooms, double-story ceilings and formal-use-only spaces often result in wasted square footage and may not be practical for your target home buyers. Instead, opt for elegant size-appropriate designs whose appeal relies on classic proportions and fine craftsmanship.

Design durability into each home with construction details that increase the life of wood and wood-based materials. This saves the homeowner in repair and replacement costs and reduces the demand for new wood. Roof overhangs, properly installed flashing, gaps between deck boards and between ledgers and walls, and proper lot drainage and ventilation can increase the longevity of wood-frame homes. In addition, protect band boards, underlying sheathing, and large beams and columns from the weather and thus premature decay.

Material Selection and Construction Practices

In many cases nontraditional construction products and methods are superior to conventional practices in terms of ease of use, structural integrity and durability.

Component systems and stressed-skin insulating-core panels both can be used in place of dimensional lumber. Component systems, which are prefabricated trusses and flat panels, are used to frame roofs, floors and walls. The components arrive on site, engineered for structural integrity and ready to use. They are lighter-weight and have more consistent quality than dimensional lumber, and using them in place of stick framing can save thousands of dollars per home in materials and labor. Similarly, stressed-skin panels are a prefabricated option that can be used to build walls, floors and roofs. They're made of rigid insulation sandwiched between skins of structural sheathing. Using these panels can reduce building-envelope construction time by more than a third.

A third product choice that supports wood-efficient building practices is lumber that's certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The FSC promotes environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable management of the world's forests. Environmentally certified wood can be substituted directly for standard dimensional lumber in nearly all residential construction, and it's typically of comparable or of better quality.

Finally, optimum-value engineering (OVE) can reduce the amount of dimensional lumber used for framing. OVE is a collection of framing methods that uses less lumber than conventional framing by placing framing members only where they're structurally needed. OVE practices include spacing studs 24 inches on center, aligning first- and second-story vertical framing members while using a single top plate, designing headers for individual loading conditions, aligning door and window openings with stud spacing, and eliminating structurally unnecessary framing at intersections. Various studies have shown that OVE framing techniques can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars in lumber costs per home.

Waste Minimization and Disposal

To minimize waste from the outset of home construction, carefully estimate the amount of wood and wood products you'll need, and use all materials to their fullest potential. Also, use materials that can be separated during deconstruction; for example, use screws and bolts instead of nails and glue where possible.

Dispose of job-site waste in an environmentally friendly manner. Instead of sending all construction waste to a landfill, sort materials for reuse, recycling, donation and deconstruction. Currently, wood waste is the largest contributor of job-site waste. Reducing it can save builders hundreds of dollars per home.

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