Use Wood


The building industry is one of the leaders in pollution and greenhouse gases.  Per the American Forest Foundation steel and concrete consume 12% and 20% more energy to produce, and emit 15% and 29% additional greenhouse gases than wood. To eliminate this statistic, substitute those high energy required materials with wood.  Examples of this have been provided below by the American Forest Foundation.

  • Constructing a wall using kiln-dried wood studs, oriented strand board (OSB) sheathing, and vinyl siding instead of concrete with an exterior stucco coating results in 15 pounds of avoided CO2 emissions for every square foot of wall area.
  • Using engineered wood I-joists with an OSB sub-floor rather than steel joists and OSB sub-flooring results in 22 pounds of avoided CO2 emissions for every square foot of floor area.

Wood is the most beautiful natural building material you can use.  The contrasting hues within its rich grain are often the perfect accent finish for a space.  It’s linear form of structure resembles the rhythm of Greek architecture, while also flexible enough to create free form spaces.

You might question the strength of wood versus some of the other materials mentioned.  True, however there has been great strides in wood technology.  Products like Cross Laminated Timber, and Glulam are making wood an acceptable material for building types such as arenas, gymnasiums, and multi-story structures. A study has found that Cross Laminated Timber is feasible for 12 stories and possibly more. In 2012 the International Code Council approved the use of cross laminated timber through the heavy timber construction classification.   In 2015 there were changes to the heights and area allowances for wooden structures. It is even possible to have unlimited building area. This can be met if the construction type is III, IV or V, and the structure has 60 feet or more of open space on all four sides.

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Woodworks commissioned two studies: one cost comparison, and one life-cycle assessment on the same big box project designed in steel versus wood.  It was found that the wooden building saved approximately 22% in construction costs, with many of the savings being from roof framing, wall framing, and roof insulation.  The study also concluded that the proposed wood building impacts are lower than the steel building in each category except ozone depletion, where the percentage was 5% higher.

It seems that technology in wood construction is providing ways to build larger structures, and the code councils are changing the restrictions to allow these structures to comply.  Perhaps we as an industry should look at wood as a more viable material for construction.

-Nathan Houser

Main blog image courtesy of Dezeen