Business Articles - Specialty and Trade

Choosing Green Carpentry Framing

When it comes to green remodeling, things like improving insulation, utilizing solar energy, and using recycled materials tend to get all the press. That being the case, you might be surprised to hear that adopting advanced framing techniques as a part of your home build, addition, or remodel is one of the greenest decisions you can make for your home. Advanced framing techniques have the potential to cut overall project costs, reduce consumption of a valuable natural resource (wood), improve your home's overall energy efficiency, and improve the livability and comfort of your home. Sound good? Read on to learn more about how you can go green in the framing department.

Going Green with David Johnston
For starters, ServiceMagic understands that it can be tough for homeowners to wade through all the "green" remodeling information out there, which is why we've teamed up with green remodeling expert David Johnston to provide you with the best, most accurate, green remodeling advice in the business. Johnston is the founder of the green consulting firm What's Working, Inc., the author of multiple books on green remodeling for contractors and homeowners (including the Nautilus Award winner Green Remodeling: Changing the World One Room at a Time and Green from the Ground Up), and he's an expert on going green with home framing. Here's the latest in green framing, drawn from the experience, wisdom, and writings of Johnston himself.

The Cost of Green Framing
To begin with, let's address the issue of cost. Budget is a big concern on any major remodeling project, and the prospect of spending even more by going green can make many homeowners take pause. However, the truth of the matter is that you stand to save a lot of money if you choose to go green in the framing department. In conventional construction, framing accounts for around 15 percent of your total costs, including materials and labor. By adopting advanced framing techniques, you can reduce framing materials by 20 percent, and material and labor costs accordingly. Add to that the fact that advanced framing techniques also allow you to create a better insulated, better sealed, more energy-efficient home, and you can figure long-term energy savings into your calculations, as well.

Calculating the Real Value of Going Green
In addition to the good news in respect to cost, Johnston is quick to point out that the true value of green remodeling is impossible to put a price tag on. Homes built with advanced framing techniques are better built, are constructed with longer lasting, higher quality materials, and they tend to be healthier homes, as well. Add to that the fact that adopting green framing equates to choosing a better, more sustainable world for your kids and grandkids, and it's easy to see what Johnston is getting at when he says that going green is far more valuable than any budget can reflect.

David Johnston's Framing Tips for Cutting Costs and Increasing Energy Efficiency
Just what exactly do you need to do if you're interested in adopting green framing techniques for your home build, remodel, addition, or other major home improvement project? Here's a list of suggestions from Johnston to help guide your way, starting with framing tips that will help you to reduce construction costs and achieve maximum energy efficiency.

  • Advanced Framing Techniques Reduce Material Usage—The easiest way to reduce material demands for your project is to adopt advanced framing techniques (AFTs) that conserve lumber and utilize smarter building techniques without sacrificing quality. Increasing stud spacing to 24" on center, using 2x6s rather than 2x4s, using two stud corner framing instead of three to five studs, and eliminating window and door headers on non-load bearing walls are just a few examples of how adopting AFTs can cut your basic framing material needs by as much as 20 percent.
  • AFTs for More Energy-Efficient Homes—Advanced framing techniques do more than just reduce your lumber requirements. By adopting AFTs like building energy heels on roof trusses, having larger roof overhangs to provide valuable shade for windows and doors, and using 2x 6 studs instead of the conventional 2x4 (reducing material needs and allowing for thicker wall insulation), you can add significant energy savings over the life of your home.
  • Use Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) —If you're building a new home, or a major addition, using structural insulated panels (also known as SIPs) is one of the greenest decisions you can make. Consisting of a rigid foam core sandwiched between two sheets of oriented strand board (OSB), these panels are perfect for building exterior walls, roofs, and floors. They cost more initially, but you're guaranteed to enjoy the payoffs (including reductions in labor costs, material waste, and cleanup fees, as well as shorter build times, superior home insulation, and unrivaled soundproofing).

Green Framing Tips to Save the Environment
Saving money isn't all going green is about. At its heart, green remodeling and framing is really about adopting more environmentally friendly, sustainable building practices. Here's a list of framing suggestions from Johnston that will help you do right by the environment, as well as your pocketbook.

  • Use Oriented Strand Board (OSB) for Subfloors and Sheathing —OSB is manufactured from fast growing farm trees, unlike plywood that is made from sheets of wood cut from old growth logs. It performs just as well as conventional plywood without taxing valuable natural resources.
  • Use Engineered Lumber, Engineered Studs, or Finger Jointed Studs—These alternatives to traditional lumber materials make use of what used to be deemed "waste" at the lumber mill. Structurally, they are equal or superior to conventional lumber, and they're cost competitive to boot. Best of all, they make it possible for the lumber industry to use up to 95 percent of a tree compared to conventional methods where as much as 50 percent of a tree goes unused.
  • Purchase Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certified Lumber—Purchasing FSC-certified wood ensures that the lumber you use to build your home has been harvested in a environmentally responsible and sustainable manner.
  • Use Reclaimed Lumber—Sometimes the greenest solution of all is sitting right under our noses. As much as 85 percent of construction waste can be reused, and that includes millions of truckloads of perfectly good lumber sent to landfills every year. That said, save a few trees and use reclaimed lumber on your framing project whenever possible.

Which Shade of Green is Right for You?
While thinking green when it comes to framing is a smart choice for your pocketbook, your home, and the environment, it's not unusual for homeowners to feel a little overwhelmed when presented with the full scope of green remodeling options. If you're feeling unsure about how green you're willing to go with framing, there's no need to worry — going green isn't an all-or-nothing proposition. Any step you take in a green direction is a smart one, whether you incorporate a few advanced framing techniques into your overall design, or go green from top to bottom with reclaimed lumber, AFTs, OSB, and SIPs!

If you do think green is the right choice for your framing needs, talk with your contractor about adopting a green remodeling philosophy, find a contractor who specializes in green building and remodeling, or seek out the services of a green consulting firm so you can be sure that your framing project ends up being as green as they come.

David Johnston
We are proud to partner with David Johnston, internationally recognized green building expert, to provide our homeowners and service professionals with the information necessary to "green" their projects.
• To learn more about David Johnston, click here.
• To learn more about Green Certification training, click here.

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