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Framing & Insulation

Framing a Green Home

by John Livingstone, Founder,

Sustainable development requires that one explore the social, environmental and economic impact of the decision when we apply these principles to construction materials. We ask ourselves: What is more sustainable, baked adobe block indigenous to the region, which generates local jobs, or lumber imported from the Pacific Northwest, which produces less costly point-of-purchase homes? Do we use 2" by 4" wood studs which come from younger trees or 2" x 6" framing from old-growth trees that, because of the width, allows for more insulation to be put into the walls? Like many questions when building in an in an environmentally friendly manner, there isn't a perfect answer. What we can strive for is both affordability and a responsible use of resources. We must take it upon ourselves to reduce construction waste, recycle as many building materials as possible and to introduce new framing techniques to save both money and lumber.

For instance, advanced framing techniques allow a homebuilder to line up the studs of the wood-framed wall with the roof trusses above. By doing this, you can construct a house with 24" on-center walls instead of 16" on-center walls, thereby reducing your wood stud requirements by 25% to 30%. This simple technique, done properly, saves money and trees, while maintaining the structural integrity of the building envelope. As with all new building techniques, you must talk to your designer and/or local building department authorities to find out if local regulations allow "green" techniques.

The National Association of Realtors in a July 2007 article entitled "What's New on the Green Scene" explained:

Timber framing requires significantly less lumber than the traditional "stick-built" housing and almost always incorporates [structural] insulating panels (SIPS), which keeps heat and air conditioning from escaping the house. There's less waste when large timbers are used, compared with conventional construction that produces sawdust and waste every time a 2-by-4 stud is planed, says Frank Baker, president of Insulspan and Riverbend Framing, part of PFB Corp. in Calgary, Canada. In addition, less energy is needed to power machines and kiln dry wood because timber framing uses freshly cut wood, he says. Timbers are prefabricated and arrive at the building site ready to be assembled, paring construction waste. Costs vary according to finishes selected, just as they do with stick-built housing.”

Green Insulation Creates Comfort

Each year in the United States eco-friendly insulation to enhance green living in homes and commercial buildings reduces C02 emissions by more than 700,000,000 tons. High performance energy efficient buildings use good air barriers with superior insulation to improve indoor air quality by reducing moisture infiltration, which may cause material decay from mold, rot and mildew.

And good insulation also saves money. The US Department of Energy calculates the air infiltration accounts for roughly half of all energy use in heating or cooling a home. But the right insulation reduces infiltration while also providing added comfort, helping to maintain consistent interior temperatures, and provides increased sound barriers.

When it comes time to install environmentally friendly insulation in your new or remodeled building, it is recommended that you choose a system that will provide inhabitants clean, healthy air, good sound barriers and low monthly energy costs, while exhibiting the least environmental impact possible.

There are several types of insulation to consider as a resource when going green:

Foam is an installation which is pressure injected into the open cells of your exterior concrete block walls. Since this process fills walls completely, it keeps out the heat, humidity, bugs and noise. Comfort and energy savings are sealed in with this envelope of protection. Because foam can double the "R" value of other insulating material this means additional comfort and energy savings.

There is another excellent spray insulation, which is a formaldehyde-free fiberglass that sprays almost dry, completely filling gaps in boards around electrical fixtures, pipes and other obstructions to give the homes you build superior energy efficiency and sound absorption. Cellulose is another insulating material that can be blown it. Arguments can be made for both types of insulation. In both cases, any excess insulation is vacuumed up for reuse. There is very little waste.

It is important that homeowners check carefully the most favorable points about all types of insulation and choose an eco-friendly insulation to ensure maximum comfort in your home.

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