Studies of commercial applications, have demonstrated that the return both environmentally and fiscally of building “Green” outweigh the extra investment of both time and money at the outset. Documentation, research and investigation, into materials and building techniques and the calculation of their balance into the overall environmental goal of the project, add extra dimensions to an already complicated business of turning an architectural rendering into an inspiring environment for human occupation. When “Green” is a conscious component or feature design element, there are core decisions to be made that affect the final look, character and internal construction. The management of the commitment to build “Green” is held by the design team. They determine the goal/purpose and select the defining standards and guidelines to be utilized during construction. Clearly defined ecological goals determine the method of accountability and the choice of materials. Material selection will have particular idiosyncrasies such as: seasonal and/or annual yield limitations, manufacturing/certification and/or market availability issues, possibly the requirement of long lead times and financial impacts. During the time period of the design, approval, and permitting process for construction, as with any natural product, the aforementioned issues are subject to change. Accurate information during design development, with notations for the General Contractor’s Estimator and Project Manager, regarding the items that require updating, investigation and follow-up during bidding and preconstruction planning (i.e. long lead times or seasonal availability) will prove enormously beneficial to the elimination of many surprises that team members may encounter.
With special thanks to the many leaders, volunteers and forward thinkers; systems have been put in place to address many of the issues that help to define the core decisions, fundamentals, accountability and the ecological balance of “Green” Construction. The US Green Building Council (USGBC) set the highest standards for independent, third-party evaluation of the overall environmental response by a construction project. The voluntary program Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a ranking system that awards Platinum, Gold, Silver, or Bronze LEED certification using a point/credit system. LEED provides a complete framework for assessing building performance and meeting sustainability goals. Based on well-founded scientific standards, LEED emphasizes state-of-the-art strategies for sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. Points are earned and credited for specific documented “Green” facets of a project. This method of accountability prevents the practice of green-washing. It is encouraging that the US Dept. of Defense and several major U.S. city and state municipalities have adopted LEED certification as mandatory for public projects, some now even offer tax rebates for new construction to offset the documentation costs. It is good to keep in mind that: a project can be built “Green” without LEED participation as long as the bragging rights are not part of the overall marketing plan, a little “Green” is better than none at all. For more info see Links & Glossary. Core Questions & Answers: Wood & the building environment - the basics
• Should I use wood?
• Where does the wood come from?
• Does my design encompass an efficient use of raw materials?
• Indoor air quality- What is this formaldehyde thing?
• LEED points, how do they add up?
• Sustainable Forestry vs. Indoor air quality?
Should I use wood? - YES!
Wood is one of the most readily renewable products on earth. Plant a nut or seed, add water, sunlight and voila. 100% of the tree and manufactured by-products, i.e. sawdust and wood chips, are either: usable, recyclable as fuel or decomposable back into the earth. Wood as a raw building material: can be harvested utilizing sustainable methods nearly infinitely, and processing utilizes relatively low energy with the least, long-term impact on the environment. Wood fiber regenerates itself within a single human lifetime. When considering the: labor involved with, the cost and amount of fuel for transport and refining, and the permanent scarring to the landscape that extreme, highly-invasive, extraction methods for metal, stone, glass, and/or processed petroleum products such as plastics incur, the benefits of selecting well-managed species of wood for building are elementary. The key is in the management of the forestry resources.
Where does the wood come from?
All lumber originates from a forest yet, tracing a particular flitch of lumber, veneer or wood composite product to its origins can be very difficult. Trusting and understanding the authenticity of the claims for a product’s “Green” qualities can be daunting. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has developed a system to do just this, utilizing a system referred to as the Chain-of-Custody. For more info see FSC Veneer and Lumber. Information regarding the credits is located at LEED INFO should link to page, or the USGBC website on the links page.
Indoor air quality - What is this Urea
or Phenol Formaldehyde thing?
“I am committed to the environment, let’s just build using products with no added urea-formaldehyde and use only “Green” sustainably harvested lumber and wood composite products.” Unfortunately it is not yet that simple. For some materials and applications, suppliers have not been able to meet demand and remain viable as a business entity. Often a select material that satisfies one environmental criteria may be in direct opposition to other philosophies.
At this juncture a designer must decide which tactic to employ by evaluating and ascertaining the priorities of the occupants and the owner. This issue crystallizes and has direct impacts when selecting for composite material as substrate for veneer or laminates.For more info see Substrates Composite Panels.
For indoor air quality, opting for construction materials that contain no-added urea formaldehyde one may need to accommodate higher material costs. For more info see Indoor Air Quality.
For sustainable forestry, one may potentially sacrifice some aesthetics choices, need to make provisions for longer lead times and be prepared to invest in materials well in advance of the construction schedule, and potentially accommodate higher material costs. For more info see FSC Veneer and Lumber.
One choice is not always the right choice. Until recently materials had limited availability. Some materials now have crossovers into both categories. This guide will support you with the information necessary for your material selection process. Yet should that process prove too daunting, please contact us and we will talk you through the current issues.