Lets try some real thinking
I have begun thinking more and more that I don’t have all of the answers, and in fact many of the proper questions are escaping me as well. Recently there was a very lengthy discussion on GREEN BUILDING, and another one on MORALS relating to job offers. I would like to combine the two subjects, and ask if builders feel morally obligated to green building. IF the environmental effects of a project are considerred at all, at what stage, and how much importance is it truly given? These questions come to me because of things that I have read here at BREAKTIME that make me think that I have made some bad assumptions in the past. How can somebody find out the true and total effects of anything? Is OSB greener than plywood, siding versus stucco, and on and on. I think that we generally use what we want and then try to justify with speculation, but maybe not. Please set me straight because I need to know just how messed up my ideas have been. It seems that most descisions are profit driven, which might be Ok, but at least say so. The only easy one might be to just build smaller, therefore more eficient just by size, but does anybody turn down houses that are rediculous in size. An obvious problem in the world today it seems is that most people like to have and use things just to prove that they can. How about a group effort here to figure out the least destructive way to build housing, so that those who do really care can make educated choices on what they build, and how they build it. Some of you must know, how about sharing with those of us who don’t. I know that I don’t know, but I am interested in finding out. Remember that we all have to have water, air and at least some food, so we better figure out how to live better than we have. Nuff said
DAN concerned and questioning
" Is OSB greener than plywood, siding versus stucco, and on and on."
DEFINE Green, other as a certian combination of the light spectrum.
That is a serious question. It can be used so many different ways.
What I don't understand is why eveyone doesn't start with the obvious of re-using material and stop wasting new.
Instead of just haulling used material off to the trash why not spend a little time cleaning it up and finding a use for it? And figure out how to make the best use out of a 4x8 sheet of plywood or 16 ft 2x10. The 'carpenters' I had helping me would just whack off what they needed and throw out the rest. Not only was it a waste of material but my money as well!
I read a message on this forum complaining about someone saving old nails. Why not? At least it's an effort. You may think it costs $/time today but try to take a look of the world tomorrow...
To me this is building green, saving the environment.
Well, one thing I try to keep foremost in mind, when choosing materials for my own projects, or advising a customer, is that a properly built building should last a hell of a lot longer than my, or the customer's lifetime. I think that "by the time it goes to crap I won't be living here" mentality is something we all have to fight every day. But it's tough.
Some choices are easy. Say a customer wants painted lap siding. Well, in my mind there's not a better siding available at a resonable cost than fiber cement for that application. The same house with a natural look? Not quite so easy a choice between real Western Red Cedar or fiber cement with one of the new stains, which won't look quite as good, but probably last way longer with less maintanance than the cedar. The current trend in synthetic decking is another good example.
For me the toughest choices are stuff like vinal windows, which perform better than alluminum or wood windows, but look like hell, and haven't been around long enough to have shown they can stand the test of time. Or plastic laminate in kitchens. Cripes, that stuff is rugged. And looks decent. And goes in cheap. But it's plastic and some folks would argue it further depletes oil resources and is a disposal and manufacturing emmissions nightmare like all plasics, while others argue the bacteria that grows on/in it are far more dangerous than even a wood countertop.
Very complex questions. Good topic. Here's another thing, why the heck do we all think we have to drive 80 MPH? Why can't we have slower, smaller, more efficient vehicles like those new gas/electric hybrids?
All in all I think we're all pretty short sighted and really don't think much about what impact we are having on our planet.
I am grappling with what to do with siding: try to salvage the 50 year old cedar clapboards that will require scraping, sanding and putty? Or replace with new but thinner cedar? How about shingles? Or something like cemment board or vinyl?
So how does one make a decision? I hate to see all that old wood go to waste. But it's a lot of work and won't look as clean as something new. But then again, take all the remodels going on and that's quite a pile of old cedar being tossed.
steve- invert that old siding with the painted side in and clean up the now exposed unpainted then stain. Hard to get much greener. Interesting article in July 10 Wall Street Journal Section B today on green building concepts in California. Worth the read.Half of good living is staying out of bad situations.
That's very interesting. The only problem is I don't think the bottom edge will come out level. I'll try it out in the morning and see how it will look though.
Thanks for the suggestion.
I took another look at my siding today. It looks like some of it might work reversed. Some of it is curved and might split trying to make it work. But if I can save some time/effort/money then it will be a good thing. Maybe good for the environment too.
Thanks for the suggestion.
I took off some of that 1950's old insul-brick asphalt impregnated fiberboard siding on a house and found clapboards of old growth redwood underneath. Sanded it down and it had a violet hue to it. Another time an old timberframe was being torn down for an autoparts store. Somebody took off this yellow vinyl siding and I found 1x10 old growth redwood clapboards with a washington state mill stamp still on the backside of the boards. Some were 16ft in length. It had cut nails and the boards came off easy without splinters and cracks. Looking back it was hilarious. Twilight hours the night before the dozers came in the next morning and I'm out there with my trusty wonderbar loading up the truck. At least it wasn't winter with snow and flu by the light of the streetlights. That's another story.Half of good living is staying out of bad situations.
I love this thread of thinking. Thanks for introducing it. In all my investments, the only ones that I made money on were the old housese I bought and fixed up. I had a hard time finding carpenters who wanted to work on them because they were out of true. So often they criticized how things were done--but those houses are still standing 100 years later and sheltering people. I always fell that it is like petting a cat to work on them. They seem to purr as you strip off wall paper or sand or paint the walls. Under siding that I took off (and recycled for the aluminum), I found that rain drips and other boards were missing--they pooched out and the siding would not fit. It was a bear to find missing lumber to fix them. How I wished that there was a store that had recycled lumber from the houses that were torn down.
Now I live where there is a store where you can donate old toilets, wood, marble, tiles, etc. It is such fun to go visit it and imagine how to use some of the weird things that folks have brought in. I had to try to match a cabinet door and gave myself permission to go every week for a while. The city sells the stuff and the money goes into redevelopment.
When you work on old houses you start loving things like the window glass imperfections in the old windows and it saddens you to find those windows have been replaced with vinyl ones. However, if you want to keep the old windows, you have to really study up about how to winterize. In one house I used inside vinyl storm windows that were made by Sears and I could take them down when the weather was in decent temps. I recently had to take a window out to put in a door to create an office in my house. I was able to find a wide door that almost matched my other doors at a recycle place. I have the window well wrapped and protected under a dry porch so that if someone ever wants to take this place back to its original form, they have a virtually irreplaceable window to fit the space. I then had steel decroative storm doors incorporate a design that mimics an architectural doodad (a diamond of fancyshingles in the middle of the upstairs clapboard) and walla! The doors match and look like they have both always been there. The doors I had made will last for hundreds of years.
When I painted this last time, I chose a paint that looks like it truly will last 4-5 years longer than the ordinary paint.
Another thing I would do if i were adding on to my house is to try to protect the old trees that help cool off the house and clean the city air.
Every decision I make, I try to think green and I love it when a contractor can help me by thinking what lasts the longest and does the best job. I love it when someone will help me replace a shovel handle rather than suggest throwing it away (but will also tell me if the shovel is not worth it.) I will not use wood that takes a long time to grow except to build something beautiful that is going to show--and if it is recycled, all the better.
I will continue to read this string for more ideas.
In my opinion ;
I think we work for the client. We answer questions, but the answer belongs to the owner.So we coach their decision, but only to represent their wishes. The decision is theirs.
Example of what Jim told you. He was answering your question like he would a client. Hes trained to do it , and so are the rest of us ,...I hope. Listening to our clients is the first step to selling , and making them happy with what they are buying. Sales 101.
John Agrees with Tim..I am in this trade to make a living,,I will make a few suggestions to my customer, but in the long run I will give him or most of the time with my work her, what she wants,,,example this green freek lady,wanted a backyard deck that would last longer than the house,,her words,,the only way to do that with the money she wanted to spend was a cca frame,,I no sooner get it done when I find I am confrounting all her neighebors she has called over and she is yelling at me with all kinds of charges,,one by one they all left shaking their heads but you see my point? you dont always get what you want,but if you try sometimes, you get what you need,,,I would love to drive one of those wind up cars that enter the freeway at 12 mph, but I have to make a living, and to do that I need a 350,3/4 ton truck!! and I dont care if it has cca lumber in the back and on the trailor!!!John Hyatt deckmastersllc.com
The comment about houses that can close off unneeded space reminded me of something I did with my 100 year old house that I am proud of. I needed to add an office to it. I am a counselor. By adding an office that is self contained, I know longer drive or bus to work. When we designed the office, we designed it so that it would not be hard to turn into a mother-in-law apartment. Instead of just a toilet and sink, we added a shower that could be gotten into by an older or disabled person. Instead of steps to the door, we put a whellchair accessible ramp. My competer and files are where a closet could be. This space is the size of double doors so that when the doors are open, I don't feel like I am working in a closet. My waiting room is quite small but could be used for a kitchen or small dining room--for 2 or 3.
Under this office I had a cement slab put down. A few years later I built a room with lots of windows and large sliding doors with a ramp that leads from the front yard down to the doors. It is one very large room which with a bathroom could be rented as a studio. I use it for doing all my paper work, filing years of cliet records. etc. I put one of those gas stoves for heating that gets hot enough to boil tea water or soup on top of it and it can be used if the electricity goes out in a storm. In other words, everything that has been added has multiple possible uses and my house will serve me well if I am ever in a wheel chair or unable to do stairs. Then I rent out the house and use one of the other spaces I have created. At the current time, I get a good tax deduction for my in home office and I don't have to pay rent. This means i don't have to work as many hours. ( I like to think of costs in terms of how many of my life hours I have to work to pay for it. So my office cost me 400 life hours. I put in oak floors because they were cheaper than some alternatives, beautiful--everyday I think of their beauty and the trees that were sacrificed for them) and long lasting. If I am going to give that many life hours away, I want to spend my work time in a beautiful place.) I used the oak scraps on top of a wall downstairs--small area where 1-2 foot peices could be pieced together.
My builder had a fellow who cleaned up the area after we were done who recycled as much as he could (and got to keep the money for anything he could recycle or sell).
Portland has a regulation that if you cut down trees to build multi-units, you have to replace the board footage you cut down with new trees some place in the city. So if you cut down a big old pine on a lot to build, whatever board footage that represents means that you plantx number of smaller trees, on the lot, in the park, in a neighborhood that wants trees along the road side.
Atta way, Manda. I like how you think.
Brinkmann for president in '04
Edited 7/20/2002 9:15:55 PM ET by jim blodgett
I like your thinking also. Would you be interrested in running for president ? I dont know how Smoky Brinkman thinks , but I do like your thinking. Im afraid the money might not hold up the way Bush is spending it.
Sorry to beat a dead horse, but it is bedtime and my creative powers are weaker than usual, so I have to bring this up again. Thanks for attempting to explain all or part of your feelings on the subject, and I hope that some "real" thinking resulted. As for me, a lot remains un-answerred to my satisfaction, and I must plow on. It seems to be well known that if we don't learn from the mistakes in History, we are doomed to repeat them. We have met the enemy, and it is us comes to mind as being way to true in many cases. Biggest problems with homes built today, if I had to guess, are all fairly new ideas that were supposed to be improvements. Stale air, Pressboard, preservatives of many types, noxious fumes, and to big to pay for or maintain. Seal it up, then ventilate does not make to much sense to me. Gotta go for now, more to come, I hope.
Dan Are these the good old days that the kids will be talking about 50 years from now.
In my humble opinion, the only way, unfortunitly, that the majority of people will accept greener techniques is when it hits them in the pocket book. We as builders can suggest methods and try to steer them towards a more green approach. The decicions are ultimatly up to them.
The biggest problem with the impact of man on our planet is too many people. While some things are being done to slow the population growth, their are also efforts to "improve" the conditions in third world countries. Our earth cannot support that much industrialization.
I am not suggesting that we have the rights and they do not. I first started building in the early 70's and was interested in energy conservative buildings. I would like to see a country that uses more solar and wind energy and fuel cell cars. Unfortunatly fossel fuels are cheap and these methods won't be financialy competitive for a while. This won't last forever.( probably after I decide to retire.) When fossel fuels near depleation and their prices rise, only than will it start to influence how people look at how it effects their wallet and what alternatives there are to replace them.
The other way is for the govenment to impose a tarrif on imported oil to raise the price so it has the same effect. Europe has prices in the $4.00 range and the cars they drive are smaller , more efficient. You don't see many 3/4 ton quad cab toy haulers being driven to work by one person like you do here. This would reduce our dependence on Arab oil, hopefully our presence in that region of the world,and the demand on our military to protect "our interests". Not what GWB probably has in mind.
So whats my point? Sorry I degressed into politics. My contribution to this thread can be summed up in the first paragraph.
By the way I thought Frugarlard ,post #35, had some very interesting thoughts.
Live long and prosper.
You should see what I saw!
Edited 7/28/2002 2:15:34 PM ET by Rick
Well, I guess you'd have to start with defining what the siding does on your particular building, Steve. Is it functional? Or cosmetic? Does it get rained on? Or is it protected from the elements by the roof and maybe some surrounding trees?
LOL! Thanks for clearing things up. And I thought it was just a matter of being green!
By the way, I have been meaning to ask you about the article you did on covering the electrical meter. The new meters are read from the street as they drive by, do you know if your cover would interfere?
Not bad for a start, but I hope that there is more and better ideas to come. What concerns about out environment do you as a group believe can be affected by construction practices? Shortages of materials? energy consumption? Traffic congestion? Loss of habitat for wildlife? I'm concerned that while homes are getting better in a large number of areas, that the affect that they are having on the environment is actually getting much worse. I know it won't play well with a lot of folks, but should there be some sort of regulation as to how much one family can consume. There are many large homes here in Hawaii, that are not even used most of the time, they are just very large cabins for the rich and famous! But once all those materials are used, it seems to me that they are no longer available for the rest of us to use. Where is the information, if it is available, comparing the different styles of construction, as to materials used and energy consumed. If educated decisions are to be made by the consumer, then somebody should be educating them, and I don't believe that it is happening. Money and style should not be the only factors involved in the decisions, sustainability had better start creeping up the list or else in the long run there are going to be big problems. I'm not really this much of an activist, but the waste is starting to be a sore point and I don't know who to blame so you folks get the rant for now. Is the customer always wright, and if not who is going to tell them? I think it is time the construction industry start making some moral decisions about what is the BEST for the situation and then sticking to it.
Anybody want to go first, we need some leaders!
Dan, if any on our crew tossed out something that could be used later on..blocking, nailers,squashblocks, etc...the rest of the guys would eat them up. Course we/I wind up pack ratting all of these glulam and log scraps home, only to be collecting in the shop. (Always.."Probably could make something outta that") We did pull off some old cedar siding on a home recently, built around 50's, and flipped it over to renail. (Painted and painted over it was) Went through for about 2-3 days cleaning it up, then trying to match the rough texture again before staining. Didn't look bad. Homeowner was happy as to not be burning up 5500lf of cedar. win/win for both.
The synthetic decks sure has taken off. Us, like I'm sure lot here, have been questioned to no end about them. (Esp. with 27%++ tarriffs.) Still love the wood though. So do homeowners.
Is a 100% engineered house considered "Green"? Built one for a show out of Boulder.....All engineered lumber, from the sill, floor, walls, thru to the roof. Is that green? Weyco sure thinks so. Still gotta fill it with plastics, copper, sheet metal etc...but maybe it is a starting point. Log homes are a diff. story to some, others don't care what it costs or where the logs come from, some are estatic knowing it is standing dead wood.
Not meant to be directed at you, but you are probably qualified to give me the proper answer, how much dimensional lumber could be made out of the logs in a log home? Because it was standing-dead, does that mean that it was unsuitable for sawmills? I just wonder a lot about the waste in lumber for styles sake, feel free to correct me and I promise to not take offense, just curious. I don't think that cost should be discussed without considering replenishment cost of whatever is being used. A lot of people say that it will last longer so that the damage isn't so bad, but I think of all the still useable building that get demolished for one reason or another and wonder if anything that lasts over 30 years is just overkill anyway. Boeing office building in Southcenter, Kingdome, floating bridge, Vegas Casinos are a few of the worst examples that come to my mind. Anyway keep thinking!!
Dan Any waste is bad waste
"Boeing office building in Southcenter, Kingdome, floating bridge, Vegas Casinos are a few of the worst examples..." commercial buiding practices are a lot different, Dan. Businesses come and go. And even those that stick around, their needs change.
What about all the prime farm land that gets covered up with asphalt and buildings? All that stuff could just as easilly be built on less productive ground, couldn't it? Money, money, money.
" What about the prime farm land that gets covered up " Well it was once timber and prairie striped by some plow jockey. over time they put more negetive chemicals in the soil than did industry . A local farmer didnt have any problem selling 600 acres for $20,000 per after recieving $300,000.00 a year in farm subsidy. His new house will be the first built in the new subdivision. Most everyone wants a piece of America for thier own and they pay dearly. Lets not confuse donating $20.00 for the preservation of the rain forest and nothing fo the preservation of the jungle.
Log homes are a particular waster of resources. Almost none exist more than a century old so that indicates there weakness.
A look at energy consumption will show you that the typical uninsulated log home gulps energy while quickly decaying.
Logs that are "bucks" that is dead standing are Ok to make lumber out of. and since there will be as much as 400 or five hundred board feet in a typical log used in log homes, that should indicate how much waste. there is. The only reason they are as affordable as they are is the relative low value of the wood they are made of.
As far as waste, the only real value is land. there will never be any more of it and what we have is getting crowded. Once the land owners (especially the fed gvt.) understand that the real value is in the land the trees are growing on, and not the harvest value of the trees you can expect a major increase in lumber costs.
That may be offset once Russia realizes the value of all of those old growth trees and brings those on the world market. Russia has 7 times zones of virtually untouched forest to bring onto the world market and that will make what's available out of Canada/USA look tiny.
Thus I'm afraid that things need to be scarce before they become valuable. Wood won't be for the near future.
Frenchy and HDan
I don't disagree with both of you, nor ANy offense taken, versus what you could get of BF in them, but it is enjoyable to build and does put food on the table. (Oh, the vices of it all) But, we could go on for days pointing out the advantages and disadvantages of energy consumption and useful life of log vs. stick framed, each side being right.
In light of Built Green theory, isn't there an organization or assoc. that addresses this, and if so, what do they define as 'green'? What can we do as builders, once defined, do together over time to promote/implement this?
Commercial strctures are another pot, i agree; Should we start with an idea and go forward on that, or change the world at once? I like to roll a floor first before puttin' on the roof. ;)
I got a letter on my windshied the other day....Political cartoon of an SUV at the gas pumps, handing money over to the owner, handing money to an Arab, passing it along to other Arabs, and finally to Bin Laden. I caught the lady as she was walking away, and struck up a conversation with her. Her concerns were my 3/4 T diesel was using up more oil/gas than should be allowed by ANYbody and that I wasn't a damn concerned for the environment. I enlightened her as to what I do, distances I travel, the trailers I pull.....All at 22 mpg..city or hiway, the production of diesel is 1/2 the costs/energy that to produce gas, that the truck could run on vegetable oil or bacon grease if need be, expected life of 500-600K miles of ONE vehicle, etc. She then got upset since I was able to go point for point with her....Then she got in her Oil-Smoking, 12 yr old, 10mpg, gas using car and went home to a wood framed home!!! :^)
This is a subject where there simply is no correct answer, only opinions.
while I enjoy the give and take of political discussion (and that's what this truely is) It can consume others. I made a decision to build a timberframe for what I considered valid (and green) reasons. I understand why others could object, since it's very non-traditional. there thought is almost correct but fails on one critical point.
The most efficent way to house people is in a jail. small rooms, multiple use rooms, minimum of frills and a maximum of occupants. As we get away from that we begin to justify what amounts to waste.
I once had an arguement with a oil developer. The guy who goes out and finds oil and if successful makes a lot of money. My complaint was two points.
1st. we were using up a resourse that was not renewable
2nd. we were poluting the air.
He surprised me and agreed that we were at some point going to run out of oil.
which solved the second issue.
As someone who remembers the poluted lakes of the past I see that careless use of a resource is a waste. Nowdays we polute a lot less per car than back when we had our discussion. At some point we will switch to other energy sources and oil will no longer be an issue. in the mean time care needs to be used in the use of it and we need to use it wisely.
I suspect the issue of material selection is similar....
Well, I wasn't trying to be funny. A lot of houses, the siding protects the framing from the elements. But in many other cases, it is really just cosmetic, kinda like wall paper. The main purpose of a house is to provide shelter from the elements; after that, I guess it comes down to taste and values what materials a person uses.
I've never seen the meters they read from the street, Steve. We are on Puget Sound Energy (used to be Puget Power) and they recently switched us to meters that are read in...Tukwila, or maybe Renton?...by a computer. That was part of the text that got edited out of the text. I think that the rules about where meters are located on a building will change now that a person doesn't come out and read them onsite anymore so that will make those boxes even more acceptable. But if they have to drive by and read them...that company might object more strenuously. I built one of those boxes on a quilt shop in downtown Des Moines a few years ago...are they maybe on the same system as you?
I know you weren't trying to be funny, it just hit me that way, you kniow, oh dear god, I didn't think of all that.
But on a serious side, as you know here in the NW we do need to protect from rain. My ground is still wet from the last down pour even with this heat! Which brings us back to this green issue. Are people trashing good, old cedar just to 'feel' protected with new materials? Or because they feel the rough look is tacky and smooth is in? From watching people I have hired and neighbors remodel, most people either don't care or are uninformed. Which is why we need more discussions and articles to help sort this out, IMHO.
I may be mistaken on the meters. I'm in Bellevue and I thought for sure that's why they installed new meters but maybe I have my information mixed up. That would be great, I would prefer to hide the whole thing.
The meters over in Wintrop/Mazama are on fixed poles to be read from the snowplowed roads. I think the new meters that PSE is putting in r the transmittal kind lately.
Very well said Jim !!!!
Hey Jim, I think that it is Vinyl and Aluminum. Lern how two spel.
Sorry, man, that's the problem with being a bad speller, you never can tell when you're wrong. I really have trouble with double constanants...or is that constinants...constituants?
Brinkman for president in '04
Steve....with regard to waste
I call it Breakfast at McQuades: on sunday mornings I hit the local molding makers dumpsters. Last sunday two pieces of 1x12 oak 48" long..and a 2 foot piece of 12/4 x10/4 mahogony. Coffee anyone?...lol
Man, what a great thread. Too bad I've missed out on some of the earlier posts. All of these concerns are things I've agonized over almost daily. As a contractor, I honestly believe that part of my job is to give my clients the benefit of my experience and professional opinion. When it comes to suggesting greener ways to build their home, I do my best. Yup, I've lost some bids, but the ones I've won have produced some great homes and good relationships. We could all stand to do with a lot less.
"Lets try some real thinking"
Ok, I'll try.
But if it hurts my brain, I'm going to have to hit you.
Dangit, I owe you one smack upside da head if I ever meet you.
Green building refers to products and design principles that are earth friendly. OSB would be greener than plywood because it is made up of the waste that is produced from creating dimensional lumber, like plywood. Design principles that are considered green would be, passive solar design and large overhangs for shading. There are many more design principles. Construction recylcing must be done by all builders. I guess I could go on and on but won't right now.
JW - following your logic one step farther, seems like you could make the case that plywood is greener than lumber sheathing because the core plys of CDX, for example, are from very low quality trees, like cottonwood, that have virtually no structural value and grow fast as hell. Plus, I think there is far less lost material in the peeling process than the sawing process.
Of course, we'd have to discuss formaldehyde free glues. I wonder why we don't demand sheet goods glued up with them?
"Green building refers to products and design principles that are earth friendly."
Gee, that sounds nice, but what does it mean? How do you measure two different products or designs and figure out which is the most "earth friendly".
"OSB would be greener than plywood because it is made up of the waste that is produced from creating dimensional lumber, like plywood."
Assuming that is correct what about the extra energy that is used to chop and process that material and the extra chemicals that are needed make the OSB. Might not the best use of the scraps be used as fuel to power the plants making the plywood?
And what about the lifecycle of the material. In a roof applications how much of the osb will have to be replaced over a period of say 100 years compared with th plywood.
Even assuming that the "best use" of the scraps is to make OSB then how come they are building chipping mills that are taking whole treets and putting them in the Ozarks.? Hardly a hot bed of dimensional lumber mills.
Until someone can define "green" other then as a color and can give a test that shows that one thing is greener than another I take all mention of "green" construction with a barge full of salt.
In addition the energy used in making and delivering things enters into discussion. In my case I was less than 100 miles from where the trees grew, were milled, and erected. I looked at sheets of OSB and they came from thousands of miles away as did plywood etc. Some stuff came from overseas!
While some electricity was consumed in the milling process, most was generated from a nearby nuclear plant. What I understand about nuclear plants is that the decay of the uranium continues weither energy is created or not. Thus no additional energy was consumed.
Renewable is a whole "nuther" matter. I built with old growth timbers. They took over 300 years to grow in some cases. Since some of the timbers were already starting to decay from the inside, to not use them would have wasted 300 years of Mother nature. While yes I did use the bole of the tree, well over 50% stayed in the woods to decay and provide a source of renewable compost for future growth. Since it was selective logging with only the large fully mature trees taken, there continues to be virtually all of the benefits to Mother nature that she planned.
I too like the pushand pull of some topics,but like you said, many get a few feathers ruffed.
Here's an interesting one...The company I do most of my business with is able to take those peeler logs from plywood for srcap, and make up to 4-8 pieces of dimensional lumber with them. They are like interlocking timbers, I got a chunk sitting on my desk, just don't have a dig pic. or scanner to get them here. They are flipped 180 and stack, each covering half of the other timber, creating anything from 2" floor decking to 6" wide walls, depending on what profile you use. Want us to do a few little buildings (1 room) with them. Problem is they are either 8, 10, or 12' lengths, so a long wall probably is out of the question. Thought it was nifty though.
On a side note...been lurkin' on your stories of your project...My wife and I give our hats off to you....Good going...and here's to smoother sailing...
Edited 7/13/2002 1:53:54 AM ET by POSTNBEAM
O.K. I have to admit that there are a lot of opinions and not so many facts being expressed, and certainly most of us have to make a living now, not just dream idealisticaly. However what I am still trying to find out is if the information has ever been compiled comparing most of the "traditional" styles of construction? If so, where would somebody that really cared find it. And if they could afford it, how many would try to build it for them. If anybody had some real facts, and a pleasant way of passing on the information, I believe that most of us could benefit at least a little. No, we are not going to change the industry over night, or even this decade probably, but it's about time we at least consider the problems so that the answers start to get developed. Certainly don't expect for all the waste to stop, just cut back a little when it is possible, and for everybody to think a little about what we can all do to make it a better place to live, so far its the only planet we have, best to not screw it up to bad. Hope nobody takes this to personal, because it is my own wastefulness that got me started down this trail in the first place.
Dan Anybody can complain, who's got solutions!
Dan, you said - "O.K. I have to admit that there are a lot of opinions and not so many facts being expressed...what I am still trying to find out is if the information has ever been compiled comparing most of the "traditional" styles of construction?"
Just who is it you think is qualified to compile these "facts"? One person's "fact" is another person's "opinion" about this type of thing. There are many degrees of enviromental awareness and many ways of thinking about it. I'd be leery of anyone who proclaimed to have the answers.
I guess you know that many people believe depleting the rain forests will have serious impact on the world's weather patterns. And that others believe nature contains cures for AIDS, cancer, polio, the plague, and virtually every other malady we are exposed to.
That's what makes "green living" such an interesting topic. Every time I study a little more I come away with far more questions than answers. The one thing I believe to be true - the thought that gets reinforced over and over - is that mankind is on a destructive path. We are poisoning the planet we live on and depleting its resources at an alarming speed. Can our species evolve fast enough to adapt to the environment we are creating? For my descendents sake, I hope so, but I'm not confident.
Man has learned to fly and solve complex medical problems. We've split the atom and gone to the moon. Man will solve the crunch when it becomes a priority to man. So I believe that we will find solutions to all of our delemas. That does not mean the quality of life will be the same in the future that it is now. We can already see that, no more herds of buffalo covering the prairie as far as the eye can see, no passenger pigeons, few Chestnut trees, few Wolves and Grizzly bears. Few Bald Eagles and Whooping cranes.
The problem is that solutions vary tremendously, What works in west Texas won't work in Minnesota and visa versa. what's green for me cannot be the same for everyone since everyone has differant needs and priority's. We need to big picture and that's very hard to do....... In many ways it's like curing cancer, slowly and at great expense we are finding solutions to the many differant forms of cancer,. We haven't solved it yet but we're getting there......
I guess that it would be a lot easier to think about the comments of the greens if they were all walking barefoot and naked back to their caves that they are kicking some animal out of, or to their mud huts with the hand harvested (native) thatched roof, Reading stone tablets made from stone that hadn't been distured for millions of years,by the light of their bees nest candles that they destroyed a bees home for. My point being that wood is and always will be a renuable resource, If you cut one down and carefully plant another, you end up with another tree. Is that not what also feed the greens of the world? Wheat, rice, barley, etc.,etc,etc. I don't ever recall any of the greens complaining much about where their food comes from. Somehow we builders of the world seem to take the most heat for destroying the world. It is something that is driven by society not us.We all make choices. My choice is to build whatever structure at whatever cost that the clients are willing to spend. It allows me to have very up to date ( read efficient and expensive) vehicles, that sip petro at a rate probably = to half of what the $100 jalopies that the greens are driving around. Also I am very carefull about jobsite waste, very! It is something that I insist on with my subs and my employees. My guys know that and know it well. AGAIN IT'S A CHOICE TO BE CAREFULL OR SLOPPY. Sorry to rant but I feel that we can only be expected to try so hard!!!!!
Another great trend is to dismantle old timberframe structures and re-use the wood frame. How can you get much greener than that. And plywood will always be better than OSB at whatever the cost IMHO. I use all of the engineered products that I can manage but will always use the original engineered product (plywood ). Remember that 100 years ago, buildings used to be sheathed with old growth 1X materials. OSB is cheap crap and is showing itself to last about as long as what you paid for it, again IMHO!
If you wish to build efficiently in terms of resource consumption, perhaps you should consider building high density housing to create high density urban centers. The benefits are numerous- less land consumed per resident, shared walls/floors reduce heating costs, services travel smaller distances and can be centralized for efficiency, less asphalt and rooftop per resident reduces stormwater runoff, mass transit and walking become feasible alternatives to driving single passenger vehicles, low land ambulance costs, more efficient systems of distribution of goods and services, etc.
Not the answer you were looking for?....
If you are searching for quantitative answers, I am sure that you will find all sorts of them, but I would question their overall usefulness to the purposes of your original question.
Discussions of sustainable design have typically suffered from a lack of clarity. Fundamental questions such as "what is 'nature'? "what separates humans from 'nature'" "at what point does human intervention change the 'natural' into the 'unnatural'" and the subsequent and most important question- "what is worth saving about nature and why?" must be addressed before a meaningful discussion of methods of sustainability can be entered into. Otherwise one is simply developing a means with no clear end.
In short, if you want to develop a considered sustainable building practice, I think you must first develop a reasoned set of environmental ethics on which to base your approach. Given our historical western divide of 'man vs nature, nature vs culture,' I am not sure that this will be an easy task, or that it is even currently possible.
In many ways, construction advice on so-called 'green' building practices for single family homes in the countryside can be compared to a marriage counsellor advising an abusive spouse to wear weighted boxing gloves- the gloves will lessen the severity of the beatings, reduce the cuts and bruising, and, in tiring the abusive partner out, will shorten the duration of each beating. Though there is logic to this argument, the advice it offers is abhorrent. In choosing to address the symptoms alone, it ignores the fundamental problem and in doing so tacitly permits it to continue. In a healthy relationship battery is inconceivable. Seen as such, the question of sustainability demands a considered examination of the relationship between the human and 'the natural.'
Western society has a long cultural and social history of philosophically and physically separating humans from 'the natural,' and in ascribing value to nature only inasmuch as it is tamed and/or exploited to suit our purposes. There are many arguments for and against this viewpoint, and I'm not particularly interested in supporting or attacking it here. What is of interest, however, is that this notion has been reinforced in our culture through writing, painting, religious texts, and, of course, architecture.
Architecture has a unique place among these cultural devices, however, as it serves to directly mediate the relationship of humankind and nature. It is thus capable of clearly drawing or obscuring the line between the natural and the human spheres, and, in drawing the line, it must decide where to start and stop. In the face of this capacity of the built form to shape and sharpen our understanding of our relationship with nature, discussions comparing the embodied energies of various insulations against their insulating values (however well intentioned) are of little importance. Building a gazebo becomes an act of good, building an R2000 box with tiny windows an act of evil- the sustainability 'boxing glove' in its most obvious form.
If we are dissatisfied with the effects of our current relationship with the natural world, I would suggest that perhaps the only way that we can presently claim to 'build sustainably' is to develop the designs of our buildings and communities in such a manner as to begin exploring our relationship with nature in ways that we do find meaningful today. Perhaps only through years of using architecture as a device to examine and explore our relationship with nature will we have a clear enough understanding of what this relationship should be to develop a coherent set of environmental ethics on which a set of 'sustainable building practices' can be based.
To discuss sustainable building without first discussing what is to be sustained and why, may be akin to making the beds while the house burns down.
I have often heard 'environmentalists' discuss the relationships of certain North American indian tribes to 'mother earth,' usually in simplistic terms, often with a romanticized view of a time and place from which the environmentalists themselves couldn't possibly be more removed or disconnected.
While I have no desire to add to this nostalgia, I think the following story is probably worth relating.
I had the opportunity some years ago to walk a piece of land on which we were to develop a proposal for an Anishnabe band. I was accompanied by an older woman from the band who was on the board of the project. Much as I'm sure you do, I looked for certain things in terms of siting, mostly conditioned actions from my training and past projects.
As we walked through the woods and talked, I began to realize that while we were looking at the same site, we had distinctly different ways of seeing it. The best way I can describe it is that where I saw individual things, she saw patterns- while I was fixing things in time and space, she was suspended within a series of cycles- the changes of temperature, precipitation and light that move with the day and the seasons, the blooming and fading of flora and fauna, the larger cycles of the encroachment and recession of various tree species. As she pointed things out to me through stories, it was as if everything for her was at once what we saw, what it had been and what is was becoming- in terms of the day, in terms of the season, in terms of her life experience on this piece of land. For her the site was not and could not be a fixed thing, in the same way, I suppose, that a story is not fixed by words to the pages of a book.
Looking over my photos, sketches and notes afterwards, it struck me that while I seemed to have spent most of my time describing things, she had spent most of her time explaining her understanding of things.
I couldn't help but think that someone who could see a site in this way would make an awfully good architect. Of course, because she could see the site this way, she wasn't interested in architecture at all.
Perhaps if we could start to design our buildings to encourage us to see as she did, there wouldn't be any discussion of sustainability, designing for longevity and to reduce waste- it would be understood, and anything else would be vandalism.
All of which is to say that perhaps we should be discussing what you are building and why you are building it in terms of 'sustainability' before we start worrying about how to 'build sustainably.'
The usefulness of promoting sustainability within an economic and social model that is increasingly based upon growth and consumption is another story...
There is some logic to the argument that we should all drive s.u.v.'s that will rust out in five years to the drive-through to eat fast food from styrofoam plates with plastic 'sporks' while wearing this season's fashion and listening to this week's formula pop hit on a piece of technology that will be obsolete in a year- it would, after all, be the best thing for the economy... garbagemen do have jobs....
And there is some logic to the argument that once trees and patches of wilderness are scarce enough, the market will correct itself to indicate their true value monetarily, thereby guaranteeing their survival.....
Best of luck in your quest.
In my opinion, homebuilding is something we do to avoid being "green". I mean think about it, we spend how much time and money trying to keep nature at bay? If you want green housing, go find a cave!
Personally, I do everything I can around a jobsite to avoid harming things.
Watch where you put mineral spirits, for example, I see people all the time throwing mineral spirits on the ground or pouring it down a drain! One contactor Iuse to work for, I showed him how to reuse the stuff (you know, pour it into a bucket, let it settle overnight, pour off the top and save the sludge and take it to a dump to be disposed of properly). He told me the other day he saves about $1,000 a year.
Another helpful hint, stop and think about how you use wood, and how to minimize waste. I actually save everything until the job is over, and by trying to get all that I can out of each board-foot. A guy I did a bunch of trimwork for, had hired someone to estimate how much trim he would need to finish his house. When I got done installing the stuff, he had over 500 linear feet of trim left over, which he was able to return And got about $7500 back. The estimator didn't believe that I was able to save that much and said that I "mustof done somethin' wrong". After he came out to the site and saw my work he started calling me and offering me jobs!
Building a good solid house that homeowners won't have to worry about for 50-100 years is an excellent way to be green. Also renovating older houses is a gerat way to recycle.
scares me, and I'm fearless
" We are carried in the belly of what we have become, towards the shambles of our triumph"
OK Eli, I'll bite, what the heck is that supposed to mean, and why did you say it here. I bet that there is a deep meaning somewhere, but don't tease, it is not what mother wanted. So please enlighten me, and any of the others that I thought I heard saying "Huhh". I obviously need some more culture, here is your chance to improve one piece of mankind. Sincerely, I think, DAN
I think the quote means that we are so entrenched in our ways what we can't get outside the problem in order to fix it , And so on we go in the name of "progress".
I was just in British Columbia cruising on the west coast of Vancouver Island. We corvered a lot of territory. Every direction I looked I saw clearcut land. From what I saw it would seem that the rainforest really are gone. When I got back to Maine I bought some Western Red Cedar for some railings I am building for a client.
I feel as though I am stuck in the same patterns that we all are in, and I don't know what to do about it.
At the end of the day that cedar was the only thing on the shelf worth using for my project.
I really enjoyed reading the postings on this topic,
I wish I had solutions to the problems we face, but I don't.
In the mean time I trade the comlexity of duty for the simplicity of guilt.
P.S. Please spare me the sustainable forestry lectures, I have heard all that before.
Edited 7/18/2002 10:39:15 AM ET by Eli Ellis
I think the earth's resources are for us to use, how else would we enjoy the beauty of cedar if it's still inside the tree? But it needs to be treated as a precious material. If it were gold, would you throw the left over away or burn it up?
I've been installing cedar shingles on part of my house, my god what a beautiful product. The colors and grain are so incredible I swept up the pieces I cut off. Who knows, someday I may find a use for them, cigar box maybe?
So back to the topic, defining 'building green' is difficult but that doesn't mean we should take our resources for granted.
Steve, you said "I think the earth's resources are for us to use..." how did you come to that belief?
Brinkman for president in '04
I don't know if that was rhetorical or not but I'm not sure how we would survive without using the earth's resources. The question is, as with green building, when does it become extreme, waste, greed, etc, etc.
I was in a meeting the other day, and brought this subject up for discussion. And as the discussions here have gone, we agreed to disagree on what "green" building is...i.e. 'in the eye of the beholder'. One suggestion that came up was what if we possibly started guidelines for this, and implemented them. Maybe different 'levels' of 'green' building...Like "seedling" level for a residential contractor would include scrap usage, accurate takeoffs to a percentage, etc. Then "Reprod." level would include fibercement siding or such, increased use of engineered wood, etc. It could go on.
I know that it was only a few of us just brainstorming, but what if an assoc. of us got together to hammer out an idea that, if anything, would be of SOME benefit to the environment. There will ALWAYS be differences of opinion and such, but nothing will change unless sometype of guidline is in place. For instance, a companys' goal or plan needs to be on paper to work. From there you can always cut it, modify it, expand on it, etc...but it needs to start somewhere....then constant improvement can be gained. I don't know or have the answers to the solution, but we will never know until the wheel starts turning.....
Steve...how is your porch coming along??? Sorry I didn't realy get to convey what I was talking about on the soffit thing....How much time do you have left???
Okay, what about this as a possible guidline - have you guys ever seen that book, I think the title is "The State of the World _____"? In the blank is the year. They publish it every year. It's dictionary sized and kind of an almanac of all the newsworthy events and significant dates of the past year?
Well anyway, and I wish I could dig this out but have tried in the past and failed, in the introduction to one from the early 90s, maybe 1991, I read something to the effect of - (just paraphrasing here, but you'll see why I bring this up) "...in 1991, industry in the United States consumed over 50% of the non renewable resources used worldwide, generated 2/3 of the pollutants emmitted into Earth's atmosphere, and produced 70% of the world's non recyclable garbage in the process"
I hope someone has that exact quote because I hate to be careless with such drastic charges, but anyway, my point is, what if as a standard we only generate pollution, garbage and consume non-renewable resources porportionate with our population? That would at least get us to where we are on par with other people around the planet...better yet would be if we could actually use our economic might to be a LEADER in this type effort.
What about that idea?
Steve - I was asking a sincere question about those resources earlier. I try my best not to use rhetoric or sarcasm in serious discussions here online...way to easy to misunderstand. Many people believe that we were "put" here, and that this was all "created" to serve our needs...I was just asking.Brinkman for president in '04
Jim...I know I saw that book somewhere during our move....(probably in the garage somewhere)...I know what you are talking about....Gonna try to dig that out 2-nite.
I KNOW that we could be a leader in this topic..."enforcement" or adherance or support... would be applicable in our continent......good start anyways.
I wonder if an organization would be willing to possibly start the wheel of input and feedback to include the builders standpoint, as well as other involved groups. You up for being the chairman??
Lots was written on this subject in "The Builder's Guide to A Cold Climate"
Someone said we must have a guideline, start somewhere and go from there. (It's a hell of a lot easier to get a car out of the parking space when we've got the tires rolling a little.) Three cheers for that guy. So! Let's get it rolling! Just for fun, why don't we all tack on sentences to my list here, and see what we can come up with? Theses points are not in any particular order, I numbered them so people could use reply/ suggest modification to particular statements.
What is green building?
--Green building do's--
1-- wasting less material & wasting 'lesser' material when waste is necessary. (aka, using paperboard for patterns rather than 3/4 ply.)
2--Choose materials whose creation does less damage to the environment than competing materials. (Use post-consumer recycled legal tablets vs. fresh-dead; find the local used/surplus materials clearinghouse)
3-- Choose materials which do less damage to the health of a house's (sp?) occupants. (If a non-formaldehyde glue arrives on market, we'll use it.)
4-- Accept that all materials remove "biomass" from the "Earth-loop" and put that mass into the "human-loop" & get over it. (Stop feeling guilty for having a roof over your heads- I feel your pain and I don't like it.)
5--Many times we will have to balance the use of harmful long-lifetime materials vs. non-harmful short-lifetime materials(Lead paint/ vinyl siding/aluminum siding vs. latex paint that has to be redone frequently)
6--Wood is not a renewable resource. (Encourage your clients to buy local, clear-cuts don't look good in their back yard)
-7-Build as green as you can, some progress is better than none.
8-- "Do what you can, don't (try to) do what you can't " (Tune up the carb on the old heap vs. buy a new Low Emissions Vehicle which I can't afford)
9--Be a hero in yer neighborhood: using old appliances & fixtures takes more labor, while using less BioMass <see #4> aka It Creates Jobs!!!
10--Use less materials in the building of a house/ build smaller houses
11--Renovate vs. building new
12--build apartments/ clustered housing/ multifamily dwellings vs. single family housing
13--In the end, we must hand all responsibility for this discussion to HandyDan
Blaze Away, Caribouman
14 - Reduce unnecessary driving by truckpooling whenever possible and try to minimize trips to get supplies.
15 - Try to locate a composition roofing and drywall scrap recycler instead of taking torn off roofing to the dump.Brinkman for president in '04
Just to clear up a little question in my own mind, are we talking credit or blame for this discussion? No matter, I never let goood reasons keep my mouth in the closed position, if you don't like my opinions then set me straight! Anyway we are finally headed down the road that I have been hoping for, original thinking and ideas from a number of involved people from differing areas and fields of endeavor. I most like that idea of recycling of the stuff of demolition, because it is already no longer part of nature, unless you count garbage. Smaller is good, although then a good design becomes even more important, an it won't appeal to all of the mine is bigger than yours group. We may have to set examples, and then hope to get some peer pressure to really get things moving the proper direction. Next?
Dan undertrained, overpaid and enjoying it!
But what is small? The Not So Big book made me feel like I had shrinkage. But on the other hand, The New Cottage Home gave me my confidence back, which makes my wife happy...
Is it size or how you use it? (Sorry, I've taken it too far). But can you say the ideal home is 2000 sq ft? Or do you define it by peoples needs? For instance, for those who stay home most of the time probably need a larger home than those who are out a lot or travel. Stay at homers might need a workshop, place for garden tools, hobby hut, etc. Those out and about only need a place to store clothing and sleep. Or what about entertaining types?
Or is building green a sacrifice that we must all make? Eveyone must live in 1500 sq ft or else?
"Eveyone must live in 1500 sq ft or else?"
will the person who has my 500 sq ft please return it.bobl Volo Non Voleo Joe's cheat sheet
I haven't read "The Not So Big House Book" yet so maybe I'm being redundant, but what about the idea of carefull planning the utility of however much square footage you do have? Like, what about incorporating some of the old ways, like having the ability to "close off" parts of a house, like the upstairs, or a section of bedrooms, when the kids leave home. Wouldn't simple things like that require less fuel to heat and cool but plan for folks to stay put as their needs change?
Could that type of thinking, that a home is permanent, lead to taking better care of it, and investing emotionally in the neighborhood and surrounding community? Maybe getting involved with local politics or the school system we all love to blame for society's ills?
Steve - about living without using resources - I've been thinking a lot about that since yesterday. Is it fair to say that humans lived on this planet for thousands of years without using fosil fuels, without polluting the air and water? Is much of the pollution we see today a result of industrialization? (sincere questions here) I realize what you say about "how could we survive...?" is pretty much on point, but I guess what I'm asking is, could we change the way we live? Is that what it would take to save our planet?
Brinkmann for president in '04
I've put my thumb in the ocean many times and nobody notices but me. Earth friendly building? Producers won't suggest it, consumers won't pay for it and the government can't regulate it. At least not as whole-heartedly as needs be. Reduce, re-use, recycle. Everyday. Everywhere. Everybody. If you're not recycling, you're throwing it all away! Until all of us take those cliches to heart, some of us will be swimming upstream. Personally, I'm up to it. I'm not too proud to use cocrete forms for drywall backers, or make every tradesmen on my jobs put their empties in my truck(aluminum was 28 cents a #this week). Every little bit helps.