Building With the Future in Mind Since 1955

Rick Dubrow’s “On The Level” Column in the Cascadia Weekly; Published 10-17-07

Chances are that the next time you bake a cake, tie your shoe or ride a bike, you’ll do it the same way as you did the previous time. We’re simply creatures of habit, aren’t we?  It worked the last time. And you can expend less mental energy this time if you need not reinvent the wheel.  So you whip out the tried and true recipe and do it again. Mmmmm, good cake; my shoes didn’t untie; I didn’t fall off my bike.  Habits and repetition work.

And so it is with building a structure.

Drive by a residential or multi-family jobsite and even non-carpenters recognize a traditional framed wall:  studs 16” on center; 3 studs in the corners…… Builders have been stick framing this way because, well, their fathers and grandfathers did it that way and then passed down the recipe.

Until the ‘70’s when the first energy crisis striketh. Since our buildings burn up about 40% of our total energy use, the Federal Government looked at construction and wondered if there might be a more efficient and effective way to frame our homes.  Might there be parts and pieces in a traditionally framed wall that aren’t structurally necessary?  And, since insulation is a more effective insulator than wood, wouldn’t it be sweet if we could remove these redundant or unnecessary pieces of wood and create more space for additional insulation?

‘Advanced framing’ was born.  It turns out that 20 – 30% less lumber is necessary using this methodology.  Less pieces.  Simplistically speaking, studs are placed every 24”, corners are made of 2 studs, and I won’t bore you with further details ‘cause I’d like you to continue reading!

Yes, each piece of framing is more important because the redundancy has been removed.  And the quality of the lumber needs to be better because, again, each piece is more important to the whole.  Advanced framers therefore need to be more skilled, more intelligent and, hopefully, not paid by the square foot.  Advanced framing is to housing like slow food is to eating.  Slow down and do it right.  Use less stuff.

Although advanced framing is a no-brainer to this green builder, it is a rare contractor that uses this technique.  Why?  I don’t get it.  Even if they’re not green-leaning, at least it saves them lumber, and, therefore, money. So I write it off to inertia; to habits.  Repetition works.

Does it………. really?  You want affordable housing, well here’s one piece of that puzzle: use advanced framing.  You want a cleaner environment, well here’s one piece of that puzzle: use advanced framing.

Insist that your builder use advanced framing. (Feel free to contact me for additional information at Remind him or her that they’re not using a rotary dial phone like their father or grandfather did.  Nor should they be framing walls like their father or grandfather did.  Tell your builder to use less wood; to leave the live trees in the ground where they belong, acting as the lungs of this great planet, ingesting some of the excess carbon dioxide you and I create when we bake a cake, tie our shoe and ride a bike.

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