As homeowner demand for conservation grows, more options are becoming available for builders to learn how to trim down their business practices. Builders looking for ways to be green can turn their focus to how lumber is utilized. Software systems, consulting firms and the National Association of Home Builders are assisting trade professionals in ways to tighten up their processes from start to finish, including eliminating lumber waste.
The amount of lumber waste from a typical 2,000-sq.-ft. home is astounding and pre-sents an opportunity for builders to step up to the plate. “The average 2,000-sq.-ft. home contains 13,127 ft. of lumber board. In terms of waste, approximately 1,600 lbs. of solid-sawn wood and 1,400 lbs. of engineered wood is wasted,” says Carlos Martín, Ph.D., assistant staff vice president, construction, codes and standards for the NAHB, who makes it clear that lumber conservation can greatly contribute to green building practices.
Trimming Material Selections
By focusing on the material selection process, builders can reduce waste by an average of 5 to 10 percent. One way builders can limit their material purchasing is by taking advantage of software systems available at many lumberyards. These software systems are intended to help the builder purchase exactly the amount of lumber needed and nothing more.
iLevel by Weyerhaeuser offers its Javelin software and a waste analysis which walks through a builder’s purchasing and delivery processes. “We use Javelin to create an efficient specification of our products. The next step is to look at how they are getting the material. Typically this is done through a [purchase order] system where they put the POs into the lumberyards they are buying from. If you walk through that process, you’ll find that there’s a lot of waste added to it from all different ends of the business — anyone who touches that process adds waste because each person is adding a little extra just in case they need it,” says Bill Rieger, structural frame specialists, iLevel by Weyerhaeuser.
The final step of the iLevel waste analysis is its NextPhase program. “It allows the builder to precision-enter the package.
The way a typical framing package is shipped today is it’s rounded to the nearest 2-ft. increment. So if you need a 17-ft. piece of material, you’ll get an 18-ft. [piece of material],” Rieger says. The NextPhase system is able to offer accuracy within 1/16-in.
John Olson, vice president of Generation Homes in Fresno, Calif., used the Javelin software for the first time while partnering with iLevel to build the iLevel Performance home, a 3,600-sq.-ft. home in Reedley, Calif. “The end result is we were able to build the home in the same amount of time [it normally takes]. We did have a slowdown at the beginning due to educating myself, framers and all the individuals who touch the components. If we were to do another home following this [process it] would be equal to what we normally do. And if we do a third, we would be ahead of what we normally do. It’s like anything new where it takes a little bit of time for people to get used to it — crews have been doing it one way for so long,” Olson says. Overall, Olson had a positive experience with Javelin and iLevel and would use both again.
“Anyone who touches the process adds waste because each person is adding a little extra in case they need it.” — Bill Rieger, structural frame specialist, iLevel by Weyerhaeuser.
Another software system that helps builders minimize waste and ensure structural integrity is BC Framer by Boise Engineered Wood Products. “It’s a stand-alone product we’ve designed specifically for the specification of Boise engineered wood products. Its focus is to give all the information needed to get an accurate material list to analyze the load so it has the proper structural integrity as well as length requirement,” says Matt Prince, engineered wood product software manager, Boise Engineered Wood Products.
BC Framer has the ability to draw in the walls and the framing area or the boundaries to determine where the joists and beams go. “The user has the ability to add loads to the joist and beams to determine the products that will most adequately meet those needs,” Prince says.
To ensure accurate calculations and minimize lumber waste, Boise offers its BC Calc program. This program allows users to enter design parameters such as product lengths, span and loading conditions, and anywhere holes need to be placed. The program then will provide a range of products to meet those needs.
Prince adds that builders enjoy the capabilities in terms of layout offered by Boise’s software programs. “The product creates a layout or framing schematic that is very informative. It’s color-coded, provides a layout, a list of materials, and framing details that provide assembly instructions,” he says.
Value Engineering Helps
Value engineering — analyzing cost vs. value and alternative materials — is a process by which companies like FMI Corp. help builders and designers to green their practices. “On the custom builder side, we look at methods of construction and design elements. We lean the builders through a value engineering process,” says Clark Ellis, principal, FMI Corp. in Raleigh, N.C.
FMI focuses on two areas of the building process, the first being efficient use of material. “You first have to make sure you have the right amount of material. Then we do value engineering with the builders. This is when you ask, ‘why did we run the floor joists from front to back in this plan.’ If the plan is deeper than wide and you run them front to back, you will need more beams. But if you turn them side-to-side, they will span a smaller distance and you can possibly use fewer joists,” Ellis says.
“Those are things you have to get down into the field for — this is where software systems get close but not close enough to understanding codes and practices in the field.”
“We are helping our clients figure out what green is and consult them on how to reach their green goals.”
— Clark Ellis, principal, FMI Corp.
Ellis adds that the green movement is relatively new and the return on the effort is still unknown. “We are helping our clients figure out what green is and consult them on how to reach their green goals. It’s a struggle for builders to know how to do it and to communicate it to their customers,” he says.
Six Green Tips
NAHB offers six practices builders can utilize for reducing waste and increasing recycling. “The first is design efficiency. Optimal value engineering is essential. Builders must find the most efficient material they need to satisfy code and safety without overdesigning the structure,” Martín says.
“[Practice] two is to enhance the durability. Pick materials that are going to last such as treatments and finishes that won’t need to be replaced. This is focusing on long-term waste. Three is to reuse materials at the construction site such as using an extra floor piece for molding or cabinetry. Four, use recycled materials to reduce global society waste.
“Tip five is to recycle on-site such as putting plastic in one container and organic material in another. Then find appropriate recycling facilities for those materials. And six, use efficient materials. Use products that have had a lifecycle assessment performed on them. This means that you’re making sure all the energy and resources of this material’s lifetime is minimized — you’re getting the most efficiency out of the material,” Martín adds. Builders interested in more information on this program should visit nahbgreen.org.