The rewards of building green are many, but they often come with some frustrations on the side. One of the greatest challenges can be sourcing building materials – that great green design or green building certification might rely on materials that are very tough to find in your market.
Wood products are a case in point. If you insist on using only the best green wood in your project (wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, or FSC), then be prepared to run around a bit. You might be able to find FSC-certified core building materials such as framing lumber, flooring or decking at your local home improvement store, but you’ll likely be more challenged finding local sources of doors, windows, cabinets and finish materials.
With some hard work and a great contractor, though, it’s possible to use nothing but green wood, as shown by the 2008 winner of FSC’s “Designing and Building With FSC” award. Portland, Oregon builder Green Hammer, Inc. won the award after using nearly 100% FSC-certified wood in their LeapFrog project (the only exceptions were some limited materials salvaged from local buildings or milled from on-site trees). Among the wood products used were FSC-certified Douglas fir, hemlock and spruce from local forests for framing lumber, floor, trim and cabinets and FSC formaldehyde-free plywood. Best of all, Stephen Aiguier, president of Green Hammer, estimated that the use of FSC wood only added 1-2% to the cost of the project (via GreenSource Magazine).
The LeapFrog house is notable for many other reasons as well, among them its LEED Platinum rating from the USGBC. Some of the other non-wood highlights include:
- Geothermal heat pumpfor radiant floors and panels, and domestic hot water;
- Advanced framing techniques (staggered studs) that minimize thermal bridging in the walls and allow for an uninterrupted layer of insulation;
- Rainwater catchment system with purification that provides 100% of the home’s water needs (wow!);
- “Cool” metal roof without any plumbing or ventilation penetrations – energy efficient, offers the possibility of lasting for 100 years, and assists in funneling clean water to the catchment system.
Oh, and if your interest has been piqued AND you happen to live in the Portland area,there’s one for sale! The $690K pricetag is a bit steep, but I’m sure the huge energy and water bill savings with this home will take a big chunk out of that through time.
Visit Low Impact Living’s directory of green builders to find help with a similar project near you. Or, read more about selecting sustainable wood, using geothermal heat pumps, and selecting eco-friendly roofing materials.