EHH week 06: sustainably harvested wood

The carpenters have begun!  We are rising out of the dirt and starting wood framing.  So let’s talk about wood.  Thinking of trees as just a source of wood is not seeing the forest for the trees.  

Trees are a key element of a forest ecosystem, and standard logging practice is brutal to that ecosystem.  Forests provide animal habitat, stabilize soil slopes, buffer rain runoff, transpire water back to the atmosphere, shade the surface of the earth, convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, and reduce the heat island effect.  Clearcut stump fields do none of those.

Back in 1993 an organization called the Forest Stewardship Council was formed to change forest management.  Somewhat akin to organic certification for vegetables, FSC certification assures that the wood used in a building project came from a forest that is both a healthy ecosystem and can continue to produce timber indefinitely.  FSC means no clearcuts, no old growth, is third party certified, and has a chain of custody to track the lumber from forest to construction site.

All the wood material in Northwest Harvest House, all 100%, is FSC certified as well as formaldehyde free.   We got the dimensional lumber (2x6s) from Gray Lumber and the engineered lumber (I-joists) from RedBuilt.  The homeowners paid a small premium for FSC certified material.  The upcharge was worth it to them because they wish to support healthy forests.  Think of it like a donation to the Sierra Club.


EHH week 28: interior trim

As the superintendent likes to remind me, the sequence of construction for this house is not normal.  Most houses install wiring, hang wall board, then set the doors, then lay flooring, then install trim: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.  For this house the concrete flooring went in first, followed by the wiring, the doors, then the trim, and finally the wall board: 4, 1, 3, 5, 2.


The cause of this deviation is the aluminum reveal we architects chose for the trim where floor and doors meet walls.  Traditional houses use wood boards to cover these joints, but for modern houses the preferred detail is without face trim.  The look is terrific--clean and spare--but it makes for a fussy install.


Like wood trim, the aluminum is carefully mitred to mate it to its neighbor at corners and intersections.  Unlike wood, the metal cannot be readily shaved, bowed, or otherwise adjusted to ease it into place.  Its rigidity is proving very frustrating for the builder.


The interior doors are veneered in a lovely alder and are certified to be sustainably harvested by the Forest Stewardship Council.  In order to assure that 100% of the wood in the house is FSC, Model Remodel took two extraordinary measures.  Unable to find FSC wood shims, they are using ABS plastic wedge shims instead.  And the pocket door frame kit came without FSC wood, so they removed it and installed FSC wood in its place.