New Age of Building Materials in Homes
This article first appeared in the Austin American Statesman.

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New Age of Building Materials Becoming Common Place in Homes

by Jill Mayfield, City of Austin Green Building Program

There's a new breed of building products that are changing the face of the building industry. They're called engineered building materials, and as conventional building materials become more expensive and harder to get, more homebuilders are using these new materials.

One class of these products that is becoming widely used is "engineered" wood. Wood that once laid on the mill floor and was thrown away is now part of a new age of building materials.

But are engineered wood products weaker or inferior to solid pieces of lumber ? No, they are designed by licensed structural engineers to do their job well, and have withstood rigorous testing at national labs. The advantages of engineered wood are better performance for the cost, a reduced use of natural resources, and less waste on the job site.

One of the most common uses of engineered wood are roof and floor trusses. The builder gives the house plans to a licensed engineer at the truss mill who designs a configuration of wood members and special metal fasteners that safely bear the load of the building.

A major environmental benefit is that short pieces of small dimension lumber can be used in a truss. This spares the trees in old growth forests-the source of the longest spans of lumber.

Engineered studs are another wood product gaining acceptance among builders and homeowners. These studs are made of short pieces of wood that have finger-like joints cut in each end that are glued together end to end. Wood that was once considered too short to be used for structural purposes, and often just went to the landfill, is now made into finger-jointed studs. Engineered studs are strong, straight and less likely to warp after installation like many solid lumber studs.

If your builder, architect, or designer is specifying engineered products in your home, it means he or she is using smart and proven building technology that is cost-effective. And by incorporating engineered materials into your home, the builder is using a material that may have once gone to waste, and is protecting resources-such as old growth forests-that can never be replaced.


The City of Austin Green Builder Program is a voluntary home-rating system that encourages environmentally sound building, remodeling, and home maintenance. For more information, call 499-7827.

You can find more information including the Sustainable Building Sourcebook compiled by the City of Austin's Green Builder Program at the Sustainable Sources website.


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