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Engineered Wood as a Sustainable Building Material

Construction Material Used in Recycled Wood Flooring, APA Rated Siding, I-Joists, and OSB

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Wood Plastic Composite Building Material

Wood Plastic Composite Building Material

This article was revised on 09/03/20.

These products are also called manufactured or composite wood and they’re green building materials in 2 respects. To begin with, the process uses scrap material from sawmills as well as repurposed wood (pallets, deconstructed buildings, etc.) so that it reduces excess waste in the local landfill. Win, win.

But more than that, since it utilizes recycled material, it begins to curtail live tree cutting, deforestation, as well as all the energy consumption that goes along with harvesting timber and then transporting it to the sawmill processing facility.

For any home renovation or remodeling project, it it just makes good sense to consider using this material to achieve a greener home.

What are the Benefits of Manufactured Wood?

  • Because of the way the manufacturing process works, this stock can be made to more precise tolerances than fresh-cut timber. Also, it’s free of many natural potential defects, like knots, soft spots, burls, and splits. Burls are coveted for woodworking projects.

  • A number of engineered products have less of a tendancy to warp during times of high humidity. Particle board is a notable exception to this.

  • Smaller as well as stunted trees as well as wood scraps are used. Waste not, want not.

What are the Disadvantages of Engineered Wood?

  • Working with this stock may mean having to use PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). This might include a woodworking respirator when sawing to avoid inhaling any toxins. To find out if this is the situation, always refer to the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet).

  • Some of the bonding agents used in the manufacturing process may be toxic. This is similar to some exotic woods in their natural state to discourage pests. There's just no sense taking a chance.

  • In a number of cases, more energy is expended in the manufacturing process than would be in producing traditional stock. Remember that production consumes much less energy than making concrete or steel, so it follows that the project’s total material list should be considered.

What is Engineered Wood Used for?

  • I-Joists. Both floor and ceiling joists are made with this material. These wood framing members have the advantage that results from the strict adherence to specified sizes, well-distributed strength, and trueness of the boards. All of these factors, when combined, present a huge incentive to make the investment.

    Increasingly, they’re being utilized in residential and light commercial building projects, for just the same reasons, especially if the goal is LEED Certication.

  • APA Rated Siding. Composite wood is widely used in a number of home siding products. The Engineered Wood Association states, “A single layer of rack-resistant panel siding delivers an attractive exterior appearance while eliminating the labor and materials cost of installing separate structural sheathing or diagonal wall bracing.”

    That is an important consideration when shopping for a siding estimate for a home addition or a remodel.

  • Glulam. Glue Laminated timber beams are actually wood laminations that are glued together using a special high-strength, waterproof glue. The considerable strength that results from this process make it ideal for spanning long distances.

  • OSB. Oriented Strand Board is getting more popular all the time. Interestingly, many people are under the impression that OSB is plywood, but that’s actually not the case. Although it’s manufactured in the same sheet shape, it’s composed of wood strands rather than laminations.

    The strands are generally rectangular in shape. They are assembled in cross-oriented layers and then bonded together with heat-cured, waterproof adhesives.

We have no idea what improvements the future will bring but for now engineered wood as a sustainable building material is very feasible and well-worth looking into.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. Smith and Frankie, Southern Black Mouth CurKelly R. Smith was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

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