We recently had the privilege to work on an eco-roof, which is a type of living roof that combines a waterproof membrane roof with a lightweight soil mixture on top and that allows you to grow shallow rooted plants on the roof. It has many environmental benefits and is a great way to greenify your home.
In my estimation IPE Hardwood is the best material for deck construction. It is a beautiful wood and it is also incredibly hard and durable. The only draw back to IPE is it’s cost, and that it can be difficult to source from sustainable FSC Certified forests.
Other options that are popular and widely available are composite deck materials, however, I think that IPE ages much more beautifully than composite materials do. The problem is that composite materials tend to get bleached by the sun and fade over time. However, there are a variety of composite deck products available and they are constantly reformulating them. The products can generally be classified by the nature of their petroleum component. Some examples are:
Polyetheylene: Trex, Weatherbest, Timbertech, ChoiceDek
PVC: AZEK / Procell, DeckLok
Update 6/2/08: I just ran across this nice list of environmental ratings for synthetic/composite decking materials.
For new green building products, the main supplier in the Portland area is Ecohaus, which was formerly known as the Environmental Home Center. They offer a good selection of FSC Certified flooring and decking, low VOC paints, sealers and adhesives, cork and marmoleum flooring, earth plasters, low flush toilets, energy saving lights, and water conserving plumbing fixtures.
Another important local resource is the ReStore which is run for the benefit of Habitat for Humanity and offers the largest inventory of used building supplies. Some of their products include windows, interior doors, bathtubs, toilets, sinks, appliances, lighting/electrical hardware, cabinets, flooring, drywall, tile, and assorted hardware, etc. They also offer a full service demolition crew which can help with material recovery.
If you are just looking for flooring options, then you can try Eco Floors on Milwaukie Ave. They carry low VOC carpet, recycled carpet, Bamboo floors, and FSC certified wood floors.
For lumber, several of the local lumber yards carry FSC Certified lumber in stock and most can special order it.
The 2008 Portland Greener Homes and Gardens Expo is this weekend, May 17-18. It should be a great opportunity to learn about the latest green building products and is organized by the same folks who put out the ReDirect Guide. They will have a series of lectures and seminars on Alternative Energy and Gardening running in conjunction with the expo.
In the Pacific Northwest waterproofing problems are probably the #1 source of construction defect lawsuits. These lawsuits are bad for contractors and we all pay the price in the form of increased insurance rates which translate into higher construction costs for consumers.
The secret of waterproofing exterior walls is not some newfangled technology, but rather an evolutionary thinking about how we incorporate technologies that we have been using for decades. Academic tests and studies on the science of waterproofing exterior wall systems are freely available, yet many contractors still don’t follow these proven techniques.
The basic lessons from these studies are that we need to design for failure. That’s because it doesn’t matter if you use the latest and greatest Hardiplank cement board siding or cheap vinyl and aluminum siding, at some point the combination of wind, water, and gravity will cause water to get behind your wall. The secret question is, did you plan and design for the water that you’ve now got behind your siding? If you did, your wall system will have incorporated the following four elements:
Drainage plane – heavy felt building paper or housewrap
Drainage space – furring strips, stuccowrap + felt, two layer felt, or air gaps
Flashings – metal flashings to kick water out
Weep holes – openings to allow water to escape
If your wall system includes these four elements and it is well constructed, then you shouldn’t have any waterproofing problems.
FSC stands for the Forest Stewardship Council which is the most well established association that certifies sustainable lumber. FSC certified lumber is sourced from a sustainably managed forest.
I strongly encourage all consumers and constractors to buy FSC lumber whenever possible. When you buy FSC Lumber you can be assured that the lumber was sourced from an accredited organization and from a forest that is managed in a more sustainable manner.
I’ve spoken with a number of industry professionals about the question of sustainable lumber, and the consensus is that FSC certified products are the best option and they are widely available.
When contractors talk about Green Lumber, they are usually referring to lumber that hasn’t been kiln dried or seasoned. This means that the lumber is still wet inside and full of sap from the tree. It is an all too common practice in the Northwest to use green lumber for rough framing due to our proximity to the lumber mills and the fact that it is cheaper than kiln dried lumber. However, the problem with this practice is two-fold.
The first problem is that as wood dries, it changes shape and warps. Depending on the severity of this process, it can cause the entire structure of your home to warp over time, which is one of the common causes of cracking in the drywall or plaster on your walls.
The second problem is that in can take years for green lumber to dry, and over time wet wood is likely to grow mold! The combination of the heat from your house and the moisture trapped in the lumber in the walls creates a friendly environment for a not so friendly fungus.
Now it’s important to note that not all “green” lumber is bad. I say this because some people may refer to lumber that came from sustainable forests as “green” lumber. I will talk about sustainable lumber more in a future article, just make sure that any lumber you get is kiln dried or seasoned before you use it to build or remodel your home.
If you doing a remodel and are interested in learning more about how to recycle the old materials from it instead of sending them to the landfill, then you will probably appreciate the R.E.X project, aka the Reuse Everything Experiment. This is a local remodel being run by recycling expert Shannon Quimby, who is trying to be the first person to reuse or recycle 100% of the materials from her old home on-site.
This is the beginning of our new website. We will soon be adding lots of tips and tricks to watch out for when remodeling your home in Portland, Oregon because that’s where we live, work, and play. Of course, most of this information should apply to remodeling projects in other places too. Please let us know if you have any questions, and stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks.