Lightweigh construction places the lives of home occupants and firefighters in great jeopardy in the event of fire in the home. Engineered wood truss and floor designs collapse faster and burn quicker than dimensional construction. Homes built with lightweight construction need the protection of fire sprinklers to offset the dangers posed by these structures when exposed to fire.
According to the Centers for Disease Control/NIOSH Alert more than 60% of roof structures in the U.S. are constructed with lightweight wood truss construction techniques. Why is engineered wood so widely used? Because it is considered a green alternative to dimensional lumber and it greatly reduces the cost of construction.
According to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) ‘…wood-efficient home building is a "win-win" opportunity for building industry professionals and the environment. Building industry professionals can save money and time by building more efficiently.’
In its handbook; Efficient Wood Use in Residential Construction: A Practical Guide to Saving Wood, Money, and Forests, the NRDC asserts that when the costs of engineered wood is compared with the costs of traditional construction methods, the cost savings are significant. Keep in mind that this handbook was written in 1998. The cost savings adjusted for inflation in today’s dollars would be significantly more.
NRDC lists the following advantages:
- Trusses and panels ("components") can save 250 hours on the job site and save more than $3,300 per house.
- Stressed-skin panels can improve a builder's productivity -- and profitability -- by 16 percent. One crew, building four houses per year, can increase annual profits by $5,900.
- Optimum value engineering can reduce framing wood costs by $700 to $3,400 per house or as much as $1.20 per square foot.
When you add the alleged savings listed by NRDC: Wouldn’t it be more than enough to cover the installation of a fire sprinkler system?
A the time that the NRDC handbook was published it claimed that “…one California project, using optimum value engineering, trusses, and certified wood together saved more than $4,800.” The savings, in today’s dollars, is approximately $6,500.
Over the years home builders have reaped the efficiency and costs benefits of lightweight construction methods. Isn’t it time to pass on some of those benefits to home buyers and firefighters by building safer homes that are protected with fire sprinkler systems?