Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Log Homes built with Mountain Pine Beetle Effected Timber

Timber that has died from natural sources and remains standing after it has died is referred to as “dead standing” or “standing dead” timber.
Dead standing timber is very popular with those concerned with the environment. It is selectively logged, often by helicopter logging. This method of logging is much easier on the environment. Logging the dead standing timber decreases the risks of forest fires and of massive areas of blow-down with increased environmental disturbances.

Much of our forests here in British Columbia are being devastated by the Mountain Pine beetles, which bore through the bark of the living trees to the cambial area. There they mate and then leave their larvae to hatch. The beetles interfere with the nutrient and sap flow of the tree and it eventually dies. Once the beetles have hatched, they leave. Nature's most effective population control for the beetles is cold weather, which kills beetle larvae. Sudden cold snaps of - 25 degrees C in the early fall or late spring, or sustained winter temperatures less than - 40 degrees C are required in order to curtail infestations. Since 1994, mild winters have decreased the winter mortality rate of beetle larvae from the usual 80 per cent mortality to less than 10 per cent mortality.
Consequently, our forests are greatly effected.

Fortunately, this timber can be retrieved and used for building handcrafted log homes.
Building with timber which has been drying naturally before it is harvested greatly reduces the shrinkage problems encountered when building with green logs. There is no need to be concerned about the beetles living in the logs of your new log home as they only live under the bark of live trees and so are long gone by the time your home is built.
Sitka Log Homes has been promoting the use of this great resource for years now. It has been a popular choice of customers looking to leave a more gentle impact on our environment over the last ten years or so. Our now famous “BC Canada Place” log house built for the Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy was built using Mountain Pine Beetle effected timber. BC Canada Place promoted the beauty and integrity of this environmentally conscious choice to the world.

A handcrafted log home built of Mountain Pine Beetle effected timber built by Sitka Log Homes. The beetle leaves behind a blue streak in the wood which is very pleasing.

For more information on the Mountain Pine Beetle:
Mountain Pine Beetle - Ministry of Forests and Range - Province of British Columbia - 22 Apr 2008
Ministry of Forests information about the mountain pine beetle in BC, including: reports, photos, brochures, fact sheets, question & answers, maps, news releases, and regulations.

Photo by Lorraine Maclauchlan, Ministry of Forests, Southern Interior Forest Region

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Log Homes and Insulation Values

The insulation values of log homes has been a subject of great debate among building professionals for decades. And indeed, it is a topic that will be debated for quite some time. But perhaps the best evaluation of the insulation properties of a log home must be understood through the properties of wood as an insulator as well as a conductor of thermal heat and cooling.

Perhaps one of the most classic examples is having a piece of ice covered in sawdust for an extended period of time. You would find that that although the ambient temperature may be around room temperature or higher, the ice completely surrounded by sawdust may last several weeks or months before melting. We witness this effect every spring in our log yard and still find pieces of ice and snow well into June when we remove some of our peelings and shavings for co-generation fuel.
Although wood has a generic R-value of about 1.5 per inch of thickness, consideration must be given to the thermal mass properties of the log work. For instance, once a heat source has been eliminated from a house during cold weather conditions, a log home takes much longer to cool down than one consisting of drywall. Conversely, a log home takes much longer to heat up in the summer therefore reducing the consumption of energy used for air conditioning. Due to the stability of the temperature of wood during heating and cooling periods, less energy is used to heat and cool log homes due to the thermal mass of the logs themselves.

There are several technical study reports available that fully elaborate on the subject of energy efficiency of log homes and all conclude that log homes are more energy efficient than conventionally constructed homes.
To read more download "The Energy Performance of Log Homes" report prepared by the Technical Committee of the Log Home Council, Building Systems Councils and the National Association of Home Builders

By Walter Bramsleven
General Manager/Director of Sitka Log Homes
President of The BC Log & Timber Building Industry Association

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Green Building Practices and Log Homes

The latest buzz words not only in the log home building industry but for every business these days are: green practices, environmentally sensitive, sustainable, renewable resources, energy efficient etc. We all want to stop global climate change and conserve our valuable resources. To many businesses these words represent new concepts bringing about much needed and long overdue changes. For the log home building industry it means a greater awareness of the many ways in which we’ve already been doing this in business for a long time now, particularly for the log home handcrafters.

Handcrafted Log Homes in General
Energy EfficientDue to a logs natural thermal mass, test results have shown that log walls are significantly better than walls in conventional homes for retention of heat in the winter and coolness in the summer. One such test on a log wall constructed with 10" diameter logs exposed one side to temperatures of 1100 ° C for 3 hours and the opposite side never achieved a temperature higher than 48° C. (International Log Builders Association News, Issue 35, September 2001).
Handcrafted log homes are built essentially by hand. The logs are hand-peeled, the notches and laterals chiseled and then cut by hand, not milled. Large full length logs are used and, due to their great lengths, they are air dried rather than the energy intensive kiln dried method.

Environmentally Sustainable
If planned and maintained properly, log homes can last for many many years. When the time comes to dismantle a log house, the wood from those logs can still be used in a variety of ways. In fact in our own business we had a customer who bought property with a log home already on it. They wanted a larger, more complex design and opted to build another log home on the same spot. The original log home, which had been built in the 70’s, was dismantled and re-erected on another couples lot who had re-purchased the original log shell. Now that’s recycling!

Environmentally SensitiveAlmost the entire log is used to build a handcrafted log home, so there is very little waste material produced.
Cedar logs have a natural resilience to insects and moisture so there is not the need to use harmful or toxic finishes over the logs.
For other species there are now many enviro-stains on the market.

Log home construction lowers the use of high emission producing materials such as gypsum, fiberglass insulation, exterior sheeting and vinyl or metal siding.

Sitka Log Homes in Particular – How we stand out

In addition to all of the above, Sitka Log Homes also offers the following green building practices.

For years we have been participating in our own renewable forestry program. Our personal foresters are committed to promptly re-planting after any harvesting. In addition, we have also been leading the way in the use of “dead standing” timber. Timber which has died of natural causes and has remained standing in the forest, thereby drying naturally before it is even harvested. The harvesting of this particular timber has for many years been heli-logged which is kinder on the environment as it requires less impact to harvest.
Due to the devastation of our local BC forests by the Mountain Pine Beetle, Sitka Log Homes has, for several years, utilized these naturally seasoned trees and have successfully marketed the Mountain Pine logs worldwide to educate clients about the strength, sustainability and natural beauty of this wood. This resource does not require extensive extracting and processing techniques.

We source our wood locally and pre-build efficiently in our construction yard thereby cutting down on high fuel consumption and high emissions caused by long hauling.

Our solid waste, such as log ends and lateral cuttings, is used by locals for firewood as well as shipped to a local meat packing facility to be used to heat their hot water system. At other times, it is shipped as hog fuel for co-generation heating at a local mill or for electricity at a nearby electrical co-generation plant.Our waste wood is only 10% of our total wood consumption and only consists of bark peelings and log ends. Logs that are not suitable as house logs are sawn into timbers and log siding.

In a report for the Ecoforestry Institute, Cam Brewer states
. . . Local manufacturers that create high-value wood products are able to reduce the pressure for unsustainable levels of timber extraction. By carefully valuing each log, by developing markets for under-utilized species, and by incorporating 'character' wood (with knots, bug stain, or other 'flaws'), higher value can be extracted from a lower volume of cut. This will help create employment, diversity, and stability in local communities, and break the dependency on single-product commodity mills."
At Sitka we often use flared ends of logs and logs with interesting curves and markings for character logs. Also, we frequently use the root portion of some trees for features within our homes. Therefore we use many logs that otherwise would have been left to rot or burn in the forest.