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.

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