Thursday, November 22, 2012

Soaring Commodities make conservation attractive, witness, the box beam.

New styles in building and soaring prices of material are bring new trends to building. Prices are through the roof on stone, steel, wood and every other component you can imagine. Everywhere you see the conservation. Doing a slatted porch as opposed to a full wrap, concrete flooring stained for appearance, smaller closets with intelligent storage systems for clothes to give the appearance of a bigger closet, etc?€?

For example, instead of doing full stone on a wall, it is now popular to do stone accents, to capture the look while saving money on expensive stone. Done right, one can enjoy the luxury of stone finishes with all the benefits, while saving on the material that goes into a full stone exterior.

There are plenty of styles en vogue that while not necessarily cheaper, are green in nature. Reclaimed lumber, antique refinished hinges and fixtures, skylight lighting, double coat full attic insulation to save on heating and cooling, etc...

Another trend we have seen is in the commercial sector. While metal stud is the frame of choice for a commercial builder, the price of steel has gone up. For example, the price of hot rolled steel coil has gone from $602 per ton as of September 2007 to $1073 per ton in June 2008. This dramatic increase has made many commercial builders look at wood as an alternative, where feasible.

As the trend continues, more and more specialty companies will evolve. When the price of materials is up and the cost of labor is down, we will see more labor intensive products taking the place of more materials. Think more recycled products. There will be more money in the junk and salvage business. Perhaps instead of eating on wooden table we will one day be eating on elaborately decorated converted car hoods, f women's coats ashioned into any shape? What will be the next great product?

A fairly new product to make waves is the Box Beam. In years past, the technology was limited to installing beams in already existing houses, due to the engineering restraints. The box beams were significantly more expensive since the wood was cheap relative to the cost of labor. With an increase in the price of the materials and a flat wage scale, the savings in material has evened the cost out.

Capuzzo Construction recently launched woodland box beam, a company dealing in wood box beams for custom homes. As a framing company, they knew builders were trying to use less material and thus less man hours in building. However, if the house had been engineered for big, heavy decorative beams, then the load bearing calculations forced the engineers to figure more material into a plan.

A lightweight solution, costing around the same as a solid beam with many advantages, box beams came into popularity. Now engineers could design for a lighter weight frame. The box beam is a green product, and save a significant amount of wood. While conventional beams have a tendency toward twisting, splitting and warping, a box beam will have none of those problems. Without a great mass of wood to absorb and retain moisture, there are not rot problems.

Since they are hollow, innovative approaches may be taken. Wiring and conduit can easily be run through a box beam. They may be used to house a chandelier and it?€?s wiring, or sprinkler systems added aftermarket. They can be detailed with interior track lighting. The options are limitless, and they give you freedom to make choices and changes. After all, the less tied down and locked in we are as builders and renovators, the better a product we can turn out.

While beams can be ordered pre-made in polyurethane, the appearance is never as good as an actual wood box beam. The key to conservation building is to use less without it ever showing. If the home has all the appearance and grandeur of a 3 million dollar home, but it has the price tag of a 2.5 million dollar home, then it will be an easy sell.

Looking around the construction of new and custom homes, we see all these trends toward the conservation of material. Does this take away from the aesthetic appeal or quality of a home? While opinions will differ, it is this author?€?s humble opinion that being able to make more with less is part of the craft and art of construction. A master artisan will thrive with limitations like these, where a hack will flounder.

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