Conference touts wood as ‘green’ building material

Richard Bogren, Clement, Charles E.  |  10/7/2009 12:31:56 AM

News Release Distributed 10/07/09

BATON ROUGE – Wood outperforms other building products because it requires less energy to produce, provides better insulation in buildings, stores carbon and can be fabricated into many advanced building products.

That was the message Russell Richardson, director of industrial markets with the Southern Forest Products Association, told architects, contractors and others in the construction industry at a “green building” conference Sept. 29.

“The purpose of this meeting is to raise industry awareness to the many uses for wood products in green building projects,” said Dr. Charles Clément, a value-added forest products specialist with the LSU AgCenter.

“There is a lot of talk about sustainable building materials,” Clément said, pointing out that green building materials are environmentally responsible because their effects are considered over the life of the product.

“Some of the factors that make these building materials desirable for use in sustainable building are resource efficiency, energy efficiency and affordability,” the forest products specialist added.

Clément said the conference sponsored by the LSU AgCenter was presented to help the forest products industry target this new and fast-growing market, to introduce the many wood products on the market and to provide information on locally available building materials.

U.S. buildings consume 73 percent of all U.S. electricity in heating, lighting and cooling, Richardson said.

Industry experts are conducting life cycle assessments to evaluate the true costs of building products, Richardson said, citing as an example LEED – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – a third-party certification program that certifies buildings as being sustainable.

As for wood products, forest certification systems create links between sustainably managed forests through a chain of custody to the ultimate consumer, Richardson said.

The National Association of Home Builders also has developed national green building guidelines and the International Code Council has a national green building standard, said Ken Jones, managing member of Jones Design Builders in Saint Francisville.

“They’re based on performance criteria,” Jones said of the guidelines. “Forethought can reap benefits when you amortize costs over the life of a building.”

Jones said building codes and standards have been driven more by the insurance industry than by the building industry.

“We can build the best envelope. We can install the best systems. But if builders and architects don’t educate the homeowner, we’re not going to be where we need to be,” Jones said.

“Eighty percent of the housing stock in the United States that will ever be is already here,” he added. “As architects and builders, we need to focus on the existing stock to make it more energy efficient.”

Jones said banks, lenders and appraisers have to recognize the added value of green building practices. “We have to get them in the loop or we’re not going to have much impact,” Jones said “Green can be in the mainstream.”

LEED is a rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, said Regina Philson, an environmental scientist in Baton Rouge.

“It’s a labeling system for a building, telling how ‘healthy’ a building is,” she said. “You can use LEED to tell if your building is performing to standard.”

The measure of a green building includes building life cycle considerations, such as design, construction and operations, the experts said.

“A green building, especially for corporations, improves performance and employee productivity,” said Charlie Chartier, principal of Chartier & Associates, manufacturers' representatives and consultants specializing in the floor covering industry.

Chartier, a member of the board of the Louisiana chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, said data show students’ test scores are greater in green schools and insurance can be lower in green buildings.

The ultimate acceptance of green buildings in the United States will be driven by economics, environmental and social issues, and alternative building materials, said Richard Vlosky of the LSU AgCenter’s Louisiana Forest Products Development Center.

Rick Bogren

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