Conserving Natural Resources
There are many manufacturers of plastic lumber nationwide. Recycled plastic lumber or plastic/wood composite lumber provide durable alternatives to solid wood for exterior applications such as fences, benches, decking, docks, retaining walls, picnic tables, and landscape borders. Due to its weather-and insect-resistant nature, plastic lumber can readily substitute for treated wood in non-structural applications. Plastic lumber is also rot and corrosion-proof, and will not crack, splinter, or chip. It has a long life expectancy in exposed, sub-grade or marine applications, and does not leach chemicals into ground or surface water or soil as treated wood can.
Plastic lumber resists vandalism and does not require painting. It is available in a variety of colors, including white, although many companies have a standard color of either brown or black. These products can be nailed, screwed, sanded, glued, or turned on a lathe with standard woodworking tools. One challenging aspect of working with plastic lumber is its high expansion coefficient, which must be considered during installation. Check with the manufacturer regarding structural support specifications.
There is a large family of engineered structural products, including laminated veneer lumber (LVL), wood I-beams and I-joists, and wood roof and floor trusses. These products combine efficient raw material use with improved strength and performance capabilities to produce a superior option to traditional materials. Engineered lumber manufacturers use fast-growing, small-diameter trees efficiently. Combining wood veneer and fiber with adhesives produces laminated veneer lumber. The LVL manufacturing process allows more of the log (up to 80%) to end up as product. LVL lumber is very consistent and stable. Wood I-beams and I-joists also combine veneer and adhesives.
LVL headers and I-beams are accepted by all major building codes. They provide more load-bearing capacity than solid sawn lumber, and resist shrinking, twisting, splitting, warping, and crowning. They are capable of long spans, thereby increasing design flexibility. They can cost more than dimensional lumber, but in general are considered better products. The American Plywood Association estimated that in 1998 I-joists alone accounted for over a third of all residential floor joists installed in the U.S.
Wood roof and floor trusses are commonly used instead of cut rafters because they save both time and materials. They can also reduce wood waste because, ideally, you order only what you need, and because of efficiencies in the production process.
Fiber Cement Siding
Fiber-cement composites are resource-efficient, and in addition to durability and low maintenance, offer a very good fire rating when compared to wood or metal siding. The wood fiber in these products is reclaimed from wood processing waste. It can also be harvested from small diameter fast-growing species.
Minimizing the need to replace any siding product offers a maximum consumer benefit to the homeowner, in addition to the obvious environmental impact. Many of the fiber-cement composites offer a 50-year warranty.
The process of extracting clay for brick production is fairly benign, and results in very little wasted material. Brick is often used close to its manufacturing site. It has an almost limitless life-span and can be recycled or salvaged for use after demolition. Brick is also a recyclable material that can be crushed and either returned to the manufacturing process, or used as a landscaping material in its crushed form.
Building Materials and Food Recycling
Built Green builders and remodelers recycle as much as possible of scrap building materials and post a jobsite recycling plan to decrease the amount of materials going to our already overburdened landfills. Building materials such as lumber, wall board, concrete, cardboard, ceiling tiles, paints and packaging can often be recycled. If a remodeler or builder is deconstructing an existing building on the site, many of those materials can also be salvaged or recycled including wood flooring, framing materials, brick, ceramic tile and stone, trim and cabinetry, among others. Our builders also facilitate homeowner recycling by installing recycling bins in kitchens or garages. Also, food recycling chutes are an alternative to traditional food garbage disposals that many builders include to provide homeowners with an easy way to compost food waste.