It’s not uncommon to see claims in our industry that timber frame structures and the wall & roof panels used to enclose them are green and sustainable – but is this really the case? I thought it would be interesting to look a bit deeper into these questions to try to uncover the facts. You can get more information regarding timber-framed home via heydenframeandtruss.
The timber frame structure
A timber frame is made from solid wood, which is sustainable…right? Well, not all timbers used for timber framing are necessarily sustainable.
Sustainable forestry, in an oversimplified manner of speaking, means that the volume of wood in the forest does not go down over time as a result of logging practices, or a particular resource will not be harvested to extinction. It may go up or down in individual years, but over time the resource will be there in perpetuity.
If timber is harvested locally, squared up on a mill and used “green” (not dried), it has very little embodied energy. A practice now gaining popularity is to have the timbers kiln dried in a special energy-intensive kiln. We always encourage our clients to use local, green, boxed-heart timbers for their timber frame projects.
A more sustainable insulation material would be cellulose, straw or even mineral wool. Cellulose is made from 85% recycled newsprint and does a great job sealing walls and roofs against air infiltration. Straw is an agricultural by-product, and also has a great R-value. Even mineral or rock wool, which technically comes from non-sustainable minerals, can be made from recycled iron slag, which is a by-product of iron and steel making.