I gave a tour of green buildings in Charlottesville a while ago to French students. They were amazed that our buildings were constructed of all wood instead of using stone and concrete. How are the buildings durable and energy-efficient they asked?
In order to keep the up front costs low for buildings we use advanced framing in wood frame construction. Ladder framed intersections allow for more insulation in the walls. Three stud corners allow for insulation in the corners. Insulated headers increase the insulation value of the wall assembly.
Doing all of these things can reduce the cost of wood for framing by 10% saving the client money. It can also increase the effective R-value of the overall wall assembly by up to 30%.
While there are ways to create a better wall system that is more energy-efficient than wood framed, for the lowest up front cost using advanced framing provides the best return. The question remains why do we still use wood-framed construction as our default in residential construction instead of looking at a longer term return on investment? I don’t have an answer, but as long as we use wood frame, advanced framing should be the default to maximize energy-efficiency.