Advanced Wall Framing Techniques
for a Greener Home

Kathy Price-Robinson is the editor of a great blog called Pardon our Dust from the L.A. Times. She recently opened a discussion comparing standard framing techniques (2×4’s 16-inch on center) vs. advanced techniques (2×6’s 24-inch on center) that are generally considered more environmentally friendly.
She polled two professional builders who have differing opinions that we feel are derived from the philosophies of their firms.

Alan Toker of Megabuilders lays out a very convincing argument that these OVE (Optimum Value Engineering) framing techniques are actually detrimental to the environment and are not practical. Considering his firm is called “Megabuilders” and they showcase McMansions on their website it’s easy to see that pursuing subs who are skilled in OVE techniques cuts into their bottom line. There is also no mention of “green building” or environmentally conscious construction. This is not a reflection on the quality of their work as they most likely build solid homes but it’s more of a commentary on their philosophy that doesn’t jive with the direction of the environmentally sound building process that the Department of Energy is behind.
As Devon Hartman of Hartman Baldwin mentions, “the home you design must be designed with these techniques in mind from the beginning.” This mindset must derive from the builder and client and therefore every other home building decision can be based on the initial green-building plan which starts with advanced framing.
To summarize the advantages and disadvantages of advanced framing techniques:
+ Energy efficient: more room in walls for insulation and less cold spots
+ Less lumber used
+ Faster build time (lower labor cost)
+ Builder saves in lumber purchased, cut and transport time
– Higher up front cost of design and engineering as well as framing crew training and supervision
– Harder to find builders who skilled in these techniques
– May impact built-in furnishings and other external elements that are set to the standard 16-inch width

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  • Chris Marcus

    Thanks for the education on this issue – I definitely want to discuss this with my builder.

  • Curtis Ware

    My contractor has also been very resistant to my queries about constructing my home to meet these green standards. He gives me the same arguments that Megabuilders does and I thought it made total sense but now I just think it’s outside of their realm of thinking and there are plenty of homeowners who don’t give a cr*p. I hope to do more with my home after it is built to apply LEED principles, it’s never too late.

  • davidLBC

    This framing technique uses 2×6 studs 24″ on center, not 2×4’s as stated. The 2×6’s give you extra insulation thickness, and the wider spacing means there is less wood in the wall. No 2×4 wall can have 24″ spacing.
    Construction techniques aside, the greenest home is one that is well-built, of modest size and not disposable! You have to consider the entire life cycle. A house built to the greenest standards is no good if it must be torn down in 30 years or if it is so badly designed that it must be remodeled or refurbished every decade.

  • Timothy

    Thanks for the correction David, you’re right it’s 2×6 on 24″.

  • Kathy Price-Robinson

    Thanks for mentioning my L.A. Times blog!
    This is an excellent analysis of the issues with advanced framing techniques. Personally, I am so enmeshed in the green building movement that I tend to forget there may be other sides to the story. I was actually surprised to get a thumbs down on OVE from Alon Toker of Mega Builders. But he’s extremely pragmatic and his arguments make sense. I respect both of these builders, and have gotten nothing but glowing reviews from their clients. This teaches me to look at all sides of green building techniques and to respect both their limitations and benefits.