Among Sweden’s special pleasures for the vacationing LBM dealer, one of the most satisfying is sure to be Skansen, an outdoor museum in Stockholm that’s home to more than 150 structures dating back to the 14th century. Together they reveal how Swedes created buildings attuned to the local environment, from portable Sami huts in frigid lands near the Arctic Circle to farmhouses on the relatively balmy south coast.
During my visit, I loved exploring how the Swedes used timber to build their homes, down to the poles with short notched branches at the end that were employed as rafter beams to hold in place the bottom row of roof shingles. But what struck me most at Skansen was a thatched-roof barn for sheep and goats. I thought the thatching would make it a sure firetrap. Then I read that the straw used grew in soil containing so much silicon the thatch was essentially fireproof.
Clever people, those Swedes. But while one might lament how we’ve slowly forgotten nature-based construction techniques over the years, there’s one area where we’re way ahead of our ancestors: engineering. We know today how to put up a house that’s safer and more comfortable than anything in Skansen and yet requires far fewer building materials. Homes of yore were overbuilt because our ancestors didn’t know any better. We do.
Or rather, some of us do. As this issue reveals, a number of America’s biggest home-building companies are employing engineering and technological advances to build high-performance homes that aren’t just greener than the norm, they’re also better built. Meanwhile, builders and dealers in California are putting up homes based on energy and construction codes that are years ahead of codes elsewhere.
The trouble is that many small builders—the core of a pro dealer’s customer base—haven’t learned or else haven’t embraced these new techniques. They may fear the consequences of screwing up something new, or don’t understand the benefits, or haven’t heard customers request the changes.
I believe there’s one other reason: A lot of builders and dealers still treat green building as a fad or a nuisance. But that’s not the case if you’re concerned with saving energy. So I suggest you forget green and think instead about promoting high-performance buildings.
Regular readers of these pages know ProSales devotes scant space to building green but a lot to building right. You also have seen how we contend that construction supply dealers typically know more about the art of home construction than anyone else in their community. Just by visiting the big builders and spending some time learning what’s in the newer energy codes, you can go a long way toward helping your customers put up better homes, as well as get ahead of high-performance trends that ultimately will sweep the nation.