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CAL Green – “The New Normal”

There’s a new code in California: CAL Green took effect this year. I often hear complaints from people outside of California about our stringent environmental regulations, but the new CAL Green code sets a national standard for best practices. The code includes mandatory and voluntary sustainability measures for residential and non-residential construction.

Mandatory Measures

Some of the mandatory measure include:

  • Indoor air quality and exhaust
  • Indoor and outdoor water use reduction
  • Construction waste reduction, disposal, and recycling
  • Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) limits for paints, coatings, adhesives and sealants
  • Formaldehyde limits for hardwood plywood, particleboard, and medium density fiberboard

Voluntary Measures

I think the voluntary measures are so reasonable and logical that they should be made mandatory, too. After all, saving material—especially the lumber we put into walls—saves energy, helps improve the effectiveness of insulation, and just plain saves money.

(Note: You can click any of the images below to enlarge; hit your browser’s “back” button to return to this article.)

Some of the voluntary measures are: using single top plates; designing on a 24" module; including a cut list on the plans; aligning framing members at 24" centers.

Voluntary measures also include using clips or header hangers rather than trimmers or jack studs under headers. Providing backing for exterior trim with 2x2's will reduce thermal bridging, add additional insulation, and save lumber.

Other suggestions for eliminating unnecessary framing material are: no headers in non-load bearing walls; using engineered lumber to reduce use of solid sawn lumber, and, where possible, using single-piece headers to increase insulation, reduce thermal bridging, and save lumber.

And for interior walls, the code suggests using two-stud corners or drywall clips—which reduces thermal bridging.

Headers on interior walls can also be omitted under the new code, and solid backing at interior partitions can be replaced with ladder backing.

Material Lists

The code recommends doing a material list on the plans for framing (floor, wall, ceiling, and roof) and sheathing (floor, wall, and roof). This could be used as an on-site or lumber yard cut list. Carpenters and lumber yards have traditionally done material lists, so, as an architect, I’m delighted to see the code asking for this type of forethought in the design phase. Hopefully, it will encourage designers to consider efficient material use, which helps keep costs down and benefits the environment.

Optimum Value Engineering (OVE)

Sometimes called Efficient Framing, Advanced Framing, or OVE, the goal is to reduce labor, material, and waste, and to increase energy efficiency by replacing lumber with insulation. Here’s my shot at a cut list for a conventionally framed 20-foot long exterior bearing wall for a 1-story, raised floor house with one 3-foot square window in the center and 2-stud corners:

14 – 2 x 6 x 92-5/8″ studs

2 – 2 x 6 x 92-5/8″ king studs

2 – 2 x 6 x 79-1/2″ trimmers

2 – 2 x 6 x 7-5/8″ top cripples

2 – 2 x 6 x 41″ bottom cripples

1 – 2 x 6 x 38″ rough sill

1 – 6 x 6 x 41″ header

3 – 2 x 6 x 20 top & bottom plates

Here’s the same wall framed with OVE at 24-inch centers:

10 – 2 x 6 x 94-1/8″ studs

2 – 2 x 6 x 94-1/8″ king studs

2 – 2 x 6 x 74-1/8″ trimmers

1 – 2 x 6 x 9-1/8″ top cripple

1 – 2 x 6 x 41″ bottom cripple

1 – 2 x 6 x 38″ rough sill

1 – 6 x 6 x 41″ header

2 – 2 x 6 x 20 top & bottom plates

Assuming the cripples came from 92-5/8″ length studs (for 8′-1″ from top of subfloor to underside of ceiling joists) in the conventional wall, they could yield the rough sill and scrap for drywall backing in lieu of 3-stud corners. The OVE wall could yield the rough sill but has virtually no waste. The studs for the OVE wall are 1-1/2″ longer. Assuming they’re the same cost, the savings is 5 fewer studs and 1 less plate. In both cases, the header and plates are candidates for engineered lumber.

Once you’re comfortable with OVE, the labor and material savings can add up. The Department of Energy’s Office of Building Technology estimates material cost savings of about $500 for a 1,200 square foot house and labor cost savings between 3 and 5 percent. The savings could help overcome a homeowner’s potential concern that they’re getting less. With cut lists and careful planning, efficient framing just may become “the new normal.”


54 Responses to “CAL Green – “The New Normal””

  1. Dan Levin

    I agree wholeheartedly with the new rulings. I’ve seen piles of lumber and sheetrock at the dump. In fact, I’ve built some beautiful furniture out of BRAND NEW oak and mahogany flooring that was left over from residential structures. The amount of waste appalled me, but it went to my benefit because I was able to re-purpose the materials.

  2. Joe Gates

    I do mostly commercial work where the structual components are steel and concrete. My thought is, there are many homes over 100 years old around the country built in “a wasteful manner”. What are the projected lifespans of the new green built homes and are they as solid as their ancestors?

    • Neal Schwabauer

      We are sooo wasteful in this country. I visited Germany, saw where my mom was born, went in to the bowels of the hotel, to really SEE that the foundation was 400 years old. Those folks are soo much more adaptive than we.

      Our lumber industry needs to be even more criticized for not replanting.
      How grandpa fussed so on the change from 1 5/8 to the present 1 1/2 & why.
      We have just started repurposing materials here in Harvey County KS. I do question repurposing old windows because they are very wasteful in energy.

      What I see coming is metal for almost everything. It is easily much more recycled.

      • Johan

        I’m all for keeping our lumber in our country instead of sending it to China and buying our steel and furniture from them.

  3. albert

    I’m all for it. Less material same selling price higher profit. When the building collapse at least the owners will be warm in their rubble. Getting more for less a very resonable concept.

  4. Joseph

    In a perfect world maybe. In a profit world why use lumber at all? A national builder in Ohio has been doing the 24″ centers for a long time. The trim (when used) fails inside and out, the drywall bows. Does anyone know why we nail at 16″ centers ? Could it have anything to do with producing a tight, durable, long lasting job? Have you ever seen what kids do to drywall at 24″ centers ? The builder pays less but charges the same as his 16″ models. Saves lumber ? The dumpsters are just as full. Architects love stuff like this. Makes em feel good. Carpenters hate it, it’s cheap. Home buyers are to stupid to see behind the drywall until they move it. Drywall clips at the corners ? We must be nuts ? Lets just put up moblie homes and de done with it. There are better ways to go green and move home building into the 21st century. Does anyone think that any of this stuff comes from the benevolence of our construction community or the foresight of our politicians ? Look into who will profit from this and you will find the real reason. In this case the going green means – mo money. Hell lets just move to China.

    • S.Kerr

      Dittos bro. Why go backwards on quality and durability? 24″ layout is lame, let alone weak. I worked with an old timer once who wanted me to only put one nail at each end of a stud, said it wasted nails to put in 2; kind of in the same realm as this idiotic idea. The wasted lumber isn’t because of the layout, get a clue, it’s work ethic, forethought and being trained properly that that lumber equals money. I was taught never throw away anything you could get a 14 1/2″ block out of –which meant pull the nails out and save it.

    • Eric

      I’ve seen homes built on 16″ centers that fall apart and fail and the same with 24″. I’ve also seen homes on 16″ centers built well and ones on 24″ just the same. If care is taken both can be done well. There is also timber frame construction which uses even less material and I have seen those built poorly and built well. It is not so much as the style as it is materials and craftsman or workmanship. And as with anything, there are pros and cons to all styles.

  5. litteitaly

    “I think the voluntary measures are so reasonable and logical that they should be made mandatory, too. After all, saving material—especially the lumber we put into walls—saves energy, helps improve the effectiveness of insulation, and just plain saves money.”

    Who is John Galt?

    • Jay

      LOL, Love it! I thought the same thing while I was taking some “builder education and RRP classes.

  6. Steve Arnold

    I really have to side with Joseph. This sounds like what we jokingly refer to as ‘condo work’. Homeowners will not accept wavey walls, etc. that this kind of framing produces. Going into the project they maybe all ‘green’ but in the end they will not be happy. Our job then becomes more labor intensive to make the house more acceptable. Going more green is OK to eliminate ‘waste’ but common sense and the experience of the ‘old timers’ is also very valuable. This is also another example of the age old battle between the framers and the architects.

  7. Lamar Horton

    As a cabinet maker it’s hard enough to find lumber in the walls to hang my cabinets from and now there will be less of it? Thanks :-(

    • Matt Follett

      A good fix that someone showed me is use any of the waste or falloff to block at 34″ & 90″ where cabinets are to be installed. On exterior walls you have a bit less R value at those points; on interior walls it’s just a creative way to get rid of any existing waste. Plus, you love the installation at that point. You could probably be blindfolded and hit a ‘stud’. Hope that helps.

  8. Steve Donnelly

    My small joinery and Millwork company is both a member of the USGBC and my wife, who runs the office, is as LEED AP; consequently we’ve been ‘exposed’ to these kinds of initiatives for several years, and on some significant projects – I say all of this because I’ve had plenty of time to think about it (and on many occasions).
    Mandatory measures that reduce harmful emissions and improve the quality of our air, as well as the reduction of toxic chemicals and additives are a good thing, I also believe that good stewarding of our forests is key to our future ability to sustain our natural habitat as well as providing us with a plenty full supply of materials. It won’t be long before ‘mandatory measures’ become regular routine specification standards (think of the of lead based paints) purely by the nature of squeezing out the ‘bad-stuff’ we produce now – so all in all it’s a good thing. Tremendous strides have been made in developing and making available ‘fast growth’ hardwoods, Lyptus is a good example, that are both economical and perform their job pretty well too.

    This being said, I do have a serious issue with reducing materials during construction under the guise of being ‘environmentally’ conscious and responsible. Building walls with studs at 24″ OC leads to a very ‘flimsy’ and bellying product (I’ve tried it and seen it) which magnifies when applying mouldings, crown, architectural panels etc. The next big issue is trying to get it into the heads of the ‘guy with the nail-gun’ that all of his load is transferring down the building within the 2×4’s so they need to stack without being a couple of inches out (and don’t tell me this never happens).
    The reduction of waste or use of materials should take place at the job site before it hits the dumpsters, careful reuse of materials for both permanent and falsework but if is does become waste the rules/guidelines should give us an opportunity to take the waste somewhere where it can be recycled by folks who know how to do it properly and not leave it in the hands (or minds) of us contractors to find the recycle centers and have us fill out a ream of paperwork to do it!
    (BTW this is more of our government, local and federal, doing for us what they don’t believe we can do for ourselves)

  9. Tim Neeland

    Doing away with headers,jacks,cripples,using foam board for sheathing. You are making disposible houses.Is building 3 or 4 of these better than a forever sturdy house? I don’t think so.

    • andrew

      Well said Mr. Neeland; we do not need to go backward to the 60’s and 70’s. Houses built with these standards (or lack thereof) barely have a leg left to stand on. I, for one, should know…I own one of these boxes and am forever knee deep in repairs.
      PLEASE… lets move forward; it’s called…progress.

  10. Don DeJong

    I’ve been building for a long time, and all this says to me is that the greedy guys will use these fancy names (Optimum Value Engineering (OVE), Efficient Framing, Advanced Framing) to glamorize a flimsier product, while pocketing any material savings. There are a many production framers out there whose work is already marginal. When they start leaving out jacks and cripples and double plates, it could get downright scary.

    I’m sure there are careful builders out there who can make this work, but my experience says that careful builders are the exception, especially when it comes to high production developments.

    I’m old school, and I think old’s cool.

  11. Pete838

    I try to build a BETTER house with better and more efficient use of material, not a house with less material. 24″OC framing makes for a flimsy wall, and you aren’t saving that much. No jack studs? So instead of a direct load path from top to bottom, you transfer the load through nails and plates. Nah.
    Sorry, builing with less material has been done for a long time in modular/mobile homes, and the result in my opinion, is a disposable home that is unlikely to outlast the initial occupant.
    CA can have all of their green initiatives. Until they are proven by 50 years of longevity I think I’ll stick to the time honored methods.

  12. Jay

    What we are seeing is the slow painful death of small builders and remodelers caused by Cali, the EPA and OSHA. We don’t need any more regulation, what we need is to start properly training and respecting skilled tradesmen. I have had the opportunity to work with carpenters from Europe and Japan, these guys go through a rigorous apprenticeship and are very skilled. In Canada you can’t even think of being a builder until you have obtained Master Carpenter status and then, from what I understand, it’s still quite difficult to obtain a builders license. What do we do here in the US? Well… little Johnney goes to work for the deck builder down the street for the summer, barley graduates from HS and figures that swinging a hammer for a few months makes him a journeyman. Or worse yet… the guy who gets laid off from the plant, decides to take the builders course to get a license, studies for a week, passes the test, and now he’s a builder.
    As for safety; most injuries are the workers own fault, once again, caused by not having been adequatly trained. No amount of regulation, harnesses, guards, etc…; will cure stupid!
    My point is: a well trained builder is efficient, safe, and builds with quality. All these regulations do is add unnessessary cost to the owner and punish those of us who have been well trained in trade practice and safety. A properly trained builder is an efficient builder, period.

  13. gary

    I’m with Joseph and Pete. I only use products and methods that are proven over time.They’re gonna need five hundred pounds of steel in that shanty to meet earthquake sheer and hold-down requirements.The marketing for this type of construction isn’t as good it was for masonite siding and that lawsuit will never end.

  14. Vance Beazer

    We really don’t need another building code or regulation unrelated to structural safety.Remember that Cal. is bankrupt mostly due to over regulation and overly zealous environmentalists who want to believe that they are saving the world and the trees by taxing and regulating industry out of busisness or out of the country.Those living in some states may feel that we have a tree shortage,in fact it is the zealots entrenched in the govt. that posture against any harvesting of this very sustained resource.Have you flown over Montana ,Oregon,Wash.,?Due to replanting ,farming practices,and the fact (when allowed) we put out forest fires,there are more trees in the U.S. than there were 200 years ago.Personally I have done lots of commercial metal framing @24oc,and like it,but it requires 5/8 type x rock and 3/4 plywood on the ext . and lots of backing for trim and cabinet install to be sturdy ,but at least the walls are much flatter than you could by obtain framing 24oc with wood.
    So please file the CAL stuff with the well-meaning,but often misguided ,or impractical in real-life ,suggestions drawer,not in the overbearing and innovation-choking mandate arena of the California govt.,where it tends to spread like a noxious weed to the rest of the country,first to Oregon,then to my home state of Washington and on .

  15. Eric Tavitian

    This is the craziest home building technique to come down the pike in, oh say 50 years. That’s right, it’s been tried before right after the second world war. There was a serious shortage of lumber and these methods were tried. Some of those houses lasted 10 years before they started to come apart. Some of them collapsed. On some the doors and windows stopped working and the walls buckled. Drywall had just been introduced and some builders thought that their ship had arrived with how fast the houses began to go up and how fast they where sold. Why nothing could keep them from becoming millionaires now. And then all hell began to collapse around some of those stick houses they where getting rich building. This was done not only in this country, it was also tried in Europe. They had to tear those houses down too. I should know, I had to live in one when I was a young child. There was a fire in our bedroom and my brother died. It was never proven that the wiring was affected by the way the house was built. But the house burned down to the ground in just a few minutes and my family was devastated to say the least. Houses that have some wood holding them together will last a hundred years or more and can be resold or passed down to your children instead of being torn down due to buckling. It was a dumb then and come to think of it, it’s never gotten any smarter. Do you seriously think the landfills will be any less full or the planet any greener if we have tear down tomorrow what we build today? Thank you.

  16. Norm

    Anyone remember South Florida after hurricane Andrew? Although they certainly didn’t cell themselves “green” builders ( unless it refered to the amount of green $$ they were ripping off the consumer for), they were certainly advocates for this type of construction. In the aftermath of the storm there were acres of homes built this way that were reduced to rubble while that house next door that was built using the “wasteful” methods were often still standing and repairable. I build furniture from reclaimed/recycled materials. Just yesterday I was told at a recycling center where I spied some sweet old oak, that the state mandated everything wood went to the chipper. As many have said here, the methods are NOT the problem, rather it’s the wasteful practices of all levels of the construction process.

  17. Gary Goldblum

    Much thanks to all for comments & criticisms.

    When I framed, I tried to estimate quantities & lengths to limit cost & waste, but I could’ve done better. How much could I have saved by having my supplier pre-cut as much as possible?

    In our imperfect world, I agree that 16” o.c., double plates, etc. are the way to go. At the same time, I know that architects give little thought to material usage, & I think it’s worth exploring.

    Ensuring a continuous load path from roof to foundation is essential to building homes that can survive earthquakes & hurricanes. Aligning rafters & studs is stronger than offsetting them.

    Who is John Galt?

    He’s the main character in ‘Atlas Shrugged’, a powerful story by Ayn Rand, about individualism versus bureaucracy. I’m for limiting bureaucracy, but my experience as an inspector showed me that it’s not so simple. I worked with a welder on a high school football stadium who refused to do the work correctly, & he threatened my life for not accepting his work. Most people will do the right thing, but not everyone. As President Reagan said, “trust, but verify”.

    • Jay

      “Bureaucrats: they are dead at 30 and buried at 60. They are like custard pies; you can’t nail them to a wall” Frank Lloyd Wright

    • Matt Follett

      Great piece Gary. You really just scratched the surface of a huge topic that will be debated for a long time. I happen to agree with you on OVE. Having worked on a handful of jobs where trusses & studs align, no headers on non bearing walls, etc, I haven’t run into near the problems or obstacles that have been echoed. It is certainly a change in practice and quite frankly, I don’t embrace all of them. Drywall clip are a 2×4 appropriately placed. Windows have 2×4 – not 2x2s – on the sides of window for exterior & interior trim.

      As far as strength is concerned, isn’t there engineering for that? Not to be simplistic but this is not a new practice. This practice has been around for nearly 40 years & I know some who have been practicing it for decades without issue. Can you build it exactly like you did before? No, but I’m all for at least trying to find a better way. I don’t really care what the motivation. Save the planet, be ‘green’, hug a spotted owl – in truth these are all 2ndary to me behind saving energy. OVE and best practices help with that idea. The only bark I have is making it a requirement. Let the market decide. If it works, smart designers/builders will be able seize the opportunity and surpass their competition. If they can’t do it, we need to find a better idea.

      I plan on doing a project for myself using these techniques. I may document the process so we can get a good healthy discussion going.

  18. Jeff Thiessen

    “material cost savings of about $500 for a 1,200 square foot house and labor cost savings between 3 and 5 percent”

    That labor savings is at the framing stage only and might amount to $400-500 for a total framing package saving of a thousand dollars on that sample 1200sf house. How much of that savings is eaten up by later subtrades who need to use more material (5/8 rock, etc.) and take more time for their work? More than all of it, i’ll bet my next house. The incentive here isn’t a financial saving, that’s just the pitch.

    Framers are easy to blame but the real cost savings and efficiency improvements in residential construction would be for interior finish/trim and insulation work, respectively. Customers and spec developers don’t want to do without their interiors and builders don’t want to make their insulation sub the most highly compensated guy on the site. Until those two areas change we can nickel-and-dime the framers to death but houses will not improve.


  19. MartyB

    In my opinion houses are really not overbuilt if the desired lifespan is 100 years. Using these modified practices could reduce the lifespan to 50 or less years. I guess that just goes along with our “throw-away” society.

    This style of framing saves nothing in the long run. It mostly serves a way for builders to make a cheaper product.

  20. John N

    What you all seem to be missing is this isn’t really about saving anything at the framing level. I have been framing homes in Ca. for over 25 years, and clearly the extra headache of exact layout, culling another 2 dozen studs, as well and of course the potential for callbacks. IS not worth the “savings”!
    What they are after is more insulation and less thermal bridging, which will save the occupants a lot of money over the long haul. What really smells is this could be done with conventional framing and the requirement of the 1″ foam over the entire structure to eliminate the bridging altogether, this would still save the energy over time but have a higher initial cost. So I suppose the fact ” most people” can only see the current or upfront costs, not the long term costs, you see this floated as getting it all. I really don’t think this is efficient, just cheap now.

    • Sam Marsico

      You nailed it. Elimination of thermal bridging is the key to building a high performance conventional frame. I will refuse to go 24″ on center, but have already adopted the 1×4 backing (with screws), ladder partitions, raised heel trusses, applied rafter tails over the housewrap, etc. As a California GC I can guarantee that there will be vast inconsistency in the enforcement of this new reg- a function of having too much info for an inspector or building dept to manage. I recently saved a tube of the new green, low voc pl-400 and showed it to the inspector, who gave me a Homer Simpson stare.

  21. Mark Bealor

    Window locations determined by the stud layout, that’s a grand idea-“sorry your window isn’t centered on your sink Mrs. Robinson, but we did save a few 2×6’s.” Hang an 8 foot header in a two story home off a few metal clips-I’m sure the rock won’t crack. A single top-plate….decrease the integrity of your building for a few hundred dollars.
    As a former framer, I would have charged more to frame in these stupid ways than they would have saved. If you want to eliminate thermal bridging, add some foam to the outside of your (properly framed) stud walls. Leave this other rubbish for manufactured housing. Green Building is too often a way for people to feel good about themselves, while often, really, accomplishing nothing lasting. As many have written, these framing practices while decrease the life of the frame, resulting in a less green building.

  22. Mike Hawkins

    I have a hard time taking anything coming out of california serious. Keep your cheap framing techniques to your own state and quit trying to dictate your will on all of us. All these energy savings after a point don’t save anything. Our local water supplier (City of Cleveland, Ohio) is getting ready to raise their rates 83%, because everyone is conserving water so much, their income is down. Same with our electric supplier. They are forcing us to take a number of the curly cue flourescents and not only charging us for the bulbs twice what you can get them for at HD, but also charging us for the electricity they save. So I do try to conserve, but as far as saving any money, it’s a crock of you know what.
    And God forbid one of these cheap framed houses catches fire. I was a firefighter for 25 years. The old houses stood up to fire a lot longer before failing than the newer stuff.

    • John N

      Wow an entire state has no credibility? This from a Cleveland native? ( Home of the “burning river”), that makes your comments hard to read.
      The country needs innovation, heating and cooling costs will become a larger portion of income over the next 25 years, without pressing the boundaries there will be no innovation, no innovation,… no improvement,… no hope. Are these framing techniques the way to go? I would say no! But there need to be real improvements in building science, because it is not the same world we grew up in, and we as an industry can adapt or die.

  23. Sim Ayers

    House framed with 24″ O.C. studs—25 years

    I just paid a deposit of $5,000.00 for the recycling of construction debris on my remodel job in Orinda California. If I don’t recycle 75% of my construction debris I lose my deposit.

    Built it Green saves the environment, but it’s sucking the life out of my wallet.

    10 cents left to my name

    • John N

      Yeah , Ive heard this story elsewhere, what do you get for the 5 G’s? Do you get it back upon “properly” sorting the debris or ???

      I have not had that requirement here in Sacramento, but lived and worked in CC county for almost 20 years and am curious what this is all about.

      • Sim Ayers


        Yes, we get the $5,000.00, back if we meet the recycling percentage. But, it just sucks paying the deposit, before we start the job. I’m not sure what cities in Contra Costa county have this requirement.


  24. Randy

    I’m going to hit this from another angle. Having spent almost 40 years in the window and door business I have seen a lot of bad ideas and this is another one. I wish I had a nickel for every door and window sill that had a crown in it (high in the center) because the weight transfered to the rim joist through the jack studs was so much greater that the common studs. Now we want to further concentrate that load by spacing the studs further apart and eliminating a jack stud on each side. All of that header weight will transfer down a single stud on each side of the opening and will compress that point, crown the sills, the windows and doors won’t close or will at least drag off all of the weatherstripping and then how efficient will they be? If you want to save energy leave the jack studs, add blocking under the jacks to spread the load, then the door and window frame will be square to match the sash and air won’t blow through the gaps. Funny, homeowners never call the framer when the windows won’t close, if they did we would not be having this discussion.

  25. MattB

    As a finish carpenter who works around 24″ centers all the time, the walls are wavy, the rock is loose, its embarassing when you’re the one securing the rock when nailing base. I would prefer going the route of engineered studs at 16″ on center. The only advantage of having no trimmers at door openings is that there is less chance of the two studs being in misalignment.

    As for modular homes, at least the place I worked at (for a short time), built those things way heftier than a stick built home (double rim joists, plywood sheathing, etc..) All framing was cut on a RAS, with stop blocks.

  26. Doug Simmons

    The shortsighted thinking to get greener amazes me! The people who think of this stuff need to extend the timeline and how it will affect the other areas of the job.
    Our military does this each time they go on any sketchy mission, they play out all possible outcomes and then know how to proceed.
    Building in the SF Bay

  27. Dean M

    I agree with most all the posters here that this is a very bad idea. The key here is efficiency, not thrift of material.
    I tend to blame the designers and the buyers of new homes for the waste. Why can’t a wall be 8’long instead of 8’3″. Why can’t the rooms be designed so full sheets of sheet rock fit with little cutting rather than cutting sheets to pieces and discarding the remnants. Etc. Etc.
    And just plain leaving framing out isn’t gong to address the problem.
    I do think to save the planet we are going to have to learn to live with simpler, more efficient designs to utilize material rather than building monuments to waste and our egos. And I can already see it’s going to be a very painful transition.

  28. Jim S.

    It’s only natural that we want to save lumber. Part of our logging industry is now stuffing saw logs into trans-ocean shipping containers and sending them to China as fast as they can. The mills in China do all the preparation and send the dimensioned wood to Chinese factories to be assembled and sent back to us, or even worse, to be used in the voracious building construction boom on the Chinese mainland. Meanwhile, Americans are now asked to “conserve” wood because there’s a supposed shortage. Nothing’s changed over the course of history in North America. We are great a removing all high-quality timber as quickly as we can and sending a good portion off-shore.

  29. Gary Goldblum

    Okay, framers aren’t going for 24” o.c., but as John N. points out, there are other issues. I don’t want to see carpentry in the US become a quaint hobby. We need to make things! Larry Haun has written about how framing innovated with tools and methods after the war, and innovation must continue. We face many challenges in construction – energy, earthquakes, hurricanes – let’s come up with solutions!

  30. J. Watson

    It’s a feedback loop where investors in construction projects start attempting to cut the cost of employing skilled craftsmen:

    1.) Design buildings that can be assembled by low-wage and relatively low-skilled workers.

    2.) Lower the public’s expectations of quality. Market the beauty of lipstick and apply enough of it to hide the pig.

    3.) Manufacture more skill-intensive components in factories, preferably off-shore.

    4.) Design those to be installed by low-skill, low wage workers.

    5.) Re-write the book on good construction practices to fit the skill-level of the available workers.

    6.)Find ways to cut materials costs, market as “green” if necessary. also, see #2 and #5, above.

    7.) Lament the fact that you can’t find good craftsman anymore.


  31. larry haun

    Great Discussion. I have little to add.
    Experience has taught me, for example, that no double top plate, using exterior studs 24 in. o.c., and alignment of all framing members (to name a few framing pratices) costs more in the long run. With a single top plate it takes much more labor time to align and straighten walls. There are other ways to save studs than placing them 24 in. o.c. If you happen to have a copy of “The Very Efficient Carpenter” check what I wrote about this on page 95 and 96.

    There are other ways to innovate without giving consumers an inferior product. Larry Haun

  32. Rich

    I’m sorry stack framing is b.s.. There is NOT enough strength, load or otherwise to make them safe. May as well recycle storage containers for people to live in, at least they could handle stress, wind shear, etc.. There must be something in the water in CAL..

  33. teeg merchant

    Count me as one more vote on the exceptionally trashy product side. I do believe that the future of residential construction is with steel moment frames and metal stud infill, it’s already starting in a partial manner. I use metal studs whenever possible, no bugs, no mold, straight walls and no weight. Another recent ruling by our industrious beavercrats (South coast air quality management district-in So. Cal.) was to ban alcohol based stains, I was upset when I couldn’t find them anymore so I called Wood Kote and asked “what’s up?” When they told me about the ban, I said “o.k., I’ll buy the product in San Diego county when I visit my daughter and they told me that the loss of the 5 county market affected by the ban had led them to discontinue the product and replace it with an acetone based product, for which they had an exemption! What the #%&**!!- So green! But I can’t tint my shellac (currently still for sale) with it. I’m buying powdered dye from Trans Tint, so what they have actually done is shaft Wood Kote and send my business back east. Be very afraid-these people live among us.

  34. Terry Shields

    I first used the O.V.E style in the early nineties and still use many “advanced framing techniques” in the homes I build. I have come to the conclusion that using a little more material and building the envelope for lower energy use works best for MY situation. I am glad to see some of these techniques back in the main stream. Everything old is new again…

  35. TheMachinist

    24″ oc huh. So you use 3/4″ ply shear to stabilize (?) & 5/8 rock to reduce interior warping (?).
    Well termites like to recycle wood too and to date no treatments are stopping them. That 3/4″ shear wont help much when a few studs are compromised. Especially the ones with 2″ DWV plumbing holes. And all that 5/8″ rock needs is a little condensation or moisture intrusion and it will warp as much 1/2″ in no time. How is building weaker less expensive or any savings to our resources. Building new is far more efficient than remodeling. How much gas, incidental materials, energy used in repairing these future failings will be wasted determining the problem, accessing space, and patching back up + the homeowner needing to generate more capital thereby using up more resources & energy to pay for these repairs.

  36. MechanismBusboy

    There is a whole lot of uniformed trash talk here.

    1. NAHB developed these framing techniques in the early 80s in Maryland, not California….so 30 year old techniques here in discussion
    2. The techniques that are most contentious are voluntary in CA…so no crying about being nickel and dimed.
    2. The point isn’t to only save a handful of studs…its to build a house that has less of an impact on the environment — this works in two ways — OVE uses less wood, no matter how small the amount, and it creates a house that is more energy efficient. Yes, as a finish carpenter installing base on a wavy 24 o.c. wall is annoying — but there are more and more homeowners worried about how much heat (money) their house is hemorrhaging than a tweaked looking piece of base or sheetrock. There are ways to deal with this.
    3. Criticism about the labor intensiveness of some of the methods are legit. Some of these voluntary ideas just don’t pan out in my mind — single top plates is probably the biggest.
    3. Builders crying about changes is an old status quo — we made the same criticisms about TJIs, OSB, Tyvek, and virtually every code update.
    5. To all of those who complain that building in this way is weaker or structurally inferior should remember that these methods were engineered and developed by builders, not CA politicians. (again 30 yrs ago). Data backs their efficacy.
    4. Crying about the elimination of toxics is ridiculous — there are simply other ways and other products. I’m glad my daughter lives in a place without DDT.
    5. 16″ O.C. vs. 24″ O.C. and single vs double top plates is simply not an issue of craftsmanship. Good craftsmen adapt to changes and retain traditions that are important to them. I once worked with a finish carpenter that would mock me for using a coping saw and a block plane. My work was faster, better, safer for me, my ears and my lungs, and my customers can brag about old world craftsmanship. I would argue that for every dollar saved in the frame and in future energy costs we could redirect it to reviving that nearly dead trade (finish carpentry).
    6. I challenge every commenter to read the article “The American House: Where Did We Go Wrong?” in the Jan 2011 issue of Fine Homebuilding. This is our craft gentlemen — our goals are not mutually exclusive; we can build better homes, that are strong, beautiful, efficient and representative of our skills.

  37. Sean

    As a homeowner who is building a new ground up home in Southern California, I can tell you that the Cal Green Code and other code revisions are just more bueracratic BS, and the only thing green about it is they take alot of green out of my wallet.

    1) No wood burning fireplace allowed. Thanks Big Brother!
    2) Mandatory fire sprinklers. Watch $8,0000-$15,000 disappear from your budget to improve your chance of surviving a house fire by .05% above what it is with all the mandatory smoke alarms and noncombustible materials already required. This requirement kept me from doing something actually green – putting solar PV electric on my roof.
    3) Low VOC paint. Paint two pieces of molding – one with latex, one with oil, same color. You tell me which one looks good.
    4) Design phase landscape plan. I had to pay a landscape architect to design a fictional landscape plan before I could get my permit. Of course, since the old house had to be demolished, the site regraded, the new house built and then a final grade done BEFORE any competent landscape architect could prepare a meaningful plan, everyone involved knew this was just a work of fiction that would never be installed. But they still charge you for the pleasure of sending it to the County for review! Great use of my resources to accomplish NOTHING!
    5) Mandatory recycling of construction waste. This is a triumph of semantics. It’s really just a way for a handful of waste hauling companies to keep competitors out, because the City makes you use one of their “approved” haulers and then takes your $10,000 deposit for the next 12 months for good measure. Of course, any material worth recycling gets recycled for profit anyway, but let’s not muddy the water with economic realities . . .
    6) Fluorescent lights. Enough said. Of course, if you have an extra $10k you can use LEDs instead.
    7) Enforcement. Thankfully, field enforcement is at least 7 years behind the Code.


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