Wood Increasingly Used In School Construction

by Jan Cottingham  on Monday, Jul. 23, 2012 12:00 am  

Builders of El Dorado High School used wood throughout the building. According to Woodworks.org, wood lowers a building's cabon footprint through "avoided" greenhouse gas emissions.

Those in the design and construction fields say wood structural and framing components are being employed more often, not just in educational facilities in the state but also in other nonresidential construction such as office buildings.

J. Richard Brown, a principal with Engineering Consultants Inc., said his firm was at work on several construction projects that feature wood as major structural components, including honors housing at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro and a building for the Midland School District.

"They're able to build these at a considerable percentage less than they would have been if they'd had to build them out of steel," Brown said.

"One of the things that we like to do - and we practice all over the country - is that we like to use products that are indigenous to the area," Dunn said. "That helps the local economy, but it's also more sustainable because transportation costs are less."

Dunn's firm, in partnership with Witsell Evans & Rasco of Little Rock, is in the midst of designing a three-story student apartment complex for Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia, about a $4.5 million project.

Jerry Brackett, a principal with Brackett Krennerich Architects in Jonesboro, points to a recently completed building that his firm designed, the Ritter Communications headquarters.

The building features "all kinds of green techniques," Brackett said, and wood is a major component. "We're expecting Gold [LEED] certification on that," he said.

He said he was seeing greater use of wood in construction in Arkansas, though engineered wood products have always played a major role in the building industry.

"Most clients want us to be energy efficient," he said, though not everyone is determined to be LEED certified.

In designing the Ritter Communications building, his firm was charged with building "a basic certified green building without spending any more than anybody else would spend," Brackett said. "We built a very green building ... for probably 10 or 15 percent less than what most people spend on buildings."

Brackett said misconceptions exist about the use of wood in construction, particularly in school buildings. "There's a perception that green costs more," he said. But "it doesn't have to."

The second misconception is that wood "isn't as safe and sound as steel. That's just not true. If you do them both right, they're compatible."



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