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The bones of your home create the space that you live in and can come in many different forms

Building your space

You’ve worked through the priorities of your project and decided on some goals.  You have a good idea of how you want your space to flow and a plan is starting to form.  Now you need to consider the options for the structural components that will create your space. 


Whether you are renovating or adding on to an existing space or building new, the foundation, floor, wall and roof systems are the first things to be consider.  These structural assemblies need to work to create a comfortable and efficient interior space, without causing negative effects in human health, safety or building durability.  This is the basis of the field of building science.  A building structure needs to create a continuous and uninterrupted enclosure with 4 control layers: water, thermal, air and vapour. Many components work together to form these control layers. A holistic design approach looks to meet these needs with structural components and materials that are healthy for people and the planet.


When considering the importance of the building shell and the structural systems and materials that go into it, it is expected that one would be objective and even critical about new ideas.  But what we fail to realize is that we tend to be far less objective and critical about the “standard” methods we are currently using.  Since they seem normal to us, we don’t question them.  A good example of this is lumber.  When you think about it, wood has numerous flaws as a primary building material – it burns, rots, warps and cracks; it reacts to climate conditions, can be destroyed by insects, and can be breeding ground for mold.  Yet we it is our primary structural material in our homes in North America.  We’ve found ways to work around the flaws in this material and we now have a thriving industry in milled lumber.  But when a new material or idea is introduced that has a flaw, we find ourselves being far more critical and hesitant to consider it.  There is no idea, material or technology that is flawless.  It is important to take a step back and compare all methods and materials, old and new, in the same light.


Keep in mind, though, that meeting your overall project goals in the choice of structural components means looking at the entire assembly as a whole.  The role of any single building material alone won’t make or break the success of the project.  The key is in balance and looking at the whole to be successful in meeting our goals and priorities.  This section will give you a brief outline of many of the most sustainable options available for structural systems, with the pros and cons of each, giving you a good idea of which materials are worth further exploration for your project.


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