Green Building with Lumber and Other Building Materials

Construction projects have a significant impact on the environment. They use man-made materials, create a lot of waste, and cause greenhouse gas emissions. To reduce the environmental impact, many home and building owners are searching for ways to make their construction more sustainable. This can be done by using natural materials, improving energy efficiency, reducing waste and materials sent to landfills, and sustainably harvesting raw materials.

It’s not uncommon for home and project owners to have green building goals for their projects. This helps them benchmark their effect on the environment and measure their sustainability efforts.

Building materials and products have a direct effect on the sustainability of a construction project. Owners must choose carefully when selecting materials to ensure that they are sustainably sourced, manufactured, and transported.

Here’s how you can use lumber and other building products to meet your sustainable building goals.

Lumber and other wood products

Lumber is a rapidly renewable resource that helps clear the air of toxins and provides fresh oxygen for us to breathe. Toxins in the air are sequestered within the wood, protecting us from potential health risks.

The only way to ensure that we have wood products now and in the future is to harvest sustainably. There are two certifications for wood products that show they were produced on tracts using sustainable forestry methods.

The first certification is provided by the Forest Stewardship Council or FSC. This international nonprofit was started in 1993 and helps protect the world’s forests from unethical and illegal logging. In order to be certified, the source forest must meet 10 principles of stewardship. These principles help to ensure that the harvesting of timber will continue for many years while taking into consideration the natural habitats of local animals and people.

The second certification is handed out by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative or SFI. This initiative was born out of the lumber industry’s desire to manage forests sustainably. The SFI Forest Management Standard includes requirements for protecting water quality, biodiversity, wildlife habitat, at-risk species, and forests with conservation value. Like FSC, SFI is designed to ensure that forest products continue to be available for many years to come.


Doors, windows, and skylights create the greatest heat loss in buildings. About 30% of a home’s heating energy is lost through the windows. In the summer, about 76% of sunlight enters through the windows as heat. This means your furnace and air conditioning have to work harder and longer to maintain the interior climate of your building. Today’s design trends encourage installing more windows because we want views of nature to keep us calm, so it’s important that those windows save energy.

Better-performing windows have a higher insulation value to help prevent heat gain and loss, saving you energy and money. The measure of a window’s insulative properties is called the U-value. It’s a measure of the rate of thermal transmittance or heat loss through the glass. Windows rated with lower U-values are better at reducing heat transfer. Double and triple-pane windows provide more protection than their single-pane alternatives.

Another factor you should look at when purchasing windows is the solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC). This factor measures the solar radiation going through a window, door, or skylight. Solar radiation can be transmitted directly into the building or be released as heat. The lower a window’s SHGC rating, the less solar heat it transmits.

Metal roofs

Metal is a sustainable building material because it’s easily recycled and often contains previously recycled content. By using recycled materials, it decreases the number of raw resources that must be harvested from the earth. This helps prevent habitat destruction while saving money.

Metal roofs can also help with energy efficiency, as metal makes a good insulator. Reduced energy use helps building owners save money and lowers carbon emissions. In addition, metal roofs can last a long time (40-70 years), saving you the expense of replacing them, and they will not burn during a fire or lightning strike.

Rock and stonework

Faux rocks and stones are often made from concrete. Concrete is used because it creates the look of stone without harvesting additional raw materials. Concrete is a sustainable building material because it provides products with long life, resilience, and structural integrity. Because of these characteristics, materials made from concrete don’t have to be replaced as often, saving this material from the landfill.

In addition, used concrete can be crushed to create fill material for earthwork or it can be used as a raw material to make more faux rock and stones.

Parr Lumber is here to help.

If sustainable construction is right for you, Parr Lumber is here to help. We can assist in sourcing the sustainable materials you are looking for while ensuring that you’re meeting your project goals. Whether it’s lumber, windows, metal roofs, or rock and stone, your local Parr Lumber has the products you need to go green.