Developers’ Eco-Friendly Solution for More-Efficient Construction

A younger generation of architects and engineers are experimenting with new construction methods.

By Andie Lowenstein, Associate Editor

Portland, Ore.—Nearly 170 million tons of building-related construction and demolition (C&D) debris was generated in the United States in 2003, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Since then, builders and developers continue to seek ways to reduce waste and increase efficiency. A younger generation of architects and engineers are experimenting with and embracing wood as a sustainable construction material. As a result, we are seeing more unique and innovative projects with higher building standards.

R&H Construction’s new multifamily housing development, The Ella, is situated on Portland’s budding South Waterfront and was constructed with prefabricated wall technology from Southern Oregon’s Pacific Wall Systems to minimize waste materials, time and onsite workers.

“One of the greatest advantages to using prefabricated wall panels is simultaneous construction,” said Alex Knecht of Pacific Wall Systems. “While your grading and foundation crews are working, so are we.”

15072012-mmmainThe Ella will be a five-story LEED Gold certified project with wood framing, a concrete podium and a sub-grade parking garage. The ground floor will house 1,500 square feet of retail space and residential units, with the remaining floors reserved for residential housing. Amenity spaces include a ground floor plaza and a rooftop terrace. The Ella is offering residents a high-end air conditioning package to residents, utilizing a state-of-the-art VRF system.

Due to the project location’s space restrictions, and in effort to employ more ecological solutions, R&H Construction recruited Pacific Wall Systems’ prefabricated wood framing to create little to no waste and shorten installation times.

“Assembling the frame components in a controlled environment allows us to deliver a superior product on the client’s production schedule,” said Knecht. “As real estate becomes more valuable and building continues to go vertical, on-site lumber storage is practically non-existent. Having your wall panels delivered just in time is very attractive, especially on tight job sites.”

prefabricated_homes_lw8ioPrefabricated wall systems, like Pacific Wall Systems’ products, result in nearly 90 percent reduction of waste on average. Fall-off pieces at the company plant are reused for other projects. Rather than framing on site, the prefabricated walls are crafted at Pacific Wall Systems in a centralized location and controlled environment before being transported to the construction site. Utilizing the walls permits developers to save 50 percent on framing labor alone.

“There’s been buzz about it for years,” Norm Dowty, principal with R&H Construction, told MHN. “Locally, we’re just starting to see it come more into fruition. I think it is a trend and as you have more congested urban sites, prefab and panelization can really expedite things because you don’t have the room to stage a project so you can just bring in the prefab panels and crane them into place off trucks. The other thing that makes it more viable is computerized drawings. They can do the prefab planning digitally, execute it off-site and bring the panels on-site.”

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