Reduce Waste and Cycle Time with Ready-to-Install Framing

By Bob Mang, iLevel by WeyerhaeuserIf you’re a parent, you’ve probably reminded your children more than once to “turn out the lights when you leave the room” or “turn off the water while you’re brushing your teeth.” Those tips are simple ways for people to save money, reduce waste and help the environment. But it’s not only parents and their children who are using simple techniques to “go green.”Now, builders of low-rise apartments, town homes and other wood-framed buildings are making their contribution with a few simple changes in construction techniques and methods.Today, more builders are taking advantage of ready-to-install framing components to reduce the amount of material used in residential structures. These ready-made materials, along with advanced framing techniques, help ensure that materials are used only where they are needed and that fewer decisions are made in the field. This more efficient use of material helps builders meet green building goals, improves productivity and reduces costs.Until recently, reducing construction materials needed for a building—especially the structural elements—was not straightforward. There weren’t many good cost-effective tools for precisely sizing structural members and few alternatives to conventional stick framing existed. The lack of alternatives resulted in more materials being used than were structurally needed and large piles of scrap and waste from cutting materials to size on-site.While some might think “going green” requires sacrifice of performance or convenience, ready-to-install framing can actually improve job site productivity. In addition to reducing waste, builders can complete homes faster and with higher quality. It only requires a commitment from builders to change their building practices by working with dealers to pre-plan and pre-cut their materials. It’s a process that’s pretty simple and many building supply companies are ready to assist.Design and PlanningThe first step in more efficient framing is to improve the design of the structure. Modern framing design software can optimize framing solutions for floors, walls and roofs before construction begins. Designers use 3D viewing capability to examine the frame from all angles and take advantage of built-in analysis tools to identify and resolve design conflicts, such as misplaced beams or other interferences. Solutions are then developed before any materials are ordered, cut or delivered. The result is more efficient use of building materials, fewer framing errors and reduced risk of wasteful and costly on-site changes to plans.Framing design software, such as iLevel’s Javelin software, can also analyze and track vertical loads more precisely throughout the structure to help ensure a strong and solid frame without using excess materials.Pre-Cut MaterialsWhile better design is a big step toward the more efficient use of materials, builders can go a step further with pre-cut materials or pre-built panelized components.Pre-cut framing members are precision-end trimmed to within one-sixteenth of an inch of specified length versus one- or two-ft. increments of traditional framing. This not only helps eliminate scraps on the job site, but since dealers can plan cuts from the range of material lengths in inventory, it also reduces waste of materials throughout the delivery channel.But it’s not just waste that’s reduced. Pre-cut framing materials can be delivered to the site pre-labeled and bundled for the most convenient placement, helping builders reduce labor and construction time.More builders are also using panelized components. Structural panels manufactured in a factory setting allow for very careful control of materials from design through product specification and construction. The controlled manufacturing process provides precisely built framing and removes the product inefficiencies inherent with stick-built construction.In some cases, a panel manufacturer will also install the pre-built components at the site. The result is rapid on-site assembly and a higher-quality product. At the same time, waste disposal fees are significantly reduced because very little job-site waste is created using this approach.Getting StartedThe key to moving from traditional stick-built framing to more advanced techniques is to take it in stages, starting with pre-cut materials and eventually working toward pre-manufactured components. Many building material dealers can provide assistance.  Check with your dealer to see what types of services and consultation support they offer.Waste in Traditional FramingTraditional stick-built construction may consume 15 to 20 percent more framing material than is structurally needed. Waste arises in a number of areas, from design through specification, delivery and installation. For example:•    Using oversized materials such as a one-size header throughout the structure without evaluating individual span or load conditions;•    Installing more framing members than needed due to imprecise design;•    Ordering excess product for trimming on site or to cover shrinkage due to material defects, damage or theft; and•    Inadvertently cutting to size a longer joist or beam that’s needed elsewhere in the frame.These types of inefficiencies can be reduced or eliminated with more detailed planning, both for the overall design of the structural framing and in how materials are cut and assembled.Bob Mang is vice president of residential strategic marketing for iLevel by Weyerhaeuser.