In a quest for cost-effective, sustainable materials, energy-efficiency and healthy housing, many individuals are opting to investigate alternate building methods. Whether looking at building methods of the past or current innovations, research is essential. One must also consider the logistics of the build itself including cost, energy efficiency, durability, fire, sound, environmental issues, indoor air quality, construction sequencing, and availability of trained trades. Other considerations are the effects on resale value, regulatory approvals, warranty program approvals, and home and property insurance.
The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) offers both a summary report and more indepth report on ten alternative building systems including:
- lightweight steel framing
- structural insulated panels (SIPs)
- insulated concrete forms (ICF)
- post and beam
- concrete block
- stackwall or cordwood
- straw bale
- manufactured wood wall
- earth wall construction or rammed earth
Prior to committing to an alternative wall system, it is highly advised that you arm yourself with as much knowledge and advice as possible. Review both the CMHC summary report and full report on these systems. The Internet is a great place to find proponents of alternate systems as many have blogs and have built virtual communities online. Chances are, you will be able to find builders or homeowners who will be happy to share current builds or share their experiences. These trailblazers are an invaluable resource. At the end of it all, you will have a much stronger understanding of the build process and when someone says “if these walls could only talk”, you can smile, knowing that they have quite a story to tell!
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