Interior Architecture (MSIA) Student Research | Chatham University, Pittsburgh, PA

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Wood Products in Residential Construction: An Investigation into Product Sustainability and Product Demand

Author: Heather L. Haines
Date: 2008
Program: Master of Science in Interior Architecture, Chatham University

Wood is one of the most fundamental construction materials. There are issues of environmental consciousness such as deforestation, indoor air quality (volatile organic compounds), and global warming (climate change), attached to cutting down trees but few materials are better suited for many aspects of home construction and design. Sustainability means meeting the needs of the present population without diminishing the ability of future populations to meet their own needs (Bruntland, 1987). Sustainable forestry provides a way for trees and non-timber forest products to meet peoples ever increasing need for lumber (Rainforest Alliance, 2008). The purpose of this research is to identify the perceived factors effecting consumer decision making when purchasing sustainable wood products for the home. In addition, it will identify Metropolitan Pittsburgh’s role in the Forest Stewardship Council and how that affects the residential housing industry in this area. At the conclusion of this research the building and design industries involved with building in Metropolitan Pittsburgh will gain a better understanding of the effects of irresponsibly removing trees from the forest and also the negative effects of the chemicals used to make the wood products durable as well as aesthetically pleasing. Two surveys were created. The builder survey was created to understand the demand of FSC certified wood in residential applications. A second survey was created for suppliers to determine whether millwork manufacturers are purchasing sustainable wood products and why. The second survey was also created to evaluate the perceived factors preventing or pushing manufacturers into buying green products. This research concluded that LEED plays a major role in the increase in quotes specifying sustainable products including FSC certified wood. Conflicting data was collected regarding product education. Suppliers stated they are educating all of their consumers [builders] while only half of the builder respondents have been receiving information from sales representatives and another half of that group only receiving information via e-mail and mail. A final conclusion is that more research needs to be done with a larger population size of both suppliers and home builders.