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Certified Forest Products: A Great Choice for the Environment

Certified Forest Products: A Great Choice For The Environment

From CNBC.com
Published: Thursday, 22 Oct 2009 | 12:03 PM ET
By: Larry Selzer, President & CEO, The Conservation Fund

There is not much debate that the environmental issue at the forefront of our minds these days is climate change.

There is also no doubt that by taking care of our forests we can address a lot of environmental challenges – including some related to climate change.

Just think for a moment what forests provide.

They are natural filters – removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing carbon as plants, leaf litter and soil.

They provide habitat and support biodiversity, they regulate water flows and protect water quality. They offer enjoyment and recreation. They also support local economies, and deliver a stable, and renewable, supply of the wood and paper products.

That’s right.

The many benefits of natural forests are often found in managed forests that supply the products we use every day. And the economic value is an added incentive for owners to manage their forests with care, and to maintain them as forest rather than selling them for profit – which often results in the forests being turned into malls or subdivisions.

At The Conservation Fund, we have long recognized this.

We know that forests offering value economically and socially are more likely to continue offering value environmentally.

That’s why we work with many partners to help communities develop sustainable solutions that integrate economic return with environmental quality.

That’s also why we certify our forest lands to a credible third-party certification program, and make sure we always ask for wood and paper products with on-product labels that show the fiber is from responsible, legal sources.

Third-party forest certification began as a response to market concerns about questionable forest activities, primarily in developing countries, and has become an important tool to promote sustainable forest management and responsible procurement around the world.

Only 10 percent of the world’s forests are certified and half of these certified lands are found in North America.

That’s likely because we have a choice of credible programs – such as the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and the Forest Stewardship Council. These programs have been endorsed by respected organizations and governments around the world, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan and France.

An on-product label that says a product is certified to a program such as SFI or FSC delivers assurance you are making a choice that represents conservation of biological diversity, protection of special sites, sustainable harvests, respect for local communities, and much more.

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In the United States and Canada, we are extremely fortunate. At a time when global deforestation and degradation account for 17 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, our forest land area is actually stable, if not increasing. At a time when illegal forest activities are contributing to deforestation and habitat destruction, we have laws in place to keep our forest lands healthy and resilient, making them less susceptible to wildfire, insects and disease.

And on top of that, we have the option of buying independently certified wood and paper products that we know come from responsible and legal sources.

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Southern Pine Council Teams With Habitat for Humanity to Promote Raised Floors

Southern Pine Council Teams With Habitat for Humanity to Promote Raised Floors

From ebuild.com
Southern Pine Council Teams With Habitat for Humanity to Promote Raised Floors

As part of its effort to promote raised-floor construction, The Southern Pine Council recently partnered with Habitat for Humanity to build two pairs of homes–each containing one raised-floor and one non-raised-floor unit–to document the differences between the two techniques.

The homes in each pair, which were built side by side in Mobile, Ala., and across the street from each other in Vero Beach, Fla., were identical except for foundation type: raised floor vs. slab. A study is being conducted to evaluate the construction costs of the two methods, to measure whether or not users save money on utilities with either method, and to analyze other variances in living factors.

Southern Pine representative Kim Drew told Hanley Wood editors that raised-floor construction is a better choice for these areas, in particular, because the method helps reduce the potential for flood damage. Homeowners also thought the raised homes looked better, she added.

Click here to see more information on the project, including video segments and images, and for additional resources on raised-floor living.–Victoria Markovitz

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Check out this article about Project Home Again in New Orleans

IT'S NICE TO BE HOME AGAIN IN FILMORE

Saturday, August 22, 2009
By Stephanie Bruno
Contributing writer

THE NEIGHBORHOOD: Gentilly’s Filmore district, bounded by Robert E. Lee Boulevard on the north, Harrison Avenue on the south, the London Avenue Canal on the east and Bayou St. John on the west. Lake Terrace is adjacent on the north, and to the south is the former St. Bernard public housing complex, which is undergoing a massive overhaul.

The area once belonged to Scotsman Alexander Milne, who developed popular attractions along the lakefront. The land was swampy when he purchased it, but Milne was certain that it eventually would be drained and filled so that the city could extend all the way from the Mississippi River to the lake. He was right: Many modern-day lakefront neighborhoods eventually grew out of Milne’s holdings, including Filmore, which developed in the mid-20th century after lift pumps were installed to drain the London Avenue Canal.

THE BLOCK: The 1200 block of Owens Boulevard on the even-numbered, or south, side of the street, between Wellington Drive on the east and St. Bernard Avenue on the west. Readers who like to take virtual Street Walks using the “Street View” function on Google maps may be disappointed this week because, with the exception of two ranch houses at the Wellington end of the block, there was only vacant land here when the “Street View” images were shot.

Since then, the area has undergone major renewal due to the Riggio Foundation’s “Project Home Again,” which has built 20 new homes on the square: four on Owens, a few more on Mandolin Street and a long row in the 4200 to 4400 blocks of St. Bernard Avenue. The organization is constructing 12 additional affordable and energy-efficient homes on scattered sites in Gentilly.

Today, the two ranch house are repaired and reoccupied, and four Project Home Again houses, gifted to those who lost their homes in Hurricane Katrina, occupy the block.

THE HOUSES: The ranch houses at the Wellington end of the block are typical of the neighborhood between St. Bernard and Paris avenues. They are modest, slab-on-grade, one-story houses with front lawns, side drives and carports. But the four Project Home Again houses are distinctly different. Relying heavily on the Craftsman movement for their styling, they are one- and two-story homes, raised on piers, with front porches and parking in the rear. All occupy extra-wide lots.

I am traveling on St. Bernard Avenue, looking for the turn off to Park Island on the left, when I am distracted by the sight on my right: A colorful row of handsome new houses. I circle a few times before I see the “Project Home Again” sign. By then, Park Island is a distant memory, and I have a new target for my Street Walk.

— Anatomy of the block —

I walk the area before I commit to a block. The long stretch of houses along St. Bernard Avenue is breathtaking, but the sun is shining from the wrong direction. I like the houses on Mandolin, too, but there are too many cars parked in front of them this day to take photos that would convey their beauty. Then I find Owens, where two fine trees have been preserved and grassy lawns are uninterrupted by driveways (a rear “alley” provides access). This is it.

I begin at the Wellington end of the block and note that the original homes — two ranch houses — have been repaired and seemingly reoccupied.

Just past the second one, I am looking at my first Project Home Again house, a salmon-colored bungalow with a front porch and shed roof that extends from the cottage out over the porch and the home’s forward wing. Lean, tapered columns and a Craftsman-style front door add personality to the porch.

Care has been taken with the details, such as the house numbers stenciled onto the transom over the entry door and the coordinating mailbox. A fledgling cypress tree is taking root in the front yard.

To the right of the bungalow is one of the larger models of houses: one-story in front and two-story in the rear, much like the traditional New Orleans camelback. Here, however, the rear wing does not extend to the ground but is lifted on tall piers to provide a place for parking.

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The massing on this house is more complex than on the first. The entry porch extends from the body, with its own gable-fronted roof. The first floor of the house comes next, again with a gable-fronted roof, but this time with a higher roof ridge. The pattern is repeated on the two-story element.

All gables are detailed with vertical planks, a pattern often seen in historic Craftsman houses. Ah, here’s a detail I missed on the first house: The piers and the lattice between them are painted a dark green to anchor the houses to the ground and help the foundation blend with the landscape.

Both this house and its neighbor to the right sit far back from the sidewalk behind a grassy open area. Between them in the foreground is a large tree, a Chinese tallow I think. If so, just wait for its glorious fall colors to add even more beauty to the block.

The blue house that comes next seems to be a mirror image of the last house — same massing, proportions and details, but all reversed so that the entry porch is on the right rather than on the left. But now I see that it is instead a variation on a theme, for here the exterior walls of the camelback portion extend all the way down to the foundation and there is no open space below. I pick up another detail: Not all front walks extend in a line perpendicular to the sidewalk. Some are at an angle, some bend.

A massive oak tree separates the camelback from the bungalow at the corner of Owens and St. Bernard. From the front, it looks to be the same model as the salmon-colored house I first observed. Like the first house, this one sits much closer to the sidewalk than the two camelbacks, and then I realize that the variations in setbacks animate the streetscape.

I walk around the side of the bungalow along St. Bernard and see an inviting screened porch in the rear, an element I can see on the back of several houses. Because there are no rear-yard fences, the backyards of all the houses connect, creating a park-like setting.

— Life on the street —

Storm clouds are brewing and there is thunder in the distance. Still, the sun is beating down hard, so when I loop the block and stop to talk to a man mowing the grass at his home on Wellington, he is dripping with perspiration.

“Trying to beat the rain,” he says in answer to my silent question.

He pushes the mower through thick, tall St. Augustine grass, his floppy hat providing little relief from the sun. I ask him how long he’s been back in his house and what he thinks about the new houses nearby.

“Took a while to get back. Too long,” he says, huffing and puffing in short sentences. “Those new houses? Nice. Glad to have ’em.”

Then he reaches the front end of the lawn and turns back to mow in the opposite direction.

. . . . . . .

Stephanie Bruno can be reached at housewatcher@hotmail.com. For more pictures of blocks profiled in this column, go to http://www.flickr.com/photos/housewatchertp. The Greater New Orleans Community Data Center website (www.gnocdc.org) provided background information on Filmore. Learn more about Project Home Again at http://www.projecthomeagain.net.

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New Orleans removes barriers from home-elevation program

New Orleans removes barriers from home-elevation program

by Deon Roberts Online Editor

Builder Randy Noel, owner of LaPlace-based Reve Inc., is among those who couldn’t meet the city’s requirements for the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.

The city has taken down barriers that were preventing homebuilders in the New Orleans area from getting work from a federal home elevation program — and keeping homeowners from rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina.

Contractors had complained the city’s insurance and bonding requirements for the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program were too onerous. New Orleans homeowners were also required to obtain three bids for work to use program money.

A July 10 CityBusiness story pointed out that out of the more than 140 New Orleans homeowners who had applied to the program, construction has not begun on any homes even though homes in other parishes have already been elevated.

In Jefferson Parish, where builders only have to meet state licensing standards to take part in the program, about 115 homes have been rebuilt or elevated. Homeowners there need to only obtain one bid.

Builder Randy Noel, owner of LaPlace-based Reve Inc., said he learned from Col. Jerry Sneed, New Orleans’ homeland security director, that the requirements had been dropped Aug. 3. Noel could not take a job in New Orleans that would have used money from the program because he could not meet the bonding requirements.

“This means we can go to work,” said Noel.

City officials declined interview requests to explain the changes, but City Attorney Penya Moses-Fields’ office provided an e-mail statement.

“The city inserted various insurance and bonding recommendations to guide the homeowners,” the statement reads. “It was never the intent of the city to make it difficult for either the homeowners or contractors to participate in this program.

“Once the city learned that contractors were experiencing difficulty meeting the insurance and/or bonding recommendations, the city immediately re-evaluated the proposed agreements.”

Jon Luther, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of Greater New Orleans, said the city’s “arcane” requirements called for homebuilders to be bonded at a capacity that only large commercial contractors can achieve.

He said he is spreading the word among HBA members that the city has dropped the problematic requirements.

“We are pleased that they’ve taken pains to make the program more efficient and user-friendly,” Luther said. “We hope that translates into the numerous applicants commencing work immediately and getting their homes elevated out of harm’s way.”

Luther said the city’s requirements were troublesome for homebuilders. For one, residential builders were required to hold occurrence general liability policies, although they typically hold claims made coverage, he said. Occurrence policies generally have higher claim limits because they allow for a claim to be made after the policy has expired. Claims made coverage tends to have a limit that more accurately reflects the exposure and usually costs the builder less.

The city also required “construction defect coverage” in builders’ risk policies, but that provision is not included in such policies, Luther said.

The city also required automobile policies on all vehicles owned by the company, a requirement Luther said did not make sense because state law already mandates auto liability coverage.

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Brush up on your history by reading how raised floor homes got started in Louisiana

The History of the Raised-floor House in Louisiana

Historians and anthropologists tracing the roots of an architectural style search for what is known as “vernacular architecture.” Buildings of vernacular architecture are not designed as we use the word today — there were no architects nor design professionals involved.

Vernacular buildings are constructed by the people who use the buildings to the standards of the community in which they are built. Vernacular architecture evolves from the culture of the community. A vernacular building is built using the same materials and building practices that are accepted within the community. In other words, vernacular buildings are built using almost an intrinsic knowledge created by tradition and experience. Someone building a vernacular building may say, “I build this way because my father built this way and my grandfather built this way and neighbors build this way.”

Examples of vernacular architecture include buildings such as tepees of Native Americans or the beehive homes of South Africa. Vernacular buildings are also sometimes called “folk buildings.” Vernacular architecture can tell us a lot about the social norms and religious beliefs of a culture, but it can also tell us how people lived and built in ways that accommodated the climate and natural hazards of an ecological zone before the technological advances of today.

So, from what vernacular tradition did the raised-house forms of Louisiana come? In a study of cultural and architectural diffusion, anthropologists have come to believe that the raised house comes to us from Portugal by way of West Africa, Brazil and the West Indies, specifically Haiti.

In the late 1400s, Portuguese from coastal Portugal made their way down to the Sudan savannah and, then, eventually down to Ghana, where they established the first slave-trading posts. In time, the Dutch, French, English and Portuguese all had fortified trading posts from Ghana down to through the Ivory Coast – all of which sit in the delta of the Niger River.

The Portuguese came from a hot, coastal environment and settled in a hot, coastal ecological zone in West Africa. Each ethnic group had created its own housing types in response to their local environments and cultural and religious practices.

The intermingling of the Dutch, French, English, Portuguese and different African tribes led to a syncretistic form of EuroAfrican Creole architecture along the coast of Africa. This EuroAfrican Creole style is the product of the melding and fusion of the beliefs and practices of the different ethnicities. The word “Creole” derives from 15th century Portuguese. Today, the word “Creole,” when used in reference to vernacular architecture, refers to “any architectural tradition genetically descended from a synthesized tropical form.”

In the 1530s, this EuroAfrican style was again transported, mainly by the Portuguese and the slaves they traded, to another hot, coastal environment — that of Brazil. Here the Portuguese set up sugarcane plantations. Eventually, some of the Portuguese slave traders and plantation owners moved on to Hispaniola, the Haiti and Dominican Republic of today.

In following the route of diffusion of the raised-house style, it is readily apparent that the style was transported from one similar clime to the next. Houses were raised in order to allow air circulation through as well as to protect against potential flood damage. While there are many other architectural features that were developed in response to the local climate and culture and appear in the houses discussed below, this article concentrates on the origins of the elevation of the house in Louisiana.

Both the shotgun house and the raised plantation house styles are believed to have been brought from Haiti in the early 19th century. Revolution in Saint Domingue and the invention of a new method to crystallize sugar resulted in a huge influx of Caribbean immigrants to Louisiana during 1791 to 1808. These Caribbean settlers built raised plantation houses in the Creole style along the rivers and bayous of Louisiana.

Shotgun houses began appearing in New Orleans during the massive immigration of free men of color from Hispaniola in 1809. The houses they built in New Orleans are so similar to those in Haiti that there can be no doubt as to the provenance of shotgun houses.

The third significant style of raised-floor architecture in Louisiana is the Acadian, which is a style that combines the Norman roof construction of the French in Nova Scotia with the Creole style of Louisiana. In 1755, large numbers of Acadian peasants living in Nova Scotia were sent into exile in Europe and the American colonies. Eventually, some of this exiled population started making its way into Louisiana. Former cattle ranchers, farmers, hunters and trappers, the Acadians settled along the bayous and swamps and also the prairies of southwestern Louisiana. Here they came in contact with the early Caribbean immigrants.

After initially constructing simple shelters with palmetto thatch, the Acadians began building more permanent homes, using the styles and practices of their former Canadian homeland. By the 1790s, the Acadians learned that houses built for cold winters were unsuitable for their new hot, humid, wet climate in which termites flourished. It was then that the Acadians (referred to as Cajuns) adopted the more environmentally appropriate raised-floor house of the local Creole population. However, they did retain one main element of their heritage – the steeply pitched, gabled roof.

This roof worked well in a snowy climate, but the steep pitch and high ridge allowed enough head room for living quarters in the attic, specifically for the young men’s sleeping rooms. The same roof in Louisiana worked just as well for rain but created an attic too hot for living. Eventually doors and windows would be added at the gable ends for cross ventilation.

Relations between the Cajuns and Creoles were acrimonious at the time, and retaining the steeply pitched roof of their former homeland
not only provided a tie to their former heritage but also created a differentiation between the gabled Cajun cottage and the hipped-roof Creole house.

These housing types remained popular through the early part of the twentieth century in Louisiana, although many were decorated throughout the years in the attempt to follow the latest housing trends. But there was no need to change the elevation or other climate-responsive features because they worked. So what changed?

The first ranch house is credited to Clifford May in 1931 San Diego, although architectural precedents can be found in Spanish colonial architecture of Southern California. One of its chief architectural features was that the house was built directly on a concrete slab. This allowed the homeowner to move efficiently in and out of the house and promoted outdoor living and entertaining — an attribute that would come to be more important in the future. Not only was the concrete slab more economical to build, it was considered termite resistant and accelerated the construction schedule.

The slab-on-grade ranch house really became popular in the building boom of post-World War II America. Thirteen million people returned from active service and needed homes to start life anew. The housing shortage of the depression added to the number of individuals and families who needed homes. With the economy improving and the mortgage subsidies being offered to returning G.I.s (federally insured 30-year mortgages with no down payment and low interest rates – Servicemen’s Readjustment Act or G.I. Bill), a vast number of people in the United States were looking to own a home for the first time in their lives.

The prevalence and affordability of the automobile ensured that house location was no longer an issue. Looking to capitalize on all these factors, homebuilders began to build suburbia in the more rural areas surrounding cities. Builders found they could build hundreds of identical ranch houses to fill these new neighborhoods and thereby greatly expand their business. The slab-on-grade home offered builders the opportunity to build houses more quickly and to begin to offer the attached garage. These homes afforded the new homeowner the convenience of having everything on one level.

As these neighborhoods developed, they began to create a culture unto themselves. The patio became an important part of suburban life as entertaining and outdoor living moved from the front porch to the back yard, an amenity allowed because of the form of the ranch house.

While the ranch started as a regional housing type, it quickly gained popularity throughout the country. A new crop of young homebuyers was attracted to the more modern house form and the lifestyle it represented.

There is probably one overriding reason that the slab-on-grade house became widespread in the South and profoundly changed the architecture of homes there. While air conditioning made its debut in the late 1800s, it was not until the post-WWII economic boom that it became more affordable. This affordability eliminated the need to raise houses in the South, along with front porches, wide eaves and high ceilings. With the elimination of these features, the more economical slab-on-grade house became the chosen style for both builders and homeowners alike.

No longer were issues such as landscaping and siting necessary to ensure indoor temperatures remained comfortable. In fact, consideration of environmental factors became irrelevant. Air conditioners (A/C) created the opportunity to build the slab-on-grade ranch house anywhere, a housing style that without A/C would be completely inadequate for the hot, humid climate of Louisiana. The relationships between man and nature and building and environment were forever changed.

There is a lot to be learned studying and imitating the vernacular architecture of our area. We’ve lost a lot of the ecological awareness that influenced the way we had built for almost 200 years. We can see by the recent storms that a lot of the ways we are building now do not work for our area. In turning our backs on nature, we forgot why we built the raised-floor home. And in doing so, we made our cities more vulnerable. It is worth looking to the past to gain insight into building styles and techniques that may be better suited to our local conditions?

We are finding today that the attributes we thought made the ranch house superior do not necessarily do so. We thought concrete slabs prevented termite infestation. However, the slab gives a protective buffer of only 8 inches, and all slabs crack, providing openings for the termites.

Slab-on-grade architecture may be more economical to build, as was thought earlier, but only if the grade does not need to be raised for flood protection. Other assumptions such as superior energy efficiency, the promotion of outdoor living and increased accessibility are also not necessarily true. The ranch house has proven not to have any significant advantage above the raised floor house in our area.

For the first time since the 1940s, we are starting to look at our environment again and ask ourselves how we can build in a way that respects the moods and forces of nature. With more attention being paid to the climate and hazards of our area, we have a chance to revisit a house style that was specifically designed for this climate and geographic area.

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The Construction of Raised Homes Makes Perfect Sense for Living and the Environment

The Construction of Raised Homes Makes Perfect Sense for Living and the Environment:

New flood map advisories and construction codes for coastal regions have made slab-on-grade home construction obsolete. A raised floor home (www.raisedfloorliving.com) addresses many issues facing home builders and home buyers and offer cost-effective options that only wood products can provide:

-A raised floor home is the best way to protect property from flooding, and, as a result, a raised floor home can have lower insurance premiums.

-A home raised to one foot above the base flood elevation using a wood frame is about 10% less expensive than constructing a raised home with an elevated, filled concrete slab.

-Using a raised floor system in building a new home is markedly less expensive than raising an existing home originally constructed on a slab.

-Raised and away from pests, a raised floor home with modern pressure-treated wood offers long-lasting resistance to termites and decay in a high-humidity climate.

-Home repairs can be far less expensive with a raised floor home:
In a concrete slab home, fixing a leak, rerouting pipes, or leveling is a major and expensive ordeal.

-A raised floor home is less susceptible to tree-root damage and is easier and less expensive to repair if necessary.
Renovation is easier and less expensive, especially of kitchens and baths.

-A raised floor home creates a pedestal that enhances a home’s curb appeal. Porches and decks are continuous and elegant extensions of a raised floor home and embrace classic Southern living.

-A raised floor home uses the world’s only renewable building material: wood, which can be recycled and regenerated.
Wood contributes far fewer greenhouse gases during the manufacturing process than its non-renewable counterparts—steel and concrete.

-Unlike steel and concrete, wood doesn’t conduct heat and cold, so a home built of wood takes less energy to heat and cool.

A raised floor home also has answers for many issues:

How can building with a raised floor speed up the construction process?
Why is a raised floor home best for unstable soils?
What are the value-added options of a raised floor system?
Why is a raised floor better than concrete or even fiberglass?
Why is wood the right choice?

Get in-depth information on benefits of building and renovating using a raised floor system and on local builders who specialize in a raised floor system at http://www.raisedfloorliving.com.

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Check this out: Tim Carter agrees there are numerous benefits to building a raised floor home

Raised Floor Systems

By Tim Carter
©1993-2009 Tim Carter

Summary: A raised floor system versus a slab on grade home may cost a little more but that is nothing compared to the benefits of building with raised access floors. Concrete slab homes do not have the curb appeal that a raised floor system does. You may find that you pay less for insurance if you live in a flood plain.

DEAR TIM: My husband and I are getting ready to build a new home and the builder is really pushing us to simply pour a concrete slab directly on the soil. I feel uneasy about this for any number of reasons. The builder says it will be cheaper and I am needlessly worrying. What would you do and why? Donna S. Orlando, FL

DEAR DONNA: I can understand why your builder is pushing for a slab on grade solution for your new home as your water table is so high in the sandy soil of Florida. But the builder may be blind to at least one other option that has been around for many years. In fact, I would be willing to bet that within one or two miles of your downtown area we could find several older homes that are 50 or more years old and are not built on slabs that lie directly on the soil.

See that horizontal green fascia board just above the foundation? Behind it is the first floor of my home. My raised floor allows me to have commanding views from my windows, allows abundant light to stream into my basement windows and keeps my wood floor system far away from moisture. PHOTO CREDIT: Tim Carter The older homes we would discover would undoubtedly have a raised wood floor system. The original builder or the architect of these homes probably cleverly disguised the fact that the home is sitting up off the ground 20 or 30 inches.

I love concrete and think it is a fabulous building material, but I would never personally own a home that is built on a slab. There are several reasons for this. First and foremost I want to be able to have complete access to all plumbing, electrical and mechanical systems in my house. Houses built on slabs at the very least have the plumbing drainage system buried under the slab. In some instances, heating ducts and some electrical cables are also buried. In a house with a raised floor system, all mechanical systems are readily visible and almost always accessible.

Raised floor system homes besides their increased functionality simply look better than the same home built directly at grade level. The wall area of the raised foundation helps to give the home both stature and balance. Homes that can be built with raised foundations in areas where basements are possible allow basement windows to be placed above grade. Windows placed above grade permit the maximum amount of available light to readily stream into the lower basement space.

People who live in areas where expansive clay soils are especially troublesome can really benefit from raised wood floor systems. Pier and beam foundations can be used that bypass the pesky clay soils that often cause significant cracks in slab-on-grade homes. Slabs can be engineered to resist expansive clay soils, but if the workmen don’t build the slab exactly right, the best intentions of the engineer become worthless as soon as the soil expands or contracts.

Another often overlooked benefit of raised wood floor system construction is a savings for those who live in flood plain zones. You can often build in these designated areas, but if your first floor level is exactly at the elevation of predicted floods you pay a steep flood insurance premium. But for every foot you raise the floor level above the projected flood level, you pay significantly decreased flood insurance premiums. The savings over time can be dramatic. But in addition to those savings, imagine the peace of mind knowing your house stayed dry during a flood while a neighbor’s house built on a slab might have had 28 inches of murky polluted water invading his house for days.

As for the cost savings of building a raised floor system versus a slab-on-grade home, you are talking chump change in my opinion. If your builder does an accurate labor and material cost comparison, I’ll wager that the extra cost of a raised wood floor system for an average home will not exceed an extra $1,500.00. Yes, it is more money, but that extra cost buys you numerous advantages as well as increased curb appeal.

Some opponents of raised floor system construction say it is too difficult to go up and down steps to get into and out of the house. It is very easy to grade the exterior of the ground around some of these houses to create a gently sloping landscaped berm that serves as a pathway to the front porch so that all but one step is required to enter the home.

There are multiple foundation types to choose from when building a raised floor system. The pier and beam method works well in areas that have mature trees and vegetation. This system requires that the builder just dig several pits to install square or round footers that support the weight of poured concrete or concrete block columns.

A traditional continuous poured footer foundation with a continuous concrete block wall or poured concrete wall can sever many tree roots and weaken or kill nearby trees that add value, beauty and perhaps natural shading in sunny hot climates. It is always a good idea to consult with a certified arborist before you decide upon which foundation method your builder is going to employ.

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