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Enertia® Mass Timber vs. Conventional Stick-Framing

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Enertia® Mass Timber
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Conventional Stick Framing
Enertia® Mass Timber homes are inspired by the European Mass Timber homes of the 10th thru 14th Centuries. Many of these solid timber wall homes, built from 900-1300 A.D. are still occupied, while later homes, built after the invention of the sawmill, are gone.
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Haus Bethlehem - 1287 AD
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Niderost - 1176 AD
Mass timber buildings, common in Europe, were virtually unknown in America in 1988, when we started Enertia® Building Systems to introduce, refine, and perfect them. In 1995, when we launched our Website, there were less than 50 mentions of mass timber on a search, all European. In 2007, when our technology was named a Modern Marvel, the reporters interviewing us said “What?” Finally, they are catching on. Today a Google search of Mass Timber yields 44 million entries. The new building codes include, and encourage, mass timber. The general advantages of MT are well documented, and America is waking up: Mortgage News Daily and ThinkWood are good primers.

Enertia®, with 30 years MT experience in the USA, is well ahead of this new North American MT industry, which is based on the time and cost savings of MT and still has no grasp of the energy-storing properties, or how to use them. We match the species, mass, location, and earth-connection, and orient the building and its windows to create an economical, strong, and beautiful home that heats and cools, without purchased fuel, throughout it’s 1000+ year life. Finally, MT is catching on!

Strength and Safety

Conventional stick-framed homes are so notoriously weak that the their “predictable collapse” is actually used, by the weather service, to classify tornadoes, and hurricanes: https://www.weather.gov/oun/tornadodata-okc-appendix
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One reason the centuries old mass timber homes in Scandinavia are still standing (and still occupied) is their inherent strength - resistance to the North Sea winds and storms. There are even-older mass timber buildings in Japan and China that have survived countless earthquakes.
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Energy Efficiency

Mass Timber homes became popular between 1300-1850, in a period known as the “little ice age” because they could be heated, and retained the heat.

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Stick-framed homes, popular after the invention of the sawmill, require all kinds of fixes, patches, and band-aides to be heatable. The most recent fix, house wraps, have lead to “sick-building-syndrome” where the occupants are poisoned from the toxic man-made materials in the house. The fluffy-when-installed pink and yellow insulations are notorious for settling to the bottom of the stud cavity. Check out one being demolished, or can-openered by a storm.
Aesthetics and Comfort

Often overlooked is the aesthetic beauty, and inherent comfort, of MT solid wood walls, and the interior openness that can be achieved with timber-trusses and large beams. Wood walls are perceived as warm, even when at the same temperature as stick-frame sheetrock walls, and the house won’t rattle and shake when you slam the door. Stick-frame homes are essentially built like movie sets - to look good, to look sturdy. A quick trip around back, or into an unfinished attic or room, reveals the sticks propping up the whole thing. A large-open-span mass timber home is not dependent on the interior room walls to hold it up. The non-load-bearing interior walls can be re-arranged many times in the lifetime of the home.

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Economy and Practicality

In America there is a shortage of conventional builders and stick-framers. Who needs them, when there is a better, faster, and more economical way. A higher quality mass timber home can be pre-cut and numbered in a climate controlled factory. It will go up quickly, with, maybe, one trained carpenter on site. The rest is follow-the-numbers: with each piece being the structure, the outside siding, the insulation, and the interior paneling, all in one-piece, and in one-move. In areas with high cost labor, and labor shortages (like the West coast and New England) the prefab MT package is clearly the economical way to go.

Check out our TIME LAPSE Construction Videos:

This is a no-brainer. We have been describing 500-1000 year old mass timber buildings that are still occupied. Yet, with modern materials like stainless steel roofs and hardware, tempered glass and anodized aluminum window and door frames, we can expect our modern mass timber homes to last much longer. Stick-frame homes have a 50 year life, at best. The newer ones (with wood-flake sheeting, staples instead of nails, vinyl siding, and thinner sheetrock) not even that. On the east coast where they are subject to hurricanes, or the midwest with the tornadoes and wide-spread flooding, 10 years if you are lucky.
Effect on the Environment
Whole systems of points and credits have been developed to “greenwash” stick-framed homes. Yet homes with the highest “LEEDS” score are just incrementally green compared to the 100% renewable walls of a mass timber house, where timber replaces the siding, the structure, the insulation, and the inside finish, all with renewable wood. The stick house has to add many solar panels to its “low-volatility” paint and “recycled biodegradable” insulation to get to Net-Zero. While the mass timber home is, from its start, Negative Carbon. While the stick house gets, maybe, a point for “sequestered carbon” in its sticks, the mass timber home sequesters 50,000 to 100,000 pounds, and not for fifty, but for a thousand years.

The Enertia® mass timber home takes it a step further. 40% of pollution is attributed to buildings - the majority from heating them. Because of the Enertia® home’s connection to the mild-temperature sub-soil earth, little energy is needed - it’s starting point is 55 degrees, not the outside air temperature. The earth’s ground temperature buffers the living quarters by natural convection, no mechanicals or electricity needed.

In America the major harm to the environment from stick-frame houses is the debris from their “predictable collapse” which goes into the air (in tornadoes) into the water (in hurricanes) and into the landfill when they have to be “gutted” and rebuilt after flooding. Some eastern North Carolina homes have had to be gutted of water-logged fiberglass and sheetrock twice in a single year. At least 20 stick-frame houses will go to the landfill in the life of a mass timber house.
Which One makes Sense?
The Mass timber vs. stick-frame dilemma is a slam dunk. Check the two photos below! Our medieval Scandinavian ancestors left us a heirloom renewable building technique that could prevent and protect us from climate change. Greedy developers (think Levittown) follow a short-lived, false-front technique that could lay waste to it. Mass Timber homes are the ones you run to, to escape the storm. Stick-frame developments require massive evacuations. MT is renewable material that cleans the air as it grows, vs SF toxic particle board, water-logged fiberglass, and sheetrock mush that go into our landfills, and eventually into our oceans. Talk about economy- your heirs would have to build and demolish 19 fuel-hungry stick-frame houses in the life of one solar mass timber home, more if they live in a coastal or flood prone area.

Mass Timber homes have sheltered humanity, successfully, for more than a thousand years. From heat and cold, earthquake, and vicious storms. New research has improved the energy-efficiency, the joinery, the hardware, and the speed of building. No skilled timber carpenters in your neighborhood? Not a problem, they are in our climate controlled factory working with precision power tools. Expect far more than a thousand years with the modern Mass Timber home.

Until recently, the hold-back has been- no one has heard of mass timber homes. Someone building a new house doesn’t even know that is an option in America. This is changing, as hundreds of mass timber buildings, some as tall as 85 stories, are in design. Search “mass timber” to read about them, and the excitement over this building method. Soon they will be common, and the stick frame house will be a thing of the past- quickly, due to violent weather and their inherent short life. When a house is going to last a thousand years certain things must be considered, that you don’t have to worry about in today’s “life-of-the-mortgage” homes. They must heat and cool themselves without fuel- there won’t be any. They will face more violent storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes, because we are talking about a much longer period-of-time. For that same thousand years, the holy-grail of architecture has been a house that heats and cools itself. Now we have it, made possible by a new form of energy; Enertia®- energy from a-shift-in-time. Only recently was “100% renewable materials” added to the grail. But that was always the case with MT. We have brought the relatively new sciences of Nanotechnology (phase-change) and Biomimicry (our internal atmosphere) to our advanced award-winning version of mass timber construction. The mass timber Enertia® home is the house of the future.

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