Regarding Joel Luet’s letter questioning the warmth of solid-timber homes (Home Argument Loses Heat, May 12): Joel’s information about the R-value of solid wood is commonly heard, but is sadly outdated in terms of contemporary understanding of the entire energy performance of solid-wood buildings.
There has been much confusion concerning R-values, and thermal mass values as well as serious differences between desktop calculations and measured, real-world values. One way to get to the bottom of the various assertions is to establish an objective unit of comparison: the best one is the amount of energy required to maintain a constant temperature in solid timber and stud-wall buildings of the same size and thickness. The National Association of Home Builders and the Log Home Council published a report that is a comprehensive review of studies on the energy efficiency of log homes and includes thermal mass documentation from the US Department of Energy and “green building” research.
The link for this study, The Energy Performance of Log Homes, is posted on the Log Home Council website http://www.loghomes.org.
The upshot of these and other studies is that properly built and uniform thickness solid-timber houses perform five per cent to 15 per cent better than stud-wall homes of the same thickness.
Thus, if a two-by-eight stud frame wall is adequate for this climate, an 8-inch-thick timberframe is better yet.
I, and many others,can testify that solid-timber homes are warm, comfortable, and affordable to heat in our Yukon winters.
There is an irony in placing too great a focus on wall insulation. It is laughable when a theoretically energy-efficient wall is actually 50 per cent or more windows by area. In practical terms, the biggest influence on energy performance of solid timber homes (and any building) is in the ceiling insulation and in stopping air leakage throughout the building.
There’s another irony in promoting synthetic building materials for high-energy efficiency that, in fact, are anything but “green” considering the energy and resources needed to mine, make and ship these often toxic mineral- and petroleum-based materials.
Finally, there are the unquantified but evident health benefits of living in a home built of natural, organic materials.
Dave Loeks, Haven TimberHomes