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What is easy to fabricate into virtually any shape and size? What material provides greater strength in proportion to its weight than any other? What material is easier to preserve, in any kind of climate, than any other? What is nature's champion insulator? What material is the only building resource that is truly renewable?
If you haven't guessed the answer by now, for each of these questions, it is WOOD.
Wood's most visible asset lies in its beauty, warmth and style. Wood provides a dramatic and exciting touch throughout the home. Architects and designers in survey after survey agree that they prefer wood over other materials for floors, walls, and most especially, for doors and windows. The reasons, of course, go far beyond the look. Wood windows and doors provide a host of advantages over competing materials.
Let's look at some of these. First of all, wood provides insulation, as opposed to metals that are natural heat conductors. It is 400 times more effective as an insulation than steel and 1800 times more effective than aluminum.
Energy efficiency is wood's middle name. A well-constructed wood door coupled with a good weatherstripping package provides the best-possible barrier to heat or cold. Today's modern wood windows, with Low-E glazing, warm-edge technology and inert gas between the panes give builder's the most energy- efficient windows possible in their homes.
Naturally sound-absorbent, wood windows help block noise from entering or exiting a room. On the other hand, wood doesn't buckle or twist, thus allowing wood windows and wood doors to be opened easily, which is especially important in an emergency.
More importantly, wood is the most environmentally friendly of the major materials used in today's building industry. Unlike steel, aluminum, and even Portland cement, wood is a completely renewable resource. Those other materials, once removed from the ground, can never be replaced. On the other hand, nearly two billion trees are replanted each year on public and private lands.
Despite the fears of environmentalists, forested lands in the United States are not about to become extinct. The American Forest Council points out that nearly two-thirds of the area covered by forests in the 1400s are still forested today. Just five years ago, the USDA Forest Service said that forest growth, in terms of wood volume, actually exceeded harvest by approximately 37 percent. Over the past four decades, the yearly growth has exceeded harvest by an average of 25 percent. According to Dr. James Bowyer of the Department of Natural Resources, University of Minnesota, there has only been approximately a 1 percent loss in forest land in the nation in the past quarter century, mostly due to urban expansion and infrastructure development.
Wood windows and wood doors install easily. Pre-assembled units install quickly into a rough opening. They adjust easily with simple carpentry to prevent sticking.
Wood windows and wood doors provide long life. They don't rust or corrode, no matter how hostile the environment. They can be cleaned easily by simply washing and, if need be, they can be completely refinished. Furthermore, today's modern preservative treatments provide a longer life than ever before.
While steel and aluminum proponents boast of their recyclability, the efficacy of the argument begins to break down when examined closely. Recycling of these materials requires great quantities of energy. While reducing raw material and solid waste disposal is an admirable goal, the emissions and disposal of chemicals used in the recycling process must be taken into account when measuring the total impact on the environment.
The latest entry into the fray, vinyl, also poses potential environmental questions. Like aluminum and steel, vinyl production uses a non-renewable natural resource¬petroleum. Unlike wood, which can be manufactured into a window with relatively low impact, vinyl poses serious potential threat to the environment, with the possibility of leeching of chemicals into water and soil a major concern. Vinyl also presents problems in terms of recyclability. Because it does not decompose properly, the disposal of worn out vinyl windows becomes a major concern.
When factoring in all of these positives, it becomes increasingly obvious that wood really is good, both environmentally and aesthetically. Thus, the modern home builder can give customers the warmth and beauty they desire while allaying their fears about the environmental impact.
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