The Peril of Log Building
The Peril of Log Building
Raising a Voice for Log Building for Future Generations
Perfect Bound Softcover
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Many excellent books and articles have been published about log homes. Some focus on the aesthetics, style and decorating of log homes. Some focus on building methods -- from "build your own" to technical instructions. None examine the specific evaluation of log structures to build a high performance structure. This book is intended to provide industry-specific information that can serve as a solid reference for technical discussion. It can benefit presentations to code administrators or legislators to help folks understand the benefits of log building. It is intended to bolster adoption of ICC400 as the "Log Building Code" worldwide. The Peril of Log Building documents the course of action that has stymied the log home industry. It is a search for the answer that supports and explains the thermal performance of log walls. It provides a discussion of the elements of log home design and construction as established by ICC400 and why those elements are important. It includes worksheets as examples of those methods of evaluation.
Records show that log structures have been part of American heritage since colonization began. Log structures have historical relevance as homes, churches, schools, forts, ancient temples, hotels, resorts, and more. Whether simple, one-room structures of our pioneer past or complex hotels, log structures have remained a viable method of construction. Evolving from this heritage, the log home industry grew to over 400 handcrafters and manufacturers by the year 2000, providing homes and jobs to thousands who would have it no other way. With many different methods used to build log structures, it was an accomplishment when the industry came together with the International Code Council (ICC) to develop a consensus standard. Published by ICC in 2007, ICC400 Standard on the Design and Construction of Log Structures establishes criteria for evaluation of all methods of log home construction with consideration for structural and thermal performance, including settling allowance and fire resistance. The log home industry serves a niche custom home market. Whether built to be a primary or second home, home owners relish the look and feel of their log homes. Log building systems rise from a foundation and subfloor with solid wood walls that support timber/log frame floor and roof structures. The common response from log home owners is that their home is warm, comfortable, and relaxing. For a log home owner, the on-going maintenance of a wood exposed to the environment is the only nuisance. Even in the cold climates of New England, homes built using log building systems experience lower energy consumption than their contemporary frame built homes. This form of construction now faces many challenges -- from accessibility of raw materials to obtaining the certificate of occupancy. The extent of these challenges is now threatening the livelihood of an entire network of individuals who work to make a new log home a reality. This network has enjoyed steady employment for the past several decades. Regulation and political platforms are well beyond the scope of this paper, but the recognition of a solid wood wall as an effective thermal envelope is a challenge that must be overcome. Current standards would tell us to use thicker log walls, but the expense of doing so will limit this form of construction to the upper end of the home buying market for reasons presented here. The questions are: How can this form of construction remain viable? How does the industry explain owner/occupant testimony to the performance of log homes over the past 50 years? And rather than looking for exceptions and exemptions to building energy codes, how does the world of building science and building standards explain the unpredictably low energy consumption of log homes in the cold climates of North America?
Rob Pickett formed the housing technology firm of RobPickett &Associates (RP&A) in 2001 following a 26-year career in the housing industry. From a childhood interest in shelter design, Rob gained experience with housing production from both the site- and factory-built perspective. His career took a defining path when given an opportunity to enter the log home industry in 1977. Since then, that path included an A/E consulting firm in New York City, an editorial position with the Sweets Division of McGraw-Hill, and management positions with four other log home producers. Responsibilities have included design, engineering, materials estimating, and pricing operations. Highlights have included innovation of a new log profile, complete documentation of building products and systems, creation of new model plan series, conception of a proprietary national pricing system, and more. Rob began working with the Log Homes Council (LHC) while at Steven Winter Associates in the early 1980's, developing the training program that launched the LHC Log Grading Program. In 1993, Rob joined the Real Log Home family and soon became involved in LHC activities – serving as LHC Grading Committee Chair, Technical Committee Chair and on the Steering Committee. The LHC honored Rob with the President’s Award and Innovator Award, and his efforts continue on behalf of the LHC to advance the industry and the association. Sponsored by the LHC, he was elected to Chair the ICC IS-LOG Committee through the 2007 publication and 2012 update of the "Standard for the Design & Construction of Log Structures". A Charter Member of the Build Green NH Council, Rob is an active member in the Home Builders & Remodelers Association of NH. He became the founding President of the Building Safety Association of Vermont in 2009. Rob has also maintained his membership on ASTM's D7 Committee on Wood for nearly 20 years. Today, RP&A includes clients in the U.S. and Canada, district sales management of Epoch Homes (custom modular homes manufactured in Pembroke, NH), third-party inspection of log grading activities for three log home companies, and activities related to the thermal performance of residential construction. Working toward a Master Certification, I am currently a Certified Green Professional (CGP) through the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). Contact RobPickett &Associates at P.O. Box 490, Hartland, VT 05048, 802-436-1325, or visit

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