This full-page advertisement has been appearing in building trade magazines recently. Though I’m sure it is intended to generate enthusiasm for Weyerhaeuser’s lumber innovations, I found it a better illustration of some of the homebuilding industry problems.
First, I’m enthusiastic about the concept of the I-Level family of engineered wood products. The prices need to come down, but there’s no reason to think that won’t happen eventually with more industry acceptance and good all-American competition.
I don’t think this advertisement is a reflection of Weyerhaeuser’s view of the ideal building process. My guess is that their marketing team isn’t communicating well with their R&D department.
With the above noted, this advertisement sucks. While attempting to tout some future oriented building products, it inadvertently (I’ll assume it wasn’t purposeful.) gives credence to the backward way of building. The depicted scene might not be unusual for a typical construction project, but it’s nothing to be proud of. And it certainly is not the future. I’ll list the problems I see:
1. The lumber in the foreground is dumped on the ground carelessly. It is poor practice to treat high quality lumber this way (not stickered or stacked)–even temporarily–and the fact that these pieces are lying there means they’ll have to be handled several more times before becoming part of the building’s structure.
2. The lumber stacked inside isn’t organized, which undoubtedly will lead to some shuffling and restacking as the right pieces are found for the next construction process.
3. The lumber piled at the edge of the floor framing creates a safety hazard for those working below.
4. The two pieces of lumber projecting from the lumber pile on the floor, in addition to those in the foreground, suggests that this whole site might look like scattered pick-up-sticks instead of an organized construction area.
5. The pile of raw material on the right will undoubted have to be cut one-at-a-time on the site, with hand-held tools. I happen to know that Weyerhaeuser has better ideas about how to do things more efficiently and this isn’t it.
6. While it’s risky to criticize engineering from a photo, I sure don’t like the look of the concentrated point load from the floor system located over what is apparently a garage door opening. If the floor framing is 12 in. deep, the garage door header looks to be 8 in. deep, and inadequate. I’m probably not seeing the whole picture, but I wouldn’t have used that unfortunate framing configuration to advertise my smart structural solutions.
I could go on (Why is that wall on the right not sheathed?), but my point is that this advertisement is a pretty good summation of what I think is wrong with the residential building industry: while the suppliers and manufacturers are working overtime to create better products, they are supplying a poorly organized, inefficient, and defective-prone building process. There may be solutions in the materials, but there are built-in problems in the process.