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Environmentally preferable products are attracting great interest these days. After years of apparent indifference, people everywhere are beginning to ask questions about the products they buy, sell, and specify. Nowhere is this trend more apparent than in the architectural/building design and engineering community where “green building” guidelines and programs have become the hottest topic in years. Focused largely on energy efficiency and occupant health and safety, each of the green building programs (GBPs) also considers environmental attributes of building materials.

The environmentally preferable product lists of leading GBPs make interesting reading. Patterns quickly emerge, providing a roadmap of what is “in” and what is “out.” Curiously, in several of the better known GBPs, lumber in virtually any form is “out.” So too is plywood. Engineered wood products are “in,” especially if certified as from a sustainable source, as are a myriad of products from steel to concrete.

Given the many positive environmental attributes of minimally processed wood, it is worth considering how materials such as lumber and plywood came to be on the “out” list and how these materials compare with those products that are “in.” In this article, provisions of one of the nation’s most rapidly growing GBPs – the Atlanta Earth Craft House program – is examined. While the focus here is on the Atlanta program, it is worth noting that several other popular GBPs have similar provisions.

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