As the world sets climate change initiatives into overdrive, more pressure is being brought to bear on industry leaders in all industries to go as GREEN as possible. In the construction industry, the call has been going out for home and building developers to use materials that are more energy-efficient and sustainable.
In recent years, builders have been looking to use oriented strand board (OSB) materials as a substitute for high-end lumber materials. To do that and try to follow green initiatives at the same time, builders are having to focus on the sustainability of OSB materials. OSB distributors like Silvaris have helped bridge the gap.
In the sections below, the information is going to focus on the attributes that make OSB materials sustainable and a good substitute for plywood.
What is Oriented Strand Board?
An understanding of the process by which OSB is made will give some insight into why the material is sustainable.
OSB is a manufactured wood material. It is not created through a standard milling process but instead through the process of compressing wood strands or flakes into boards. The wood strands or flakes are compressed into thin panels and held together with wax and synthetic resin adhesives. A series of these panels are then further compressed and held together with adhesives to create a usable piece or panel of lumber.
OSB materials are suitable for use in interior walls, flooring, and roof decking. These materials can also be used for exterior walls if a radiant-barrier layer is laminated to the outside panel. By the way, some furniture products can be made with OSB, things like desks and dining room tables.
Is OSB Sustainable?
In the building industry, sustainability requires two things: durability and being eco-friendly. If a building material meets these two standards at an acceptable level, the material is deemed sustainable.
We want to start this conversation off by simply stating that OSB is a highly sustainable building material. It's also more affordable than standard lumber materials when lumber prices are in a normal range. The fact that OSB is sustainable and affordable is why builders are leaning towards building homes and small commercial buildings with OSB materials as much as possible. Some experts claim that 2/3 of all current home construction is being done with OSB materials. That number is expected to continue increasing as outlined in our article: The Current State of the OSB Market in 2021.
When it comes to lumber and building materials, durability can mean a lot of things. In terms of the sustainability of OSB, the primary question regarding durability would be, "is OSB as durable if not more durable than plywood?" Remember, the durability of any building material will affect the frequency at which things need to be repaired or replaced.
There are two factors to consider when evaluating the durability of construction materials. The first would be the ability of the material to bear weight. According to a lot of experts, the load-bearing capabilities of OSB exceed that of most plywood and milled wood panels. The OSB panels get this durability from the manufacturing process. While OSB doesn't have a continuous grain like natural wood materials, it can be manufactured in a manner that creates a strong axis that has great load-bearing strength. This attribute accounts for the fact builders love to use OSB for floors and roofs.
The second factor relates to how water-resistant a building material is under wet weather conditions. Here, plywood might have a slight advantage in terms of durability. However, plywood is susceptible to warping in a very wet climate. OSB materials are sufficiently water-resistant because the panels have no internal gaps or voids to absorb water. With that said, OSB panels are not recommended for exterior use. That is because they require the addition of extra membranes to achieve enough impermeability to water for exterior walls to resist humid or wet weather conditions.
Setting aside the comparison, OSB materials are durable enough to be considered a highly sustainable material.
There have been concerns about the volatile organic compounds used to make the resin adhesives that hold OSB together. While it's a legitimate concern in terms of the environment, OSB manufacturers are starting to use phenol-formaldehyde products to manufacture the resins used in OSB. By all accounts, these products are considered to be relatively hazard-free.
Setting that issue aside, when wondering "Is OSB Environmentally friendly?" the eco-friendliness of OSB comes down to the way the use of OSB manufacturing materials reduce stress on the environment. In that regard, OSB is much more eco-friendly than most plywood materials.
OSB is considered eco-friendly for these three reasons:
- OSB materials are manufactured with wood strands and flakes that come mainly from fast-growing trees. By using fast-growing trees as the primary wood source, less land needs to be allotted for trees to be used to create OSB manufacturing materials.
- OSB is made from compressed wood strands and flakes. That translates to OSB manufacturers being able to use more of the tree wood that comes out of local forests. According to lumber industry experts, the manufacturing process for OSB is able to make use of up to 80% of an entire tree. That means loggers are able to leave fewer byproducts sitting unused in the forests.
- Finally, we can go back to the durability factor. When materials need less replacement, that lowers the stress on the environment because fewer materials are needed by manufacturers and end-users.
In a world that is trying hard to go green, it's clear that more use of OSB materials is the right direction for home and small commercial building developers to go in the future.
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