Advanced Framing: Reduce Costs, Boost Efficiency and Structural Integrity

All about advanced framing

By Aleeta Dene, P.E.

As builders continue to look for ways to reduce costs and improve building efficiencies, many are turning to advanced framing methods. Also known as optimum value engineering (OVE), advanced framing techniques optimize material use to cut down on waste, eliminate redundancies, reduce labor and increase a structure’s energy efficiency, while maintaining structural integrity.

Among the benefits of advanced framing are:

Energy Efficiency

Advanced framing delivers significant energy performance and cost savings by maximizing space for cavity insulation and minimizing the potential for insulation voids. Walls built with 2×6 wood framing spaced 24 inches on center (O.C.) have larger insulation cavities than conventional 2×4 framing spaced 16 inches O.C., increasing the amount of insulation inside the wall and improving the whole-wall R-value.

Advanced framing also simplifies the installation of insulation and air sealing. Conventional framing can leave voids and small cavities in the framing at wall intersections and corners that are difficult to insulate and seal effectively. By installing fewer framing members, it’s easier for contractors to apply complete insulation coverage and achieve a tighter building envelope.

“Advanced framing delivers significant energy performance and cost savings by maximizing space for cavity insulation and minimizing the potential for insulation voids.”

Cost Effectiveness

Advanced framing is less expensive than conventional framing because it is more resource efficient. By optimizing framing material use, the builder can cut floor and wall framing material costs by up to 30% while reducing framing installation labor.

Structural Integrity

When properly constructed, walls built using advanced framing that are fully sheathed with wood structural panels provide strength for the structure to safely withstand design loads. Where builders align the vertical framing members under the roof trusses or rafters, a direct load path is created where compression and tension loads are directly transferred through the vertical framing members, resulting in a stronger structure with fewer framing members subject to stresses.

Sustainability

Advanced framing techniques fit well with green building strategies. Wood is one of the most sustainable building materials, and its efficient manufacturing process requires far less energy than steel and concrete manufacturing. Wood-frame construction coupled with advanced framing techniques deliver greater environmental dividends by optimizing material use and reducing construction waste.

Three Advanced Framing Techniques

Advanced framing can be implemented in pieces, depending on the design of the building and the expertise of the framing crews. The following techniques can be adopted individually. These concepts focus on increasing cavity insulation and reducing thermal bridging, providing overall higher whole-wall R-values.

2×6 Framing Placed 24 Inches on Center

For structures up to a certain height, moving from traditional 16″ O.C. spacing to 24″ can trim the number of required studs by about one-third. Walls built with 2×6 wood framing spaced 24” O.C. have larger insulation cavities than conventional 2×4 framing spaced 16” O.C., thereby increasing the amount of insulation inside the wall and improving the whole-wall R-value. 

Switching from 2x4s at 16″ O.C. to 2x6s at 24″ O.C. also decreases the number of pieces, offsetting the cost of the deeper framing members.

Right-Sized, Insulated Headers

Size the header for the load. Often, unnecessary headers are specified out of habit; engineers’ standard header tables typically fill up the depth of the wall.

Advanced framing headers are sized for the loads they carry and are often installed in single plies rather than double. Advanced framing headers offer increased energy efficiency by replacing framing materials with space for cavity insulation inside the header. 

Headers at openings in non-load-bearing walls are not required. The top of the opening can typically be framed with a flatwise member the same dimensions as the wall studs. 

Site-built wood structural panel box headers are another simple code-prescribed header solution often overlooked by builders that provides full-depth cavity insulation. 

Insulated Corners

Insulated corners eliminate the isolated cavity found in conventional three- or four-stud corners, provide more space for cavity insulation and make it easier to install insulation.

Advanced framing wall corners include insulated three-stud corners (sometimes referred to as California corners) and two-stud corner junctions with ladder blocking.

Find additional information, guidance and free resources on advanced framing at apawood.org/advanced-framing.

Aleeta Dene, P.E., is an Engineered Wood Specialist for APA – The Engineered Wood Association. She can be reached at aleeta.dene@apawood.org

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