By Jenn Danko
So much more than a method of wood-frame construction, advanced framing, also known as Optimum Value Engineering (OVE), extends beyond the mechanics of building. For a senior project estimator such as Greg Elzinga, it’s a scientific building technique that has been found to follow trends involving the economy and resource availability.
"The practice of OVE has been around for more than 25 years," says Elzinga, a senior estimator for Klondike Contracting in Vancouver and member of the Greater Vancouver Home Builders Association (GVHBA). "I find it’s given more attention when the economy is unstable or when energy prices rise."
Which might be why OVE is a current hot topic among some Canadian builders. But implementing the practice means first understanding its holistic approach to building sciences.
According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), advanced framing techniques, or OVE, means using less wood or natural resources to frame a structure while delivering equal or superior strength and quality. Originally developed in the late 1960s, the practice expands beyond materials, reducing overall project times by trimming labor costs and contractor callbacks.
Where as traditional construction uses more material and labour than may be required, OVE reduces the amount of manpower and materials used through pre-planning and designed advancing framing sections used by builders on site.
OVE eliminates wood where it is structurally unnecessary or where its use is likely cause other problems such as drywall crack, In addition, materials are saved because methods require that framing materials are spaced at their most cost effective spacing ensuring a more consistent building design that is efficient, and sound.
David Fisher, senior vice president with Langley, B.C.-based Mitsui Homes Canada, Inc., and board member of the GVHBA, is all too familiar with the process. His firm is currently providing advanced framing sections to a builder constructing the first, six-story wood frame condominium structure of its kind in Western Canada called, The Remy. The project is located in Richmond, B.C.
In implementing OVE, Mitsui is providing pre-manufactured wall panels—or complete wall frames with studs, upper and lower plates, and sheathing on the exterior side of the wall—along with pre-manufactured stair panels and pre-cut materials for the floor sections. Some of the floor sections are manufactured into panels at the construction site before lifted to the building by a crane, Fisher says.
As part of its advanced framing process, Mitsui Homes designed the position of seismic anchors into the wall structure—based on structural engineer’s specifications—and then positioned the anchors into the concrete forms so that once poured, the anchors fit into the walls perfectly with no additional framing modifications.
"We also supplied the anchors to ensure each one was exactly as specified by the engineer," Fisher explains.
When the builder observed the accurate positioning of the anchor system prior to the concrete pour, they requested that Mitsui apply the same advanced frame techniques to the plumbing lines.
The preemptive examination worked.
"We found over 30 plumbing lines that would not have penetrated the concrete inside the wall frame—which is a serious problem—and they were moved to our recommended locations," he says.
By adjusting the design of the walls to ensure anchors or plumbing lines did not interfere with any framing members, Mitsui Homes significantly reduced a process called "back-framing." Back-framing requires framers to return to many locations to repair walls damaged by plumbers knocking studs and other framing members out of the wall, Fisher adds. "Our customer, who is the builder, has been extremely happy with the outcome of these extra steps we provided," he says.
With Mitsui Homes' Japanese parent company constructing some 5,000 to 6,000 homes annually and supplying pre-fabricated components to other builders for another 3,000 homes, the need for time and cost efficient OVE tactics is essential; but what about other builders not necessarily specializing in new construction?
Klondike Contracting's Elzinga says that while his company is more involved in custom home renovations, OVE can still incorporate for cost-saving measures on a case-by-case basis. His firm recently completed a Vancouver-situated project using OVE principals to better insulate a home and save money on the backend. During the renovation, single, horizontal framing ran along the top of joists to insulate headers distributed from the upper level and roof to the main floor. The renovation resulted in a satisfied client that has built an energy efficient home.
"OVE is actually more common sense than one may think," Elzinga says. "If you are interested in building economically or building green, you have already put OVE into practice."
Of course, there is always more to learn. Advanced framing and Optimum Value Engineering (OVE) principals can provide cost savings for builders, designer firms, and your clients in the long run. Explore your available resources to learn more through these organizations:
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has an extensive library of case studies and resources to better educate builders on advanced framing techniques and OVE sciences.
FPInnovations is a leading national supporter in advanced framing techniques and can provide valuable information to builders and suppliers when needed.