Types of Construction


Wood Framing

This is by far the most common form of construction for dwellings and light commercial. It is also the most economical. From energy efficiency perspective, while it may not be the best, more
research and development is done to improve it than any other type of construction.
Pros: Economical. Ease of design. Plentiful inexpensive materials.
Cons: Unless certified from a renewable, sustainably farmed forest, it’s not very green. Lumber
materials are degrading in quality as the better forests are consumed.

Steel Framing

This form of construction is most common for commercial projects, but has been gaining
popularity for residential construction as well. The principal advantages of steel are it’s speed of
assembly and its ability to make far greater unsupported spans, making open floor plans much
easier to achieve. In residential construction, it is most often used in conjunction with wood
framing. Some homes are framed in their entirety with steel.
Pros: Strength. Ability to span great distances. Fast assembly.
Cons: Heat and cold conductivity makes careful design detailing and construction very important.
Materials not readily available for changes or mistakes.


Insulated Concrete Forms have been available for quite a few years, but only recently have been
gaining popularity. They are a hollow core block made of foam. The blocks are stacked to form
walls, then filled with reinforced concrete to create a very strong, insulated wall. They are used in
both residential and commercial construction.
Pros: Fast assembly. Good insulative values. Good availability in most areas.
Cons: Needs careful design and detailing by an architect or designer familiar with ICF’s. Limited
exterior and interior finish options. Usually higher costs than wood framing.


Structurally Insulated Panels are most common in commercial construction, but are seeing more
use in residential construction. They consist of a rigid foam interior sandwiched by ether a
plywood, oriented strand board (OSB) or steel. SIP’s allow good spans while needing little
support, but their principle advantage is in allowing a wall or roof to be built with an unbroken
plane of insulation which is very effective.


Pneumatically Impacted Stabilized Earth is one of the rarest of the types of construction. It is a
modern version of Rammed Earth which has been in use for centuries. In rammed earth
construction, a wall is formed similarly to a wall of concrete only instead of a sand, rock, cement
and water mixture, rammed earth uses earth, cement and very little water, This mix is then placed into the form a little at a time and rammed, or compacted, either by hand or using pneumatic compactors. In PISE’ construction only one side of the form is built (usually the inside) and the mix is placed using a gunite machine which is the same device used to construct swimming pools. This reduces the labor costs tremendously and produces a beautiful wall which is also structurally sound. The walls are typically 18” to 24” thick, making for an unusual amount of mass. A properly designed PISE’ building will utilize this mass to store the sun’s energy in the winter and keep the building cool in the summer. This yields a beautiful earthen-looking wall with a warmth unparalleled in any other type of construction.
Pros: Great beauty and mass. Excellent energy storage. Very green materials and very low
Cons: Requires careful design and detailing. More expensive than conventional wood framing,
although it does eliminate the labor and materials necessary for interior and exterior wall


Concrete Masonry Units are most often used in commercial construction, but are often found in
residential foundations. They are a cast block of a lightweight concrete material with hollow
interiors into which reinforced concrete is placed. While their use in residential wall construction
is somewhat rare, their many colors and styles can give a home a beautiful look.
Pros: Sturdy, fast construction. Nice earth tone colors and some stone or earthen-like styles.
Cons: Difficult to insulate which often necessitates the construction of another wall on the interior to house insulation. Limited colors and styles.