UNITED STATES – WoodWorks, a cooperative venture of major North American wood associations, recently launched an online calculator that allows users to compare the building or shell construction costs of wood vs. non-wood buildings. Developed in partnership with RSMeans, the tool allows users to select a building type and location (state and/or city), then draws on data that is updated quarterly to provide a current cost comparison. The calculator is available at www.woodworks.org, under the Resources tab.

“This is an important tool for architects, engineers, developers, builders and anyone who wants to better understand the cost implications of different building materials and designs,” said Dwight Yochim, national director of WoodWorks. “Wood construction can save a project money in a lot of ways—from material costs to speed of construction to the availability of a large and competitive labor pool. Now design and building professionals have access to a tool that provides instant, current examples of the cost of wood buildings.”

For example, the calculator shows that using wood to construct the shell of an average one-story school in the United States saves 21 percent in construction costs as compared to an aggregate of other materials while overall costs are 3 percent less.

This example was reinforced with construction of the new 320,000-square-foot El Dorado High School in Arkansas, where designers saved $2.7 million by changing from a steel and masonry design to wood construction. The high school was completed in August 2011.

Using the calculator involves two steps:

•Select the building type, state, city or metro area, and desired graph type.

•View the results presented over three tabs showing construction costs (including cost index over time and cost deviation over time), assembly costs and breakdown of assembly costs.

Those who want a more detailed analysis can visit RSMeans at www.rsmeans.com for additional costing tools.

“On most projects, cost-effectiveness ranks right up there with code acceptance and safety on the list of priorities,” said Yochim. “By illustrating that wood has significant cost advantages for most building types, we hope the calculator will lead more design and building professionals to take advantage of wood’s other benefits, such as design flexibility, sustainability and low carbon footprint.”

In addition to the cost calculator, WoodWorks will soon release a carbon calculator that estimates the carbon benefits of wood buildings. This includes the amount of carbon stored in the wood products (which was absorbed by the tree during its growing cycle) and greenhouse gas emissions avoided by not using steel and concrete).

To use the cost calculator and learn about other WoodWorks resources, visit www.woodworks.org.