Georgia Governor Approves Use of Wood in School Construction

Governor Nathan Deal recently signed legislation that allows for greater use of wood materials in public school facilities, providing K-12 schools throughout the state with alternative, cost-effective, and sustainable design options.

Senate Bill 301, sponsored by Senator Fran Millar, R-Atlanta, removes language from the Georgia Department of Education (DOE) Guideline for Educational Facility Construction that prohibited the use of light wood framing (or wood stud partitioning) and ordinary wood construction. The bill provides school administrators and design professionals with the option to use wood materials as a design alternative – a standard that is readily accepted in the International Building Code.

“Removing any barrier to the use of wood grown by Georgia landowners and milled by Georgia manufacturers is good for the forestry economy and the continued sustainability of Georgia’s timberland,” Georgia Forestry Association (GFA) President Steve McWilliams said. “This new option could save taxpayers a significant amount money and create more sustainable structures while making use of a Georgia-grown renewable resource.”

Wood-constructed schools meet the current standards for life safety while providing much needed advantages related to cost, speed of construction, design flexibility, energy efficiency and sustainability. In recent years, states such as Arkansas and South Carolina have removed similar bans and have uncovered huge savings.

  • Following Arkansas’ legislative change, the following cost savings examples were cited in cases where the school was originally designed in steel or concrete and was converted to wood framing:
  • Eldorado High School, 318,000 square feet, wood framing saved $20 per square foot for a total of $6,360,000 in savings for the district.
  • Newport Elementary School, 125,000 square feet, wood framing saved $21 per square foot for a total of $2,625,000 in savings for the district.
  • Fountain Lake Middle School, 48,000 square feet, wood framing saved $40 per square foot for a total savings of $1,920,000 for the district.

In addition to the cost savings, studies consistently show that wood outperforms other materials in terms of embodied energy, air and water pollution, and global warming potential. Wood contributes significantly to a building’s energy efficiency and helps reduce its carbon footprint. The environmental impacts for wood products have been further documented in third-party verified Environmental Product Declarations, which are available at:

“With the potential cost savings of wood designed schools, school districts can allocate additional funds to support upgrades to other building components or to enhance the school system staff, technology or other teaching aids – improving the status of education throughout the school,” McWilliams noted. “Additionally, wood is the only building material that is renewable, readily available and sustainable. Wood is proven to be better for the environment in terms of energy savings, air and water pollution and greenhouse gas emission.”

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About the Georgia Forestry Association (GFA):
GFA exists to conserve and protect Georgia’s private woodlands and forest product industries. GFA acts as the “voice of forestry” working to educate business, environmental and political leaders about Georgia’s responsible forest management practices, benefits derived from forestry, and landowner rights. GFA is headquartered in Forsyth, Ga.

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