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OVE: Building to get more bang for the buck

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Our last post examined a trend among architects and builders focusing on building better homes rather than homes that are simply bigger. Inspired by architects like Sarah Susanka, there’s been a push for quality — in the way the space is used — rather than quantity — of rooms and square footage.

A recent in-depth piece from Builder Magazine examines the practice of “optimum-value engineering.” OVE is a set of framing techniques that some builders believe can increase performance and energy efficiency while cutting costs — allowing homebuilders to pass current and future savings on to their customers. Other builders, however, are skeptical of the value these techniques offer, and others still see clear benefits but find the practices to be not an absolute path to success. For example:

“The ability to maximize insulation values is the No. 1 reason [to incorporate OVE],” says [Texas builder Chris] Miles, whose homes feature wall assemblies that approach R-30 as a result. “It makes a huge difference.”

Miles is less sure that he’s saving much in materials and labor costs with OVE. While he admits that direct-costs savings from a variety of construction efficiencies have helped offset price premiums on other products to achieve his performance goals, he hasn’t calculated an advanced versus a standard framing package stick-to-stick. But, he says, “I know we’re using less wood and correctly engineering our homes.”

Despite taking lumber out of the framing stage, he also hasn’t earned any discounts from his framer. “It actually takes more thought to build this way, so it really doesn’t take less time,” says Miles, recounting the story of another framer who walked off a job because the task was too complicated. “You still have to lay it out, build it, make sure it’s plumb and square, and stand it up, just like a 2×4 wall.”

The Builder Mag article goes on to share some of the fundamentals of OVE, how they work, what they can save a builder, and some key “tricks of the trade.” The article delves into the secrets behind two-stud corners, insulated box headers, window sizing, scrap-engineered studs, and more.

Are you using any of these practices, or other OVE techniques? Have they worked out in your favor, or are you skeptical of the value? Let us know in the comments section.

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