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The City of Portland, Oregon

Planning and Sustainability

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Explore waste reduction strategies that save time, money, and materials

design strategies

Adjust roof pitch

Making a slight change to the pitch of a roof can get your roof plane on a two-foot module which will minimize sheeting and framing waste.

Deeper eaves

Deeper eaves or overhangs protect siding and windows from the elements, meaning they will need repair and replacement less often. Deeper eaves may also keep your building cooler in summer by blocking the sun's rays from penetrating windows and exterior walls.

Dematerialization and design for simplicity

The less material you have in a structure, the less opportunity for waste. Consider open-frame ceilings, shelves without cabinet doors, finished floor as subfloor/decking.

Design for adaptability

Think about how a building will evolve over time. How can it be remodeled or reconfigured with minimal impact to elements such as flooring and utilities? Design multi-use spaces. Consider a utility chase to gang utilities for easy replacement in the future with minimal disruption to interior spaces.

Design for aging-in-place

Designing a house with universal design principles (accessible to both people with and without disabilities), allows occupants to remain in a house without having to make major modifications to the structure when occupant needs or abilities change.

Design for Disassembly (DfD)

Minimizing the use of adhesives, and maximizing the use of mechanical fasteners such as screws or bolts makes materials more easily removed in the future and maximizes potential for reuse. Choose materials that are reusable or recyclable.

Designing on two-foot and four-foot increments

Lumber and sheet materials are typically milled in two-foot increments. Designing your building using this same module will maximize the use of materials and minimize waste.

Detailed framing layout and cut list

Develop detailed framing layouts/plans and generate detailed framing cut lists to avoid waste when ordering lumber.

Space-efficient design

Building smaller, space-efficient houses is most likely the best waste reduction strategy for residential structures when viewed through a lifecycle lens. See a recent DEQ report on a lifecycle approach to prioritizing methods of preventing waste from the residential construction sector.

Specify durable materials

Cheap materials are often cheap for a reason. Replacing building components (e.g., countertops, cabinetry, siding, fixtures, etc.) more often as a result of poor craftsmanship or material quality is a waste of time, money and materials.


Proper ventilation of a structure prevents the growth of mold. Preventing mold growth means you don’t have to replace material after mold has taken over.


construction strategies

Advanced Framing

The older industry standard for wall assembly includes a two-by-four (2x4) stud frame at 16-inch centers with double top plates, three stud corners, jack studs, cripples and double headers. That is currently being replaced by a two-by-six (2x6) stud frame at 24-inch centers with single top plates, two stud corners (see Drywall Clips below), no jack studs, no cripples and single headers (and in many cases no headers at all). Advanced framing means less lumber (5-10 percent less), quicker framing (30 percent fewer pieces), and deeper cavities for insulation.

You can also download a detailed brochure on advanced framing techniques at the U.S. DOE EnergyStar website.

Drywall Clip

Drywall Clips

Often times a stud or wood nailer is added to the corner of a wall or ceiling assembly for the sole purpose of attaching drywall. Consider eliminating this lumber and use drywall clips instead. Eliminating lumber saves money on materials and can mean extra insulation in your walls.

Measure twice, cut once

Being resource conscious can make you a television star. The result of Master Carpenter Norm Abrams' motto helped land him his job as host of This Old House when creator Russell Morash was impressed by Norm's work during a barn building project (he had the smallest scrap pile Russ had ever seen). Source: This Old House

Mill felled trees into lumber*

When clearing a site for building, consider using the trees for more than firewood. A portable saw mill can pull up to your site and make quick work of turning logs into lumber. Slabs, 2x material, stair treads... endless possibilities. Consult with your arborist and miller for best results.

On-site application

Grinding land-clearing debris and applying it to the site as plant mulch is a great way to keep materials on site and save hauling and disposal/recycling costs. Concrete driveways or walkways that are to be removed can also be ground up and applied to a site as base material for new flat work. Avoid application of materials containing hazardous substances such as lead or asbestos.

Pour slab after tenant is signed (commercial)

Concrete floors in ground floor tenant spaces (especially those designed for restaurants) in new buildings can be left unpoured until a tenant is signed. This prevents existing concrete floors from being saw cut and removed for routing of plumbing and other utilities.

Proper flashing and rainscreening

Keeping water out of your siding and walls will prolong its life and reduce maintenance. Proper flashing helps shed water away from your siding, trim and windows and providing a rainscreen (3/8" or greater gap) behind your siding will help water that does get behind the siding escape.

Reduce packaging

Request reduced packaging from vendors. An example would be asking a supplier to provide bath fixtures on a pallet without cardboard and plastic wrap.

*Structural materials must be graded/stamped