Interview by Sustainable Business student Will Wheaton

Will Wheaton, one of Chuckanut Builders newest employees, found his way to ChuB by interviewing us!  Will was in a Sustainable Business class at Western Washington University and wanted to know more about Chuckanut Builders, how we started, and to understand how support the Bellingham community and why.

You can read the entire interview here, or check out some of the highlights below.  Bold text are the questions presented by Will Wheaton.


Can you talk a little about materials – what you use, what’s available, etc.? Have you changed any of your materials in order to achieve greater sustainability, and are there greener choices that are also economically more viable?

“Yeah we use a lot of green materials and many of them are actually cheaper than the alternative. For insulation we use celulose which is a composition of cardboard and/or. It is cheaper than fiberglass and it has a comparable to slightly better R-Value. We blow it into the wall or floor and, one of the issues with fiberglass is that when it’s installed in sheets there is room for draft, so it’s similar to a wind-breaker – the shell is a breaker, but air moves freely inside. So the actual insulation of the wall may be significantly less than the R-Value of the material. The great thing about celulose insulation is that it’s recycled, and it’s also made in Washington – in Spokane. Reclaimed wood can also be bought more cheaply (at times) than new wood. There’s a small company in Ferndale that does their own milling and resells salvaged wood at a very reasonable cost. We recently put in a fir floor for a client that was reclaimed and the cost per square foot was within cents of the same new material, but acually turned out to be slightly cheaper than the new flooring.

Do you have much influence with clients to make more sustainable choices?

“Yes, very much so. I’d say about 90% of the choices made are a result of suggestions we give them. Often times contractors will leave a lot of research and decision-making up to the client, but we’ve found that most of the time the client would rather that we have a personal preference for a material, and a reason why. So another example of material choices is OSB (oriented strand board) vs. Plywood. Structurally they are similar, but many sustainability decisions are based on how long a structure or material will last. Plywood withstands moisture much better than OSB. So we can make a wall water-tight, but if it isn’t kept up well, like if the siding isn’t maintained, or if someone alters the wall or drills a hole in something there can be a leak. Water damage is common in the NW, so we usually prefer to use plywood. OSB can be marketed as a recycled material, but through research we found that most of the time it’s made from new trees from poplar farms, and it also tends to use more resins than plywood.

Do your clients ever seek you out on the basis of sustainability?

“I think more and more that is a main factor. Often we’ve been referred by other clients, but recently we’ve had a few that came to us specifically because of our sustainability commitment.