Scott Larson (Teacher)

Residential Construction Teacher Boise School District  

Scott Larson, a longtime residential construction teacher for the Boise School District, likes to stay current with new trends in the construction industry. One of the popular, new trends these days is to build LEED-certified, energy-efficient homes. “I thought it was important for the students to learn about energy efficiency,” he says.

Larson’s residential construction class built the first student-built LEED-certified home in the nation in 2010. The home received a “Gold” rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. This year, Larson and his class are building a home in hopes of reaching the LEED “Platinum” certification, the highest rating possible for a home residence.

To reach that level, Larson is building a super-tight, 2,000-square-foot home with high insulation values, water-efficient fixtures, recycled materials and more. To help reach the LEED Platinum goal, he bought all of the trusses, plywood and lumber for the home from Idaho home-grown sources. The U.S. Green Building Council gives builders points for buying local, knowing that it saves energy to buy local materials and it’s good for the local economy. “One of the things that makes a building green is to use materials that are appropriate to the place,” Larson says. “Idaho has a lot of wood. And it seemed to me that it makes sense to try to use as much Idaho wood as possible. LEED rewards things like that, so we will get a point or two for using wood — or any other material for that matter — that is sourced within a 500-mile radius of here. That’s pretty much all of Idaho.”

Larson notes that there were a few wood products used in the student-built home in West Boise that came from out-of-state sources, such as hard-wood floors, because hard-wood trees are not indigenous to Idaho, and thus, must be purchased elsewhere. “But the majority of the wood, the walls, the roof, the sub-floor, all comes from Idaho,” he said.

Here’s where Larson found many of the wood products for the project:

  • Exterior plywood from the Potlatch Corp. sawmill in St. Maries.
  • Plate lumber from the Idaho Forest Group mill in Grangeville.
  • Studs for framing from the Bennett Lumber sawmill in Princeton.
  • Roof trusses were purchased from Valley Truss in Boise.
  • Sub-flooring wood materials came from Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certified lumber.
  • Wood trim and siding came from neighboring Oregon and were sourced through the local Franklin Building Supply.

By purchasing all-Idaho wood for the project, Larson said, there was a slight increase in cost — 1.5 percent overall or about $1,500 out of total of $30,000 in wood products purchased.Does Larson think residential construction contractors should consider buying all-Idaho wood? The short answer is yes, even in a tough economy.

“I suspect that cost is the major driving force for contractors right now,” he says. “The housing market has been going through a rough patch, and a lot of builders have gone under, so the ones who are still building are looking at costs very closely. I’d like to encourage them, though, to look at the bigger picture. Every dollar that we send somewhere else isn’t a dollar that we can use in this state. If we can keep our money in our state, and build our local economy, we’ll all be better off. So it may cost a few pennies here and there, but overall, it’s better for everybody.”

LEED-certified homes strive to save energy, both for the consumer who buys the home, and also for the greater community, which benefits from fewer resources used to heat the home and provide water for the home. “I hope that people will understand that it takes less energy to build this house on a global scale because we’re not having to truck in materials for this house from Canada or all over the world, really. It all comes from Idaho. I like to buy Idaho goods whenever I can.”

Larson is excited about all of the energy-efficient bells and whistles incorporated into the home. “The tight envelope, the water efficiency, the insulation — the more efficient appliances, with all of that combined, I think we’re going to have a really stellar house.”

Larson likes his job because the students get real-world experience building homes from start to finish. “I really enjoy it. It’s a great experience for the students. They’re building skills. They’re out in the real world. They’re seeing how the real world works. There are deadlines we have to meet. There are standards we have to meet. “But beyond that, you’ve got 17- and 18-year-olds starting a project in September.

They have no idea what it’s going to look like. By the time you get to May and June, you’re looking at a project that’s much, much bigger than themselves. And they get a real sense of pride having done that. It’s really quite an accomplishment.” At the end of the school year, the house goes up for sale. “It’s a great time of the year for me because I get to see their pride, their understanding that they’ve built up their skill level, and they’re ready to take that next step into adulthood.”

Want to know more?

Watch Scott Larson video  

º More information about the Boise School District’s Residential Construction Program:

º Lear about the U.S. Green Building Council:

º Learn about LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design):

º Find other LEED projects in Idaho:

Learn about major forest certification

º Forest Certification Resource Center:

º Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI):

º Forest Stewardship Council (FSC):

º Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC):

º Comparisons of certification programs:

º Find sources of certified Idaho Wood Products: