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Americans With Disabilities Act Update

Design for the Florida Environment

Door Hardware

Engineered Lumber

Indoor Air Quality

Joint Sealants

Metal Roofing Systems

National Flood Insurance Review

Partnering

Planning for Renovation Projects

Reflective Roofing

Residential Design in Flood Zones

Selective Demolition

Skylights

Stair Safety

Termites

Wood Flooring


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Termites

Termites are the most destructive of all wood-destroying insects. The economic losses associated with termite damage are greater than losses from hurricanes and tornadoes combined. Without preventative treatment, you may one day discover termites in your home or business.

Subterranean termites are social insects that form large colonies. The colonies are not located in buildings. Termites commute from nests in the surrounding soil, where they find the moist conditions and stable temperatures that they require to survive. Termites enter your building through cracks in the foundation and floor structure, through wood in contact with soil, and through tunnels constructed of soil and saliva.

The presence and progress of damage can easily go undetected. Due to cunning or modesty, termites leave exterior wood surfaces intact while consuming internal fibers. Your discovery of infestation may result from the complete collapse or structural failure of wood members.

In order to prevent the intrusion of termites into building spaces, soils under and around your building should be treated by a licensed exterminator with chemicals called "termiticides". By addressing the potential for termite damage prior to infestation, you can avoid the prospect of damage in the future. Make certain that termites dine elsewhere.


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Indoor Air Quality

As an average American, you spend nearly 90% of your life indoors, and your exposure to indoor air pollutants may be greater than you think. Indoor air pollution is classified as the fourth greatest environmental danger to public health by the Environmental Protection Agency, with estimates of $60 billion lost by American businesses each year due to lowered productivity, illness and absenteeism.

"Building-related illnesses" include cases of asthma, bronchitis and various long-term symptoms that can be directly tied to airborne contaminants. "Sick-building syndromes" are associated with less defined symptoms that stop upon leaving a building and cannot be traced to a specific cause.

The recent upsurge in indoor air pollution is largely due to tightly sealed buildings, with reduced ventilation, constructed to improve energy efficiency. Also, very efficient mechanical systems may cool indoor air without removing sufficient humidity to inhibit the growth of bacteria, fungi, molds and viruses.

Building components, occupants and activities must be considered as well. Pollutants include formaldehyde from composite-wood products and volatile organic compounds from adhesives and paints used in building finishes and furniture. Cleaning agents and pesticides are introduced during maintenance and cleaning operations. Copying machines with chemical toners may discharge toxins into the air. Occupants and clothing emit germs, chemicals and unpleasant odors. There are literally thousands of low-level air pollutants found indoors, with few long-term effects known.

Improving indoor air quality begins with increased ventilation and humidity control. Toxic finishes should be avoided, and spaces should be flushed with outside air after the installation of new materials and furnishings. Absorbent building finishes, including carpet and upholstery, can hold pollutants from other sources and should be installed after paints and adhesives have fully dried. Contaminating activities should be contained and ventilated separately. Pesticides and chemicals should be used sparingly.

Achieving a healthy indoor environment may require an investment in time and resources. You can profit from this investment through greater productivity, less illness and fewer lawsuits.


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Joint Sealants

You can find joint sealants around doors and windows, in floor, wall and roof construction and where different materials meet. Joint sealants are located where space is required for expansion and contraction between building materials and components. Proper joint construction and sealant installation will keep your building weather-tight and allow for temperature and moisture variations without the cracking or warping of materials.

Sealants are characterized by their chemical composition and are available for use on a wide variety of building materials. They may not stick to specific surfaces and may require surface priming prior to application. They can also stain certain materials or be stained by adjacent materials.

Apply sealants to surfaces that are clean, dry and free of any foreign matter. Glass, metal and other non-porous surfaces should be cleaned with an approved solvent. Install sealant backing to prevent third-side sealant adhesion to the back of the joint. Third-side adhesion will defeat the sealant's ability to extend and compress, leading to a major cause of joint failure. Also, always follow the manufacturer's printed instructions for joint design and installation.

Although the life expectancy for sealants may vary, all eventually require repair and replacement. Inspect joint sealants for cracks, splits and peeling as a regular part of building maintenance.


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Americans With Disabilities Act Update

If you own or lease commercial property, the requirements for removing existing barriers to accessibility are not clear. Unlike building codes that are administered by local building departments, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) is federal civil rights legislation administered by the Department of Justice. No local agency exists to interpret the ADA on a case-by-case basis.

The ADA requires the removal of architectural barriers where such removal is "readily achievable". This is defined as easily accomplished without much difficulty or expense as qualified by the following factors:

  • The nature and cost of the barrier removal
  • The financial resources of the business, the number of employees, and the impact on company operations
  • The relationship of the business to any parent corporation, and if applicable, the type, size and financial resources of the parent corporation

Due to the lack of concrete guidelines, what constitutes "readily achievable" is evaluated on an individual, subjective basis. The procedure for resolving disputes is civil litigation.

The ADA permits anyone to file a lawsuit if there are reasonable grounds to believe that accessibility discrimination exists. The following penalties may be imposed for the successful prosecution of ADA violations:

  • Require the removal of barriers
  • Award monetary damages to aggrieved parties
  • Access civil penalties to vindicate the public interest in an amount not to exceed $50,000 for a first violation or $100,000 for subsequent violations

The Justice Department recommends that you have a barrier removal plan in place as evidence of a good faith effort to remove barriers. For additional information, refer to the Federal Register, Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act.


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Reflective Roofing

Roofs typically make up the largest percentage of exterior building surfaces and are almost always exposed to the sun's rays. Energy-efficient roofing can dramatically reduce your energy costs over the lifetime of your building.

A significant factor for energy efficiency is the color of the roofing material. Color affects the amount of heat that will pass through the roof membrane. White roof finishes reflect over 75% of the sun's radiant energy, keeping surface temperatures relatively low even during the hottest months. A dark finish will absorb heat, producing surface temperatures over 50% higher than light, reflective surfaces.

Select roofing materials with color in mind. Provide a higher level of indoor comfort at a lower cost.


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Planning For Renovation Projects

While there are risks inherent in any construction project, unique challenges are associated with renovation work. Building conditions may be unknown due to incomplete or unavailable plans. Building structure may be hidden, and mechanical, electrical and plumbing lines sealed in construction.

Your first step in renovation planning is to carefully survey existing building conditions. If existing walls are to be relocated, the structure should be uncovered and checked by an engineer. Mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems should be reviewed for general layout and to confirm that systems will provide adequate service for the renovation plan.

It is helpful to determine in detail what you expect from the finished project. Defining how space will be used can highlight specific requirements that need attention. Locations for special components and fixtures should be established, and all details and connections coordinated with existing building systems.

You may require the continued use of your building while renovation work is under way. The phasing of work, time schedules, and locations for temporary facilities should be confirmed with the construction manager. Establishing policies for safety, security and maintenance at the work site would be of increased importance.

Construction should begin with a firm completion deadline. Due to long lead times, custom materials and equipment should be ordered early and coordinated with the work schedule. Changes to the work may be required due to unexpected conditions uncovered during demolition.

When renovation work nears completion, building inspections are made, certificates of completion are prepared, and warranties are transferred. Include time at the end of your project for the installation of furnishings and a thorough cleaning. Your planning will contribute to a successful project, with savings in time, money and aggravation.


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National Flood Insurance Review

National Flood insurance is a federal program that provides property owners protection against losses from flooding. The program is designed to provide an insurance alternative to federal disaster relief, and to address the escalating costs of repair to buildings and their contents caused by floods.

Participation in the insurance program is based on an agreement between local communities and the federal government. National Flood Insurance is made available if a community implements and enforces plans to reduce future flood risks to new construction in flood hazard areas. Some states, including Florida, require community participation as a part of a flood plain management program. If a community does not participate, federal assistance will not be provided for the repair or reconstruction of insurable buildings during a declared disaster.

State-licensed insurance companies sell flood insurance to consumers for the Federal Insurance Administration. You can purchase a flood insurance policy if you own or are constructing insurable property in a participating community. Almost every type of walled and roofed building that is principally above ground and not entirely over water can be insured. Owners and renters can also insure personal property within an insurable building under separate coverage. Insurance may be required by commercial mortgage lenders or by federal agencies in order to make or guarantee loans secured by property in Special Flood Hazard Areas.

There are certain buildings or portions of buildings that cannot be covered. Insurance policies cannot be written for new or substantially improved construction declared to be in violation of floodplain management regulations. Building finishes and contents in basements, or in enclosed areas beneath elevated buildings are also exempt. There are undeveloped coastal barrier areas in communities on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts that are not eligible for coverage.

To find out if your property is located in a Special Flood Hazard Area, visit your local building and zoning department. Special maps are typically on file that illustrate Flood Hazard Areas and their respective degrees of risk. For additional information on the National Flood Insurance Program, contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency and your local state-licensed insurance agent.


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Skylights

Skylights introduce daylight to interior spaces through roof structures. A variety of shapes are available including pyramids, ridges, vaults and domes. Sizes range from prefabricated units for small applications to structural skylights for large roof openings where dramatic infusions of natural light are desired.

The selection of the appropriate glazing material is important when planning a skylight. Glass and plastic materials are available, with plastics the most commonly used. Plastics include acrylic, fiberglass and polycarbonate. Acrylic is lightweight, weather resistant and optically clear. Fiberglass is stronger than acrylic, highly translucent and color stable. Polycarbonate is unequaled in impact resistance, but requires a UV-resistant surface treatment to inhibit yellowing. Laminated and insulating glass, with a variety of surface coatings and tints, are also options.

Glazing selection will affect the quality of light entering the skylight. Direct sunlight through clear glass or plastic would be objectionable for most applications. White translucent or tinted glazing can eliminate the direct glare. Many transparent and translucent tints are available, with gray and bronze the most popular. To receive the maximum amount of diffused light, a high light-transmitting white plastic glazing can be used. Insulating glass and fiberglass sandwich panels are also available to minimize heat gain through the skylight.


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Metal Roofing Systems

Metal roofing systems are the fastest growing segment of the commercial roofing industry. Metal is growing in popularity for residential applications as well. The reasons go beyond the crisp, aesthetically pleasing appearance that metal roofing systems can contribute to building architecture.

With proper installation, metal roofing is strong and long lasting with a low life cycle cost. It is light in weight and requires minimum maintenance over time. Metal roofing can reflect heat, resulting in lower costs for air conditioning building spaces. Metal is non-combustible and may inhibit spreading fire from igniting your building or residence.

There are two types of metal roofing systems: architectural and structural. Architectural systems are available in a variety of styles and are generally more pleasing in appearance. They require solid decking for structural support and are used for residential and commercial applications. Structural systems will span wider roof framing and can decrease roof construction costs. Structural roof panels are larger in proportion and used for commercial applications.

Metal roof panels are available with natural or painted finishes. Natural finishes include galvanized steel, galvalume, stainless steel, aluminum, copper, zinc and terneplate. Painted finishes include polyester and premium quality fluorocarbon coatings in a variety of colors. Panel finish should be selected in response to aesthetic, environmental and budgetary considerations.

A quality installation depends on attention to detailing and proper application by an experienced installer. Metal roofing systems typically consist of metal panels that are lapped, snap-locked or mechanically seamed together on site. The type of lock or seam defines the distinctive look of the roof. Metal panels are installed using exposed or concealed fasteners, depending on panel type. Concealed fasteners, though more expensive, have the advantage of minimizing roof penetrations. Concealed fasteners can also incorporate clips that allow for panel movement in response to changes in temperature.

With its reputation for reliability and performance, metal roofing provides an appealing alternative. Metal may merit your consideration when selecting products for roofing or re-roofing projects.


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Stair Safety

Over 1000 people die in the U.S. each year from accidents on stairs. Many more are injured or permanently disabled as a result of falls.

Stair comfort and safety are related. Stair comfort is a result of design that is consistent with the scale of our bodies and the way that we move. Often, we do not pay attention to the stairs that we are traveling. We take a few steps, intuitively adapt to the rhythm and complete the trip without conscious thought. Awkward or irregular stair proportions disturb this rhythm and may result in tripping and a loss of balance.

There are no uniform national guidelines for the design of stairs. Local municipalities adopt building codes to regulate construction, including the construction of stairs. Supplementary life safety codes may also be adopted that may impose different or conflicting requirements. Federal Americans With Disabilities Act design specifications may add to the confusion.

Riser and tread dimensions, finishes and handrail details are critical to stair design. All building and safety codes address these issues to varying degrees. It is helpful, however, to apply an understanding of how we use stairs when addressing code requirements.

Stair riser height and tread depth are related. When riser heights decrease, our natural stride lengthens, requiring a deeper tread. All building and safety codes dictate a range of riser and tread dimensions. Some codes also stipulate a proportional riser and tread relationship. Typically, interior stairs with riser heights of 6 to 7 inches and tread depths of 12 to 11 inches respectively work well. A shallower stair is preferred outdoors with riser heights of 5 to 6 inches and tread depths of 14 to 12 inches. Riser heights below 5 inches and tread depths exceeding 14 inches may result in an uncomfortable stepping motion and should be avoided.

Stair finishes can contribute to stair safety by distinguishing the location of steps. Uniform textures and colors are preferred, as patterned finishes can obscure individual steps. A contrasting color or flush texture applied to tread nosings will highlight step edges. Also, finish materials for stair treads should be slip resistant in nature.

Handrails are required on one or both sides of most stairs, with intermediate handrails required for stairs exceeding established widths. Mounting heights are specified and handrails may be required to extend beyond the top and bottom risers where a wall or guardrail exists. Handrail design should assure an easily grasped cross section with a continuous gripping surface uninterrupted by obstructions.

Stairs will always present a potential danger. Minimize this danger through code compliance and attention to detail.


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Residential Design In Flood Zones

Flood zones are located along Florida's coastline and inland rivers. State statutes and local codes include design requirements to minimize flood damage in these zones.

Living spaces must be elevated above established "base flood elevations". All mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems must be elevated as well. Only parking, storage and building access are allowed at ground level. Building structures must be designed to resist the forces of flooding and wave action.

Design requirements for flood zones apply to new construction, additions and "substantial improvements" to existing buildings. Substantial improvement is defined as any repair, reconstruction or improvement of a structure with a cost that equals or exceeds 50% of its market value, exclusive of land value.


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Partnering

Partnering is an approach to construction management that emphasizes cooperation within the project team. It is a way for the owner, contractor and design professional to develop a working relationship and discuss project details in an amicable atmosphere before construction begins.

The idea of partnering was developed for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1988. The Corps wanted to identify potential areas of conflict with their construction projects before work began. As a result, representatives of design and construction teams now meet on Corps projects to candidly review plans and resolve outstanding issues before they become problems.

Partnering is typically applied to larger, more complex projects. The concepts involved, however, are flexible and can be tailored to meet the needs of smaller projects as well. The following suggestions for executing a partnership plan are from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers program:

  • Partnering requires a voluntary agreement between involved parties who are willing to commit additional time and resources to the process.
  • The number and type of participants are selected according to the size and complexity of the project. Representation should be balanced between the partners. Smaller groups are more efficient. Hold all meetings in a neutral location.
  • The team can carefully review all aspects of the construction project with the goal of resolving ambiguous or conflicting specifications and details. An agreement can be drafted to establish team goals and a process for resolving disputes during construction.

The liabilities of partnering include the additional obligation of time and resources. Also, partners may try to use the system disproportionally to their advantage. When a partnering agreement deteriorates, however, it can be terminated. It is not a binding legal agreement.

The advantages of partnering include the minimizing of adversarial relationships and greater cooperation within the project team. These conditions can result in smooth project delivery, cost savings and improved quality control.


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Selective Demolition

Selective demolition involves the removal of portions of buildings in preparation for the alteration or addition of space. Demolition often requires the cutting and patching of structural members where demolished portions join portions to remain.

Local regulations govern demolition operations. There are extensive requirements for the protection of the public, including stringent rules for the control of dust and pollutants. All buildings scheduled for demolition should be checked for chemicals, explosives, flammable materials and corrosive substances. Special precautions are required for the removal of asbestos-containing materials. Asbestos abatement should be conducted by certified contractors and coordinated with local health authorities.

A schedule of operations may be necessary to coordinate the sequence and staging of demolition. The schedule should address the owner's use of areas adjacent to demolition work. It should identify times when use may be restricted due to hazardous activities or disrupted utilities. Operations should be staged for minimum interference with streets, driveways and walks.

The demolition contractor may require temporary facilities on-site, including office and storage structures, portable toilets and provisions for waste disposal. Separate water, electrical and phone services may be needed for demolition operations. Security signs, lights and barricades are often deployed to protect workers and the public.

It is critical to establish requirements for protecting existing construction, fixtures and equipment that are to remain after selective demolition. All materials that are to be salvaged from demolition areas and remain the property of the owner should be documented. Photographic evidence of existing conditions can minimize disputes. The contractor is responsible for damages that are not part of the demolition work.

All demolished materials should be removed from the premises. It is not acceptable to bury or burn materials on-site.


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Wood Flooring

The most common types of wood flooring include strip, plank and parquet designs. Strip flooring is constructed of 1 1/2" to 2 1/4" wide boards of consistent or varying lengths. Plank flooring is similar, but with boards 3" to 8" wide. Parquet flooring is made up of many small pieces of wood that are assembled into a pattern. Traditional parquet patterns include basket weave and herringbone. All designs are available in solid or laminated construction.

Wood floor designs are limited only by imagination and budget. Combining wood species and cuts can add contrast and dimension to a design. Border patterns and feature strips can enhance visual interest. Objects and images can be rendered in wood and installed as mosaic floor inlays. If different species of wood are used together, it is important that they have a similar degree of hardness so that surface wear is consistent.

Wood species used for flooring must have the necessary qualities of density, wear resistance and dimensional stability. Oak, maple, walnut, pecan and yellow pine are traditionally used for flooring. Exotic woods including teak, rosewood and ebony are available. Some species including mahogany and cedar are not sufficiently dense for use as flooring.

It is extremely important to control the moisture content of wood flooring. Wood will change dimensions with variations in its moisture content. The degree of swelling and shrinkage will vary with the species. Moisture content is less critical with laminated wood flooring due to its cross-ply construction.

The way that wood is cut from logs will affect its appearance and wearing ability. Quarter-sawn is a cut that produces a board face with the minimum distance between growth rings. This produces the most dense and durable wood wearing surface. The process, however, is wasteful and most expensive. Plain-sawn is the more common cut. Growth rings are sliced through, exposing softer spring wood and a more elaborate surface pattern.

Wood quality is defined by grades, which are established by industry associations. Grading rules vary for different species. Except for the lowest grades, differences are visual.

Ideally, wood flooring should not be installed until it has stabilized at the relative humidity that will be maintained at its new location. Flooring must be installed using details that are designed to accommodate the shrinkage and swelling of wood members.

There are many stains and sealers available to finish wood floors. Water-based sealers will leave wood with the most natural appearance. Solvent and oil-based finishes may yellow with age and change the appearance of stained or natural wood. It is possible to distress wood to create an antique effect. Wood flooring can be finished in a variety of ways to distinguish and complement the character of any space.


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Door Hardware

With few exceptions, door hardware is made of metal. Brass, bronze, steel, stainless steel, aluminum, nickel and zinc are typically used in hardware construction.

Environmental conditions are important when selecting hardware and finishes. This is especially true in areas subject to high humidity or sea air, which can quickly damage hardware construction and operation.

Hardware finishes vary in appearance, cost and durability. Finishes can be natural or applied. Natural finishes are solid metal, and can be buffed to a low or high luster. Applied finishes are made by plating the base metal with a second, finish metal. Applied finishes are less expensive, but they do not wear as well as natural finishes. Hardware can be coated with a clear epoxy to help protect the finish and prevent oxidation.

Brass and bronze are metal alloys that are made of copper combined with amounts of lead and zinc. Bronze is distinguished from brass by including tin in its composition. The color of brass or bronze is determined by the types and amounts of metals that are included in the alloy. Polished brass and bronze are produced by buffing the metal to a high gloss prior to applying a clear epoxy coating. Satin finishes are obtained by scouring the metal before coating. Uncoated brass and bronze will oxidize when exposed to the atmosphere. Bronze can be rubbed with oil to produce an appealing dark, oxidized finish.

Steel is widely used in door hardware. Although steel is strong and inexpensive, it will easily rust and should not be used where it is exposed to humidity. Zinc, which is highly resistant to rust, is often used as a protective coating on steel. Stainless steel is a ferrous metal containing a substantial amount of chromium and nickel. It is easily maintained and highly resistant to rust. Stainless steel will finish to a high luster.

Aluminum is lightweight and resistant to corrosion. It is typically used for accessory hardware, including door stops and thresholds. Aluminum is often anodized, resulting in a protective oxide finish.


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Design For The Florida Environment

An important aspect of Florida living is enjoying the outdoors. Home design can meet the demands of our climate while remaining open and connected to nature.

Homes can shield the sun and facilitate cross-ventilation. Generous overhangs, covered decks and shutters provide shade. Open floor plans optimize the movement of air.

Wood homes have low thermal mass and do not retain heat. Unlike wood, masonry construction will store heat during the day and radiate heat into interior space at night. Insulation and light-colored or reflective wall and roof finishes can minimize heat gain.

Homes must also be constructed to resist the forces of wind and flooding associated with hurricanes. Building materials and finishes should be resistant to corrosion and decay.


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Engineered Lumber

Engineered lumber is manufactured from wood pieces that are treated with resins and formed or glued together to produce structural beams and joists. Wood and steel components are also combined to create composite truss designs. Engineered lumber is growing in popularity due to its superior strength and ease of construction.

Engineered lumber generates the maximum structural strength from the minimum wood material. It is often possible to carry greater structural loads with fewer members. When compared to traditional lumber, wider spacing of structural members and longer spans are typical. Also, engineered lumber is made to size at the factory, eliminating time and material waste prior to installation.

The manufacturing process minimizes natural defects. Warping and shrinkage found in traditional lumber is virtually eliminated due to composite construction techniques and the removal of moisture from wood fibers.

Engineered lumber works well with frame, masonry and steel construction. It can accommodate a wide variety of floor, ceiling and roof materials. Attachment is easy with wide nailing surfaces. Framing accessories are available from manufacturers, including blocking panels, web stiffeners and bridging.

The use of engineered lumber can improve the efficiency of other building systems. The light weight of framing members may contribute to smaller, less massive supporting walls and foundations. Mechanical ductwork, plumbing and wiring are easy to integrate and install. Suspended ceilings that are traditionally constructed to house mechanical components may not be required.

The price of engineered lumber is typically 10-15% higher than conventional lumber. Though more expensive, it is used more efficiently with fewer materials. The additional material cost is offset by the ease of installation and corresponding savings in labor.

Engineered lumber is often manufactured from young, second and third generation trees that are structurally unsuitable for the production of traditional lumber. According to manufacturers, these products are approximately 50% more efficient in using the resources of a typical log than the milling of dimensional lumber. They are presently working to incorporate more recycled wood fibers and lower grade woods into the production process.


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