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Three Cheers For The Two-By-Four

For Father's Day I decided to channel my personal and professional frustrations into the demolition of a small storage shed that was built up against the backside of our house. In addition to storing shovels, rakes and half-empty cans of paint, it also served as a home for a opossum family for a few months in 2013.

The shed was built using light-frame wood construction. If you are reading this in the comfort of your home chances are it, too, was constructed of relatively weak pieces of dimensional lumber that were framed into walls that were then covered in some sort of sheathing or veneer. The technique has been around since the 1800s and it is inexpensive, flexible and requires relatively simple tools (and relatively few skills) to construct. 

As an architect I sometimes take this method of construction for granted. It is so ubiquitous that I often try to find alternatives just for the sake of variety. Standard 2x4 walls, for example, can seem flimsy if they are above a certain height or length (and for the record, 2x4s aren't actually 2" by 4" - they're actually 1 1/2" by 3 1/2". But that's another story). But as I battled against the 2x4s that formed our storage shed I began to gain a new respect for wood framing. It is a remarkably robust method of construction. The system's flexibility and affordability allowed suburbs to be built affordably and quickly although you could debate weather or not that was a good thing.

In the end, the 2x4 enabled the American Dream.  

And for as simple as it may be to construct, wood frame construction can be very difficult to deconstruct. After two days and the purchase of a sledgehammer, the shed was eventually reduced to a pile of rubble. In the process, though, I came to respect the humble storage shed and the pieces of yellow pine of which it was built. 

I also came away with a new appreciation for my lateral deltoids, which apparently I do not use when I design buildings - only when I'm tearing them down.