It takes a forest to build a house

A look at America's declining resource efficiency

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Back in the not-so-Jolly Old England of the Middle Ages, where many American building traditions originated, no one knew anything about structural engineering. Instead, carpenters used common knowledge gleaned from trial and error and handed down over the centuries. With no way to analyze the strength of their buildings, they just built them as stoutly as they could, using massive timbers hewn from lots and lots of trees.