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Sustainable Residential Structures

Wood structure


Welcome to Sustainable Residential Structures!

Sustainable Residential Structures

This Sustainable Biomaterials option educates students to become leaders in the residential construction industry. This program combines material knowledge of wood and wood products, design and engineering capabilities, and real-world experience to create knowledgeable professionals able to lead the future of residential construction. Residential construction and renovation contribute between 10 to 15% of the United States’ gross domestic product (GDP)[1]. Approximately 3.8 million people are employed in residential construction throughout the United States[2]. The construction industry has a large need for young, motivated professional leaders[3].

The Sustainable Residential Structures program is unique in the combination of:

a) Material knowledge specializing in wood and other sustainable biomaterial products used in construction.

b) Understanding the design and construction process using building information modeling and structural design.

c) Addressing practical building concerns of energy, material use and building envelope design by understanding green building and durability concerns in residential construction.

Our key curriculum includes:

SBIO 2314 Building Information Modeling for Residential Structures – This class will provide you with a fundamental knowledge of the design and construction process. This class will show you how to use Autocad REVIT for design, review and plan modification.

SBIO 3324 Green Building Systems – Green building is a method of construction buildings that considers the economics, environment and social concerns of the building owners. Green building is a process of continuous improvement.

SBIO 4314 Design of Wood Structures – This class discusses the use of the National Design Specification for Wood Construction, which is the current design document used for wood-based buildings in the United States. Building upon the BIM experience you have previously, this class will demonstrate the design of individual building elements and systems.

SBIO 4324 Wood Performance in Construction – This class will incorporate all of your knowledge from the previous courses to solve problems related to building performance and durability of residential structures.

What Makes Our Program Different?

1. Focus on materials. In Sustainable Residential Structures, we feel that having a clear understanding of materials, how they interact with jobsite conditions, time and use is important. In this curriculum, you will become familiar with the proper use of wood and other biological-based materials used in construction.

2. Sustainability is in our name. Our program focuses on sustainability and how we can use buildings to attain a more sustainable future. Sustainability in our program is about metrics. We will show you how to use life cycle analysis, energy simulation tools, and life cycle costing to demonstrate the effectiveness of practicing sustainability.

What Kinds of Jobs Will Students Get?

Designer – Working with companies to design houses, trusses or other elements of buildings.

Entrepreneur – Creating your own business including marketing, management and construction

Contractor/ Building Site Manager – Helping to take a designer’s ideas and construction them. Monitoring and management of a building site.

Elective Courses

An important part of the Sustainable Residential Structures program is to allow students to customize their knowledge of buildings. Below are a series of electives you may find helpful if you are interested in these specific job titles.

BC 2214 – Why Buildings Stand Up

FIN 3074 – Legal, Ethical, and Financing Issues for Entrepreneurs

RED 4664 – Universal Design

RED 2644 – Housing and the Consumer

RED 4604 – Environmental and Sustainability Issues in Housing

SBIO 3464: Forest Products Business Systems

UAP 5424 TS – Residential Energy Evaluation




Student and professor in Lab

Hands-on Experience

Our courses in the Sustainable Residential Structures option teach the latest techniques about how to design, manufacture and build residential structures considering the whole system design concepts that consider the full “life-cycle” impacts when building, using, and maintaining a residential structure. You also gain hands-on lab experience conducting some of the latest research in the residential construction industry.  In one recent project, students tested different safety systems to eliminate fall injuries during construction.  By being involved in the latest research projects, students gain experience in the latest building construction practices, by communicating their work through presentations and technical publications, and by making the industry more sustainable by improving safety!

Our faculty maintain close connections with a variety of companies who are eager to hire our students as interns.  This internship experience allows students to make professional connections, build their resume and earn money while they are working on their degree.

After Graduation

The Sustainable Residential Structures track option prepares you to understand sustainability aspects to improve upon the design, engineering, and construction of all types of residential structures.

Derek Richey

Derek Richey

Production Manager
Universal Forest Products

It was clear to me early on that my degree had prepared me well for my job as a production manager for pressure treating, shipping,
and receiving. I am constantly looking at ways to improve operations and use thought processes (e.g., continuous improvement, lean manufacturing) taught at Virginia Tech to accomplish these goals. Understanding the properties and physical structure of biomaterials has been a critical tool for improving processes at the plant. In my position, I am exposed to sales, purchasing, and product development on a regular basis. The knowledge I gained from the sustainable biomaterials department has been vital.



Sustainable Residential Structures


Introductory Courses

Find out what courses to take this fall if you are interested in Forest Products Business.


For more information

Contact a Student Ambassador or Faculty Member.