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Q.I live in northern coastal California, in the heart of the redwoods. We're currently remodeling a simple structure (in a highly visible town-square location) into an elaborately detailed storefront, in keeping with the surrounding 1880s architecture. While all the vintage storefronts (and their framing) are constructed of old-growth redwood, we would like to use modern alternatives — such as engineered products — that would be more environmentally responsible. Since the exterior will be painted, the panels, columns, and crown and detail moldings can be built with any product that will withstand our moist climate. Do you have any recommendations?

A.Michael Anschel, owner of Otogawa-Anschel Design-Build in Minneapolis, which specializes in older urban homes and in green design and building practices, responds: Begin with engineered framing material, such as finger-jointed studs, glulams, LVL, and LSL (laminated strand lumber).

Not only can you often reduce the quantity of material used (by framing on 24-inch centers and by using longer lengths than are possible with standard sawn 2-by lumber), but engineered framing products are straight and true, and recent advances in glue technology give me complete confidence in their long-term performance.

On the exterior, my favorite alternative to clear cedar or redwood is finger-jointed cedar. Available in wide widths and long lengths, it has a beautiful smooth surface to work with, while the perfectly straight boards make trimming out long runs a snap. While most people use this material only if they are painting, I happen to like its patchwork quality when stained.

Another alternative to wood — one that suits many basic applications — is fiber cement. Panel and trim products are available in both smooth and wood-grain finishes, and some also come prefinished, either from the manufacturer or from aftermarket companies that work with local lumberyards.

Bugs don't find fiber cement especially tasty, and it weathers well, is fire-resistant, and holds paint better than wood. In a wet climate like yours, though, you'll still need to pay attention to detailing to avoid moisture-related problems.

Where termites and rot are a significant problem, you might want to consider trim made from cellular PVC. This material can be easily cut, carved, sawn, twisted, and sanded, and it holds paint well. If installed properly, it also hides its expansion and contraction issues pretty well.

Although the manufacturing process is mildly toxic, PVC trim gets its LEED points (a green-building rating system created by the U.S. Green Building Council) from being long-lasting and durable — so durable, in fact, that it will likely long outlive the building on which it is installed.

There are some building materials, such as decking and tongue-and-groove exterior flooring, that are made from 95 percent to 100 percent recycled HDPE (high-density polyethylene) plastic. These materials are very durable, won't rot, won't expand when wet, won't splinter, and — unlike wood-plastic composites — can be recycled again and again.

For posts and columns, consider ones made from cast resin or an extruded aluminum. Both materials have structural qualities and can be used to carry significant weight.

You might be able to find some of the items you need at a local salvaged-building-materials outfit. If you don't have such a place nearby, check online, where you'll find a number of sources. What It's Worth (512/328-8837, www.wiwpine.com), for instance, specializes in pine mill stock, posts, and beams.

When we need to have a specific trim profile, we contact an FSC-certified mill and have the wood milled in the exact quantity required. For a healthy listing of companies that manufacture or supply these types of alternative products, we refer to our copy of Green Building Products: The GreenSpec Guide to Residential Building Materials (edited by Alex Wilson and Mark Piepkorn; New Society Publishers).