Hudson family explains why they built Cape Region motel out of wood

August 21, 2014
Christian, left, and Jamin Hudson explain why they are building the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott in the Rehoboth Beach area with wood rather than a steel structure. The hotel is scheduled to open in November.

The Hudson family knew it would generate a lot of buzz when they decided in the middle of the great recession to build a new four-story hotel in Rehoboth Beach on Coastal Highway. But they never anticipated how much of that buzz would be about their construction methods.

Those methods have been the subject of more than one local talk radio show, and there have been multiple queries to various state and county approval agencies. In general, people are demanding to know if it is even legal to build a multistory hotel out of wood. As a result, the Hudsons wanted to take the opportunity to explain "Why we went for wood."

First, they wanted to clear the air about concerns and confusion over the legality of using wood. Yes - it is legal to use wood to build a multistory commercial building. From large apartment buildings and condo complexes to single-family homes, many large construction projects on Delmarva choose to go with wood as well. In Australia, for instance, they are building seven-story structures out of wooden wall panels. Builders are still required to follow all of the building codes, ordinances and regulations - but it is legal to do.

When properly designed, the structure is also just as strong and durable as other construction methods. For their hotel the Hudsons hired a team including an architect, structural engineer, civil engineer and mechanical engineer to do the initial design work.

They then submitted drawings for review by the various state and county review/approval agencies. All commercial jobs, especially hotels, receive extensive scrutiny for fire and life safety-related issues. They received their approvals, including those from the State Fire Marshal’s Office and Sussex County Building Code Department.

Sam Yoder & Sons LLC out of Greenwood provided wooden wall panels for the project. They design and build the panels in their factory, and ship them to the construction job site as they are needed. This allows whole sections of walls, both interior and exterior, to be raised all at once. This saves considerable time as opposed to having individual carpenters installing those same walls one at a time.

Additionally, the plans are more accurate, as the technology almost completely eliminates “field changes.” This makes for not only more consistency with regard to structural integrity, but also for budgeting purposes.

The panels are built under roof in a local factory, which is great for the local economy. This also means they are not exposed to the weather, so the wood doesn’t warp when it gets wet, or allow mold spores to grow, which can happen when using conventional wood framing. There’s also less job site theft, as it’s pretty tough to have a whole section of wall “walk away” from a job site.

The Hudsons also estimated they saved approximately 15 percent in costs when compared to conventional one-stick-at-a-time wood construction, and far more versus concrete or steel construction. If they can build something just as safe and strong, but it’s more cost effective, much quicker, and puts people in the community to work, why wouldn’t they go with wooden wall panels?

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