While the industry is trying to discover new, better, and more innovative materials to transition towards a more sustainable building sector smoothly, many overlook wood. But, wait … how is wood sustainable? We will cover that and many other aspects of this incredibly versatile material that has proven its endurance over decades and even centuries.
The History of Wood
As one of the first building materials used by civilizations in their search for shelter, evidence of wood as a primary building material was found dating from 10,000 years ago. The European Neolithic long house built in 6000 BC is just one example, the Forbidden City of China built in the 1400s is another.
However, given the natural 100-150 average life expectancy of wooden structures, it was necessary to implement methods to increase the durability of buildings. Once bronze, steel, stone, and concrete were introduced in construction, the way in which people used wood in the industry began to change and improve. As other materials proved to have higher durability than wood, the material ceased being the go-to material for construction. While it never stopped being an incredibly popular material, steel, concrete, and combinations of the two are more commonly used in the modern age. However, wood is still used in the construction of homes throughout the US, and, of course, interior design is one area where wood shines brighter than steel.
The main thing that influenced the use of building materials is human comfort. When people realized that wooden structures were fire hazards, they turned to stone and other more resilient materials. Nowadays, the negative impact of modern life is a global concern, and wood has retaken center stage due to the huge carbon footprint of man-made construction materials. Human comfort is starting to be seen as a synonym of the planet’s health.
- Wood – Interior Design Material
Sustainable building material
The first thing people think about when they hear about wood usage worldwide is the amount of timber used for its production. This is why many people can’t think of wood as a sustainable material. While some building materials are more sustainable (earth probably being the most sustainable), others are considered sustainable but only in certain conditions (bamboo due to its high carbon footprint from transportation), wood is high on the list. Yes. You need to cut forests to get timber, but forests grow.
Now, before we start cutting down our planet’s lungs, let’s take an in-depth look at this. Forest management has been a problem globally, and California’s wildfires are just one example of this. But, if timber would become the primary building material, the profits from this could be used to ensure proper management of forests. Growing demand for softwood would reopen closed mills and provide sufficient material for low-cost affordable housing. At the same time, new forests could be planted in areas where there aren’t any, creating new jobs that would be beneficial for communities that have been struggling.
The last aspect that underlines wood’s sustainability is its decarbonization ability. One cubic meter of forest binds 1.3 tonnes of carbon dioxide during growth. Still, one cubic meter of timber binds 1 ton of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere even when it transforms to construction material and is used in buildings.
Given the fact that concrete and steel are to blame for the majority of carbon dioxide released in the atmosphere due to use in construction, wood is gaining popularity, and methods to produce more resilient variants are underway. The latest option is mass timber or cross-laminated timber (CLT), and environmentalists are pushing for its implementation and use in the building sector as the most sustainable building materials available at the present time.
With environmental concerns growing by the day and realizing that housing is still a growing and polluting industry, wood draws attention again. While other building materials can be used once at top performance but lose their properties if reused, wood is renewable (with climate-smart forestry). It can be harvested multiple times, reused, and recycled into new products to optimize material usage and limit waste. What is wasted is 100% biodegradable and working as a nutrient for different species of flora and fauna.
Regarding carbon footprint, steel and concrete release huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere during manufacturing and transportation. On the other hand, wood production generates significantly lower amounts of carbon dioxide, even less if grown in sustainably managed forests, than steel or concrete. Still, even that amount is countered by the wood’s ability to decarbonize during photosynthesis.
The biggest threat to wood comes from biotic and abiotic deterioration. The biotic deterioration comes with wood being an organic material. This makes it food for plants and animals. Biotic deteriorating occurs from termite, ant, beetle infestations, attacks from fungi or other organisms. Abiotic deterioration is caused by non-biological factors due to exposure to a natural element. Sun, water, chemicals, wind, and fire can severely damage wood, but the use of thick wood can limit damages.
The hygroscopic characteristics of wood mean that it absorbs moisture from its surroundings. This can affect the material causing it to shrink and swell, but proper treatments can stop this effect.
Wood – Construction Material
As the only 100% renewable building material, understanding the other reasons why wood is the most viable option is necessary. Innovations increased the material’s service life, meaning that structures are expected to have a much longer lifespan of 150 years.
While wood is much lighter than other building materials, did you know that it’s able to support more weight than steel? Not only that, but because it is able to support its own weight, fewer support beams are necessary, allowing for larger spaces in open building design.
Heat and Electrical Resistance
Wood resists electrical conduction when dried to standard moisture content levels (around 7 to 12 %). Furthermore, heat does not significantly impact its strength and dimensions, which is why it is often used to provide stability to finished buildings. It is also used for safety reasons, get this, against fire in some situations. That’s right.
A building made out of wood would require limited soundproofing, as the material itself is sound absorbent. It minimizes echo and reduces noise pollution for added comfort in residential housing.
It looks good. There’s no other way to put it. Either due to the undeniable connection we give it to nature or from the lines representing years in the lifespan of that tree, wood has a certain beauty, a natural beauty that any other man-made building material can not attain. Additionally, the wide variety of species gives it an incredible aesthetical range.
Wood – Interior Design Material
The applications of wood in interior design are affordable and can be seen from floor to ceiling and everything else in between. Furniture has wood as the primary material, and it provides warmth and personality to every household regardless of color, usage, or way it is used.
As the most visible usage of wood in interior design, we’ll start with wooden flooring. Parchet gives a sense of luxury and warmth to every home, which is probably why it is one of the most common materials used. The wooden planks used in flooring come in a wide variety of thicknesses, widths, and lengths, like fishtail to long and thin. They can create intricate designs and patterns either based on the natural aspect of the wood or varnish it is treated with.
By using long and thin vertical wood planks, a room can easily be sectioned in two without completely separating the space. It adds some privacy without entirely closing in the space. It provides a natural flow between two spaces with individual uses but still maintains connection and communication between them.
While a little old-fashioned, wooden panels can be used for wall covering to give a beautiful and luxurious aspect. Application of wooden wall panels thrives, especially in farmhouses or contemporary style homes.
The simplest way to provide wooden ceilings is to simply highlight the heavy wooden beams used to support a second floor in an older home. However, wooden ceilings aren’t limited to classic interior design. Modern styles can incorporate wooden cladding, or it can also be used to accentuate and add depth for a more intricate design.
Doors, Windows, and Stairs
The stunning wood aspect makes it ideal for anything in any home, but doors, windows, and stairs are dawned in character if made out of wood. They have a long life expectancy, especially if maintained properly or repainted every now and then.
Look around your home and try pinpointing all the pieces of furniture that do not have any wood in them. It will be a challenge to find them because chairs, tables, sofas, beds, kitchen cabinets, wardrobes, coffee tables, and everything else are mostly made of wood. The best thing about using wood in furniture is that when you decide to change the interior design of your home, you can just upgrade them with a splash of paint, refurbishing for increased sustainability, and it looks brand new.
Wooden light fixtures might also incorporate other materials, but the character provided by them will increase the comfort level of any home. Based on the psychology of light and color, wood warms the aspect of the light fixture due to its natural color. If you want to move away from classic materials like plastics or metal, wood is a great alternative.
Whether in small decorative objects placed on the mantelpiece, or the mantelpiece itself, wood is included in thousands or even millions of decorative items for the home. To make things even more fun and interesting, it’s easy to work with, so if you have a DIY streak, get crazy with it, and you won’t regret it.
Most of the time, keeping up with the construction and interior design trends might be a struggle, but it doesn’t have to be. Aside from the fact that renovating your home every time the trends change can be expensive, it isn’t necessary, but if you use wood, it’s a lot easier and more sustainable. If you decide to renovate your family home, consider working with interior designers to help you focus on sustainability. Just think about the fact that any piece of wood can be reused, refurbished, repurposed, repainted, and revived. The material has few if any limitations regarding how and for what it can be used. Its sustainability draws attention from every manufacturing and production company pertaining to the building sector.
Why look elsewhere when sustainable management of forests can give us all the answers we’ve been looking for? If we don’t grow forests for their oxygen as it doesn’t produce profit, we can invest in them for the material. Like that, we’ll take more care of them, plant more because we’ll need more of them, and regularly refresh the supply and its decarbonization abilities.
Let us know in the comments below what your opinions are about this, whether you are ready to get behind this and promote it to your local representatives or think it would lead to deforestation. Like & Share this article to increase awareness of this limitless and alternative option for the building sector—lower carbon footprint by using wood to the most of its abilities.