Timber: The Ultimate Green Building Material

Published Thursday 14th August 2014

Timber provides a varied and flexible material for many industries. It's primarily used in construction as structural support, for internal fixtures and external cladding. However, the immense flexibility of this material means it's got a great many other uses. 

With environmental concerns becoming increasingly important within the industry, timber has also distinguished itself as a favourite among projects where sustainability is a factor. 

In this guide, we'll look at timber's green credentials and examine why it's set to become a paramount product for green projects.

 

Why we need green materials

 

It's a sad fact that the planet only has a finite amount of resources. Oil, coal - all will be gone over the next hundred years. The effects the use of these materials have on the planet has been largely negative when we factor in the issues of climate change and the role of carbon dioxide in catalysing this.

 

Countries such as the UK are attempting to introduce various laws and legislation to reduce greenhouse gases and invest in low carbon energy sources, but, there's still a real need for renewable, green materials to replace carbon-heavy construction staples like concrete and steel.

 

Types of green materials

 

Although there are plenty of green materials that can be used in construction, there's also practical aspect to consider. Not enough people, places or countries are using the full range of materials that are considered 'green' - instead relying on traditional staples that cause harm to the environment throughout their supply chain. At the moment, many new materials are considered too labour-intensive or not cost-efficient enough for mainstream use. For example:

 

Straw: Thick walls of straw-bales can often provide insulation that surpasses many other materials. However, for many, this is too expensive and labour intensive to use on a wide scale.

 

Earth: Using all-natural materials directly from the earth is a very green alternative to traditional construction staples. Packed clay, dirt and sand can provide an insulated and eco-friendly alternative in construction, but have yet to enjoy much mainstream success.

 

Adobe: Used in sunny, dry regions, Adobe is a construction process that uses bricks of hardened mud and straw. Although there are abundant resources, the actual creation process is very time consuming and labour-intensive right now.

 

Green Concrete: By recycling fly ash from industrial waste, this green concrete not only lowers the actual amount of concrete needed, but it is actually stronger and less permeable than normal concrete. However, it is an emerging material that has not seen significant uptake.

 

Wood: By far the most effective and abundant green material in the world. Wood can be easily and efficiently processed into timber almost anywhere. Timber is highly flexible and is a renewable resource to boot.

 

Why Wood?

 

Timber offers several advantages as a building material, as well as being green and eco-friendly when sourced and implemented in the right way. Just some of its attributes include:

 

Flexibility: As mentioned, timber is a flexible material. It is lightweight, strong and durable. In fact, a beam of timber can be stronger than a concrete or steel beam of equal weight.

 

Affordable: Timber is currently grown and used all over the world, making it an easily accessible and affordable material that can be maintained locally and adapted to a number of uses.

 

Sustainable: One of the most vital things about timber is that it can be an environmentally sustainable resource if managed correctly. Controlled forestry and logging means that we can continue to use timber without an adverse effect on the environment. 

 

Durability: Timber can last for many years within permanent construction projects if treated and maintained correctly.

 

How best to use timber

 

The flexibility and properties of timber give it a unique position in the world of construction materials. It is very much a friend to all aspects of building.

 

Domestic: Possibly the most widely used example of timber as a building material is in the home. Hardwoods and softwoods can be utilised in a variety of manners. For example, oaks, pines and cedar (all of which are sustainable), are used for flooring, load bearing structural supports and outdoor decking/cladding. Replacing concrete, bricks, metal and plastics with timber in many situations is an effective and efficient choice.

 

For instance, a home with timber as the main construction material will experience outstanding insulation qualities, along with better (lower) carbon dioxide output. One cubic meter of timber will lock away approximate one ton of CO2.

 

The inherent benefits here are that you combine green advantages, such as increased insulation and longevity, with the aesthetically-pleasing appeal that wood is well-known for.

 

Commercial: Similar to home building, the use of in offices is becoming a growing trend due to its green properties. Being green is no longer a luxury for companies, many of which have become very environmentally aware and timber presents a great opportunity for the expansion and renovation of businesses. It is already beginning to prove itself as an appropriate ingredient in modern design and architecture. Let's not forget that with timber, you also tend to get a faster build time, reducing the use of construction tools and machinery involved.

 

Timber really can help make a difference in terms of eco-friendliness and sustainability. If you've got any thoughts on what the future holds for green building, be sure to give us a shout on Twitter.

 

And if you're looking for eco-friendly, responsibly-sourced timber to suit any sector – don't hesitate to get in touch today.

Image used courtesy of Wikimedia Commons