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Wood - the future of sustainable architecture and building

Updated: Jan 20, 2021

Inspired by a publication “The new competitor of reinforced concrete: wood as an innovative building material” written by TVNET in cooperation with Forest Development Fund we have gathered this interesting information for our clients to shed some light about the future of wood.

Many cultures have been living in wood houses for centuries, others see wood as unreliable and unsafe for building. In this blog post, you'll find everything you need to know about wood and why wood houses are the future of architecture! Hope you find this useful!

As a result of rapid climate change, ecology, and looking towards sustainable solutions has become a global issue. Within this framework, several sectors of economic activity are looking for ways to find nature-friendly analogs in the offer of existing products and services. This trend is affecting architecture significantly, with architects looking for a variety of ways and means to make buildings more sustainable and environmentally friendly, both locally and around the world.

One of the methods of creating sustainable and eco-friendly buildings is a more ecological choice of building materials. Wood is the main choice in this case. Modern technologies are able to create much more durable timber than classic logs or boards - this allows architects and engineers to express themselves accordingly and even create wooden skyscrapers.

Why Wood? Wood has several good properties, one of the most important - low thermal conductivity. In comparison, the thermal conductivity of wood is 20 to 28 times lower than that of reinforced concrete, but for steel - 130 times. Namely, in comparison with concrete or metal, wood does not form many thermal bridges or deficiencies in structures, which causes heat loss and risks of structural freezing. This means that with load-bearing wooden structures and other wooden construction products, it is possible to create more dynamic and expressive structures that do not require expensive thermal insulation parts or additional thermal insulation spacers. In other words, wooden architecture can exhibit the load-bearing structure from the inside to the outside, as well as facilitate the construction of projections of building parts for the building volume. From an economic point of view, this avoids monotonous facades.

Another advantage of wood is the weight of wooden structures. By comparison, wood flooring weighs 200 to 250 kilograms per square meter, while concrete or steel composite flooring weighs 600 to 700 kilograms per square meter. Roughly speaking, wooden constructions are three to four times lighter. Accordingly, if the weight is lower - construction is also more economical in certain conditions, ie the number of material delivery trips to the site is reduced, the building foundation construction solution can be optimized by simplifying it, as the total structural load on the ground is reduced. On the other hand, during the construction process, you will not have to worry about exceeding the maximum tonnage of the cranes, as would be the case when assembling reinforced concrete or steel elements of different dimensions. It also saves on the construction of the foundations of the building, because they have to carry a lower total load.

The third determining advantage of wood is the aesthetics of wood and its psychological impact on people. It is a visually attractive material that will look great both in the interior and exterior. Wooden decoration and display of wooden constructions in the interior create a warm and cozy atmosphere, wood with its smell, acoustic properties, texture, surface texture affects all human senses - sight, hearing, and smell.

In addition, wood can be combined with other materials and achieve an appropriate interior style, for example, in combination with glass it will get a modern look, but solid wood construction with plaster, lime mortar plaster, or other traditional plasters will make the room more classic and regulate the microclimate.

The most common stumbling block for old houses is poor waterproofing, due to which wooden structures have been exposed to long-term moisture and the rot has started overtime, but moisture also has a negative effect on other material house structures, such as concrete panels. At present, various innovative methods have been developed for the protection of wooden buildings, which effectively minimize the risk of wood rot, such as special varnishes, boards, and paints, but the most important thing is to ensure an even microclimate in the construction of buildings.

In addition to fire safety, the choice of wood as the primary building material is sometimes deterred by the assumption that such a house has a shorter lifespan and is guaranteed to fight mold over time. Wood is an organic material, and even today its improved version is not 100% protected from the effects of moisture. In order for wooden structures to maintain their perfect appearance for as long as possible, additional attention must be paid to the operation of the building, more attention should be paid to the technical condition of roofs, foundations, plinth, and good thermal and waterproofing. However, as soon as wooden structures are protected from moisture, they can last a hundred and more years.

It should also be noted that aspects related to fire safety, waterproofing, acoustics, etc. are essentially easy to deal with. In many European countries, such as Austria, Switzerland, and Finland, wooden construction has already become the standard. In Finland, even the law now stipulates that a certain part of new public buildings must be made partly of wooden structures.

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