As an architect, I could specify a wide variety of contemporary building materials in my homes. But only one is totally sustainable, is flexible enough to shift as structures settle, does not expand and contract with the seasons, is energy efficient, is both a structural and finishing material, is easy to work with and repair, and is totally recyclable. Of course I’m talking about wood.
It’s almost a magical material. Trees take energy from the sun, and carbon dioxide from the air and converts them into a totally natural, renewable and recyclable product. Wood building materials continue to evolve. In the last 50 years researchers have developed ways to utilize wood to make incredibly strong beams and other structural materials. Engineered wood building systems are now being used to build midrise towers. Instead of steel and concrete, the floors, ceilings, elevator shafts, and stairwells are made entirely of wood.
It is also one of the best building materials for earthquake prone areas. In 1995 an earthquake of 6.0 magnitude hit the city of Kobe, Japan. Among the devastated traditional style houses were examples of modern wood construction and wood-frame houses. Of approximately 8000 “2 by 4” framed houses, none collapsed and 70% reported no damage at all.
Personally I love building with wood. It allows me to bring to life just about any design I can imagine. It comes from the ground and will eventually return to the ground. It’s as organic as the people who will reside in the homes built with it, and there is nothing more wonderful than the smell of a freshly framed home.