This post is part of the green materials report series. GBE is providing information on various building materials and what makes them green. Each post focuses on one material. We will be looking at the ingredients in the material, how it is used, what makes green materials green, and any green product certifications that it has earned. We hope to develop a database of information to help consumers make informed choices about what goes in their buildings.
Wood, and its long list of byproducts, can be considered as truly useful and very sustainable green building materials that have been used for centuries for structural and decorative purposes.
Best of all, perhaps, is that when woods get consumed as green materials, they can be replanted and grown again. Knowing all too well some very aberrant actions on the part of some wood harvesters still occur, such as clear-cutting mountain forests, or endangering prized woods such as old growth redwoods or stripping stands of mahogany trees from the Amazon forests to raise beef- wood’s ability to renew itself as it scrubs the air around it raises it high on the sustainable materials list!
Writing about wood in the book, Ullmann’s Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry, Horst H. Nimz, Uwe Schmitt, Eckart Schwab, Otto Wittmann, Franz Wolf the Earth contains about “one trillion tonnes of wood, which grows at a rate of 10 billion tonnes per year.”
As an abundant, carbon-neutral renewable resource, woody materials have been of intense interest as a source of renewable energy. In 1991, approximately 3.5 cubic kilometers of wood were harvested. Dominant uses were for furniture and building construction.
From the Wood Database, started by Eric Meier in 2007, we find a huge list of names (over 500) about the woods of the world, with names going from walnut to tigerwood and tupelo, never forgetting one off my favorites, cherry. Meier introduces this material with this statement: “It’s common knowledge that wood comes from trees. What may not be so apparent is the structure of the wood itself, and the individual components that make up any given piece of lumber.”
Sounds like a person who knows his subject quite well. Not all woods perform equally, in terms of beauty, strength, durability, rarity, or value. Most residential buildings are framed with pine, not walnut or ebony; the lower price-per-foot of pine is convincing, a priced based on suppluy and demand, especially when knowing harvestable pine trees grow much faster than a hardwood such as oak or maple. It is a resource we must hold in high esteem. Not only do they provide materials, they mitigate some of the global warming trends caused by too much CO2.
Some woods you may not know
These are just a few names to set you exploring. I didn’t even touch the end of the alphabet. Enjoy!