The wonders of wood

Having highlighted the importance of natural materials in my last blog, I thought it would be useful to explore how nature’s materials can play a sustainable, positive role within interior spaces – starting with the wonders of wood.

The obvious point – at least I hope it’s obvious – is that all wood used has to be sustainable, ideally delivering a net zero or positive impact on the environment. We tend to think ethically sourced wood comes from sustainable forest management – which is indeed essential – but true sustainability embraces the entire lifecycle, from planting seeds to eventual reuse. In short, to earn the title of ‘sustainable’, wood has to be both sourced and used sustainably.

In any project, your wood should be certified, usually by the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) or the PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification). It’s worth double checking: certification can be limited, unreliable, unaffordable by small producers, or just plain false. This is why Timber Legality Assurance Systems are being developed alongside compliance laws such as the EU Timber Regulations and the US Lacey Act.

Let’s assume you or your designer has secured this ethically sourced wood, freeing up space in a forest for sustainable ongoing tree planting. The longest stage of the lifecycle is about to begin, as you turn your wood into something that will lock up carbon for years to come.

The longer the wood lives on in this finished state, the better, but if it is deemed to be no longer useful, the good news it that wood is natural and hence biodegradable. It can be burned or buried, but beware of hidden nasties: good biophilic design avoids toxic glues, paints and additives.

Preferable to death is rebirth, so a much better way forward is to repair, recycle or repurpose wooden structures and designs. There is something magical about a tired wooden object, stripped down and given a new lease of life. 

Mankind innovates brilliantly, but sometimes nature gives us the best tools!