Wood works – some practical tips

In my last blog I explored the lifecycle of wood – from sourcing to sustainable recycling. Here I’m going to dig a bit deeper into some of the practical things designers and consumers can do, to feature wood in commercial and residential environments.

The first point is rather self-serving, but important: only work with people who genuinely care about the environment. When discussing the use of wood and other natural products in a project, ask to see evidence of previous good practice, not just words in a brochure (or blog!). 

Beware of anyone specifying the highest timber grades. Not many forests produce this, so you may end up paying a high price to support unsustainable deforestation, albeit unknowingly. 

Ask why a particular tree is being used: all too often, Europeans favour oak, putting undue pressure on the species whilst perfectly good, readily available alternatives exist. At Elemental Studio Ltd, we favour neglected, often lower grade woods in much of our work, since thoughtful design entails no compromise on quality or aesthetics.

As a Frenchwoman, I’m proud that President Macron has pledged to include at least 50% wood in all state-funded buildings from 2022. Already, this has inspired a lot of French architects to feature sustainable wood in housing, commercial and office projects. The climate will benefit, but so will the human spirit, as the world’s most natural building material comes back into fashion.

Meanwhile, we can foster the sustainable use of wood across the UK, the rest of Europe and indeed globally, by accepting only the most rigorously sourced timber and releasing the timeless strength and beauty of this natural super-material.