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ENVIRONMENT & TRAVEL Summer 2006
 
 The interior of St. Paul's Church (Brentford)
showing the use of timber and glulam beams.
Wood.forgood: The importance of building in wood.
by Van Nga Thi NGUYEN

Wood is now widely recognised by scientists as the most sustainable building material. British organisation wood.forgood is campaigning to convince architects and builders alike.

Timber is the most environmentally friendly building material. Trees are a renewable resource and they also absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide, as every cubic metre of growth absorbs a tonne of CO2. Thus, the more wood we use in preference to non renewable materials such as concrete and steel, the more we are helping to reduce the effect of global warming. However, there are still too few architects, builders and their customers aware of this.

Wood.forgood, the largest timber promotional campaign ever undertaken in the UK, aims at developing timber consumption. The total value of timber used throughout the UK construction industry has greatly increased recently. It now amounts to £4 billion approximately, with timber the third most important product group after concrete products and plastic goods.
Timber is a very versatile building material. There are many different kinds of timber, from low-tech to high-tech. Glued laminated timber (Glulam) is certainly high on the list. Strength, environmental friendliness, energy efficiency, fire resistance and its inherent aesthetic qualities enable it to be used in almost any type of building from simple dwellings to major public buildings and even large span bridges..
The 2012 London Olympics should provide an excellent opportunity to promote wood as a prime building material. According to Charles Trevor, MD of Wood.forgood, "...sustainability is going to be a key feature of the 2012 Olympics and this is where timber can really score"*. It is hoped that "one of the main stadium venues could be constructed largely from timber and there may be significant spin-off benefits in the future"**.

More than 95% of the timber used in the UK comes from European forests the area of which grew by 30% between 1990 and 2000. Using wood is environmentally friendly only when this wood has been properly planted and harvested. Wood waste is still an important issue, and world wide wood cutting in old-growth forests is a major problem. Even when done legally, forests are often poorly managed and replanted with "unsustainable, single crop plantations consisting of either pine or eucalyptus, which lead to soil degradation and which can't replace the complete ecosystems of old-growth forests"***. The Forest Stewardship Council's certification system is a first step to encourage consumers to use wood from properly managed forests only, but there are plenty more steps to go.

Sources :
http://www.woodforgood.com/; http://www.glulam.co.uk/
« Glulam: the genuinely sustainable building material for the 21st century, » Architecture Today November 2005.
*« Guest column, » Timber Trade Journal 12 November 2005.
**Timber Industry Olympics Feasibility Study October 2005.
***«Forest hump, »The Observer 13 November 2005.


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