Credit: Michael Green Architecture (MGA)
Wooden Structures in Sustainable Architecture
The world as we know it today is moving towards ‘plastic’ – plastic containers, plastic furniture, plastic building panels, plastic disposal bags, plastic toys, plastic, plastic, plastic! Even the euphemistic ‘plastic’ surgery symbolizes all that is fake about a person. And is it any surprise then that the world screams ‘toxic’ – the earth and her seas are getting choked with plastic, and we have holes in our atmosphere due to the excessive release of toxins that result from unsustainable practices that include burning plastic components. UV rays are not efficiently soaked up anymore, breaching protective atmospheric layers that eventually causes deadly diseases and destruction of our natural reserves.
As the world moves towards establishing sustainable practices to incur small carbon footprints, the building industry, in particular, seeks to lead in sustainability. And get this, the building material of the future is wood. Yes, WOOD! What had me poking my inquisitive nose into this is an article I came across called ‘Looking at Wood Sky High.’
The picture above depicts the proposal of a timber skyscraper for the Paris Skyline, submitted by Michael Green Architecture (MGA), a Canadian architecture firm based in Vancouver, in its bid to participate in The Reinventer Paris Urban revitalization campaign. Its main feature is its sustainability and has a roof garden that would be a community space housing restaurants, cafes, garden spaces and bicycle rentals. Michaela Green hopes that this project will showcase wood as a sustainable, carbon-sequestering building material in Paris, making as grand a statement as the Eiffel Tower did back in 1889! A modestly scaled wood building, the 29.5-meter Wood Innovation and Design Centre in Prince George, BC is proof of Michael Green’s method to innovation in sustainability.
What a departure this design is from the usual glass steel-concrete structures we see around us, belching fumes and reflecting unimaginable amounts of heat back into our already over-warmed atmosphere! Having spearheaded the tallest wood-framed building in Minnesota in the United States (the T3 project), the 7-storied, 210,000 sq ft office building has created an uproar around the country. But fear not! Sustainably grown and harvested wood has a smaller carbon footprint than concrete and steel, making it a good choice for even large buildings. In a 2013 interview with the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, Green said building codes are an obstacle “because this is the first new way to build a tall building in a hell of a long time…So I often say the hardest part of the job isn’t the engineering, it’s the managing of public perceptions of the issues, and it’s education.”
It is hoped that using wood creatively to enhance sustainability will catch on, especially in places that depend on timber economy for their livelihood, like the Pacific Northwest of America.
Sustainable Forest Management
Canada, British Columbia (BC) in particular, continues to be the world leader in sustainable forestry practises, meeting society’s need for forest products while respecting the values people attach to forests and preserving forest health and diversity for the future.
Because wood does not emit toxic vapours, it is ideal for use where occupants or visitors may have environmental sensitivities. Increasingly, coatings, resins, and binders used in wood products are available in low- or non-toxic formulations. Locally-produced materials are often the best choice for a project: they suit local aesthetics, tend to be more durable in the local climate, and save shipping costs. Choosing local materials supports local economies and reduces the environmental impacts of transportation. When considered over a building’s lifetime – from harvest of raw materials through manufacturing, transportation, installation, use, maintenance and disposal or recycling –wood performs better than concrete and steel in terms of embodied energy, air and water pollution, carbon footprint and global warming potential. So says www.naturallywood.com, and it makes infinite sense.
Sustainable Practices in the Manufacture of Wood Blinds in Canada
In North American forests, today, the volume of hardwood trees is 90% more than it was 50 years ago because hardwood is harvested through sustainable yield forest management techniques that ensure that the yield is far below the levels of growth. This wood is sourced and processed domestically, so the transportation energy to deliver the finished blinds to market is considerably minimized. Graber Traditions Wood Blinds in Canada are made from North American hardwoods (Bass) and are designed, engineered and tested to withstand the test of time, reducing landfill waste created by short-lived products.
The Efficiency of Wood Blinds
Wood blinds are made of thinly sectioned slats held together horizontally by string ladders connected to a highly refined clutch and pulley system that ensures smooth operations when hung over windows and doors. Today, wood blinds and shutters are automated, allowing remote and pre-programmed controls for the vanes in order to maximize energy efficiency and daylight. The slats can be positioned to harmlessly diffuse the intense and harmful rays of the sun, protecting humans and precious interior elements alike, apart from creating an insulating barrier between the indoors and outdoors. This barrier substantially reduces the load on the HVAC system, lowering energy costs. Graber wood blinds and shutters are also GreenGuard certified, making them a sensible and elegant option to dress windows, especially in the newly conceived wood structures we see sprouting in classy statements around the world!