Friday, December 9, 2011

Wood in Architecture

After WoodWork's day-long conference on building with wood, I came away with one major realization: this has got to be the most versatile and potentially "greenest" material to design with.  With the one proviso - that timber come from properly managed forests - this is the renewable resource.  And if you look at carbon-storage issues, then wood is IT.

My second realization was just how beautiful the stuff is.

After a day of timber-talk, I'm more knowledgeable about detailing and attaching wood and wiser about the vital matter of keeping wood dry and protected from insects and rot.

Easy to think that wood is less permanent than steel or concrete (they look so darn sturdy next to sticks, more kinda butch, you know?), but that permanence is an illusion: steel and concrete both have serious issues with deterioration when unprotected or late in their lifespan.  At least wood tells you when it's in trouble - other materials may not.

Though I must admit the seminar that advocated wood posts buried in the ground as building foundations just felt... wrong.  My brain knew the argument made sense, but my architect-schooled instincts felt all queasy.  Silly, really, since any number of buildings are well-built on pilings, just like in Venice and Amsterdam.  I know this queasiness is illogical because over thirty+ years of watching gulf coast houses - on wood or concrete pilings - I absolutely know that under harsh conditions wood outperforms concrete.  Reinforced concrete depends on its steel... and steel corrodes .  After just a few salty, gulf-humid decades, steel rebar is just a rust colored stain.

So!  Wood.  Good-lookin'.  Green.  And surprisingly Durable.

Remember that.

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