Sustainability is a topic that’s increasingly coming to the fore, whether it’s to do with how we travel or what food we eat. It’s also becoming an ever more important consideration when it comes to construction and home renovation.
A recent article for Vox explained that wood is being touted as one of the solutions to the high greenhouse gas emissions associated with the construction industry. In fact, the publication pointed out that, as a building material, wood has many more benefits that simply being sustainable.
It also has the potential to “slash the waste, pollution and costs associated with construction, and create a more physically, psychologically and aesthetically healthy built environment”.
In a commercial sense, it’s massive (or mass) timber that’s creating the biggest waves in the sustainable construction sector. This essentially refers to structural timber, where different pieces of soft wood are stuck together to form larger pieces (hence the term, massive timber).
Using mass timber in more construction projects could significantly help them to reduce their carbon emissions. Firstly, because carbon is sequestered in trees during their lifecycle, secondly because wood that comes from sustainably managed forests is generally considered to be carbon neutral.
And finally, because using timber means you’re using much less concrete and steel in construction. The news provider notes that the carbon embedded in these materials is “substantial”, with eight per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions estimated to come from the manufacture of those two materials alone.
But what about in your home? In the UK, if you have casement or sash windows, you more than likely live in a period home and will want to maintain its appearance. That means when it’s time to replace the windows you’ll want to find a company that can produce and fit timber windows in Kent, or wherever you live.
In fact, checking your windows is a good place to begin if you’re looking for ways to make your home more eco-friendly, according to Real Homes.
The publication recently offered a host of eco-friendly ways to revamp your property, and one of the things it recommended was checking for draughts around your windows and, if you find any, doing work to rectify this.
“Simple and inexpensive insulating solutions, such as draught proofing, could significantly reduce energy bills,” the news provider stated.
If you notice that your windows are particularly draughty, this could be the prompt you need to explore having new windows and frames installed. Of course, double glazing can help to better insulate your property if you only have single glazing at the moment.
Other top tips on how to make eco-friendly changes around your home include upcycling furniture that looks worn and tired and using reclaimed wood flooring if you’re going to be giving your living space a revamp.
In fact, the website pointed out that using old wood flooring is not only environmentally friendly, but will “imbue your home with history and character that is impossible for new boards to emulate”. That means it’s ideal if you want to pull out the period character of your property.
There are also some simple swaps you can make when you’re doing a home decor project, including choosing non-toxic sustainable wallpaper and natural water-based paints when you’re giving your walls a makeover.
If you need a little more convincing about why to choose timber frames for your windows, it’s worth looking into the benefits of the material a bit more.
According to Windows Guide, one of the main advantages to timber-framed windows from an eco-friendly perspective is that the material has excellent natural thermal efficiency. It’s also a much better material for the environment than uPVC, which is what many modern window frames are made of.
What’s more, wood looks a lot nicer than this more modern material. In period homes, this is especially important because you’ll want to maintain the historical aesthetic that gives your property its character.
The website also cited a study from Herriot Watt University, which revealed that “all timber window frames offer better long-term value than uPVC and have a service life of at least twice that of uPVC windows”.
When you’re choosing your timber windows, you have two options in terms of the type of wood – soft and hard wood.
Softwood is usually painted, and it is worth bearing in mind that it will need repainting every few years to keep it in top condition. This is typically a cheaper option than hardwood too, so it’s a good option if you’re on a tight budget.
Hardwood, meanwhile, is a more expensive option, largely because it comes from trees that grow more slowly. This kind of wood has a tighter grain than softwood, which means it’s more stable and durable, the website explained.
You’re more likely to find hardwoods like oak used in period homes, whereas softwood can be used in both traditional looking properties and on contemporary homes.
If you’re unsure what type of timber windows are best for your property, it’s advisable to speak to a specialist and get their opinion. They’ll be able to explain the merits of different kinds of wood, as well as helping you decide which is most appropriate for your property.
There is certainly a growing acknowledgement within the architecture and construction sectors that timber of all kinds has a place in the future of our built environment, and that we should expect to see the likes of structured and engineered timber being used in a growing number of areas.
The Guide Liverpool recently spoke to dRMM, a firm of RIBA chartered architects, which described engineered timber as “the defining material of 21st century architecture”.
In undertaking research, they have explored its use in the experimental structure, composition and placemaking in relation to building design. They have found that timber as a construction material can meet social and environmental sustainability.
Founding director of dRMM Professor Alex de Rijke told the news provider that there are certain materials that can be associated with certain time periods.
“The history of architecture can be characterised by materials rather than styles. The 18th century was defined by brick, the 19th century by steel and the 20th by concrete. In 2004 I predicted that engineered timber would define the 21st century,” he asserted.
Professor de Rijke added that, since 2004, his firm has “explored its endless potential”.
To raise awareness of timber as a building material, and to highlight its vast potential, dRMM has curated the Forest of Fabrication exhibition at RIBA North. The entire concept of this exhibition is focused on engineered timber as the defining building material of this century.
It features 24 concept models of architectural design from the practice, spanning 24 years and exploring the “challenges and opportunities of timber design”. The idea behind the exhibition is to show people how engineered timber has evolved, highlighting what it’s capable of now and what the firm believes will be possible in the future using this material.
Director of RIBA North Suzy Jones said that the exhibition “draws our attention to the significance of the choices we make about how buildings are designed and built”. She added that it showcases how timber “translates into something beautiful, groundbreaking and inspirational”.
Even if you’re not in the business of constructing buildings, you can certainly find uses for different kinds of timber around your property, as suggested by Real Homes. Things like your flooring, furniture and window frames can all present opportunities to use this material to great effect, not only adding to the sustainability of your home, but also its aesthetic appeal.