Wood for Construction

We choose wood

We choose wood

10 reasons why wood is the most sustainable building material in the world.

I personally took care of analyzing sustainability applied to wood in a place like Fuerteventura, where wood should be imported because there are almost no trees and because the average quality of wood is very low. I’ll soon make available an article with all the numbers prooving that, in this specific case, importing wood from Europe is more sustainable than using local materials.

Then, I love wood so there’s no doubt: I have decided to choose wood for building the entire house. Due to local laws we’ll be unable to use it on the outer surfaces but we’re willing to use it for pretty much all the rest (structure, inner walls, floor, roof, …)

But let’s now beging telling the main 10 reasons why I chose wood:

  1. Wood is renewable
  2. Wood does not change the landscape
  3. Wood has a very low environmental impact
  4. Wood industry can be truly controlled
  5. Wood is stronger than steel
  6. Wood provides great insulation
  7. Wood creates a healty environment
  8. Wood lasts long
  9. Wood is perfect for diy
  10. Wood is awesome

Let me give a short description of each one of the points with some numbers, to better understand why they are so important:

1. Wood is renewable.

Yes, because wood grows while stones, earth, sand, steel, cement and so on definitely don’t. That means that wood is a renewable resource and that the others aren’t. As simple as that.

2. Wood does not change the landscape.

Yes, when you use stones, earth, sand, steel, cement you change the landscape forever. This is due to pits and mines for the extraction process of the row material, while on the other side we have awesome forests. Sustainable wood enhance the environment also in its production process.

2. Wood has avery low environmental impact

There is no doubt wood from sustainably managed forests is the most environmentally-friendly material you can use as building material. Wood is a natural storage of CO2 because it’s actually made of it. As from a study conducted using Athena’s LCA calculation software, the result is than wood CO2 emission are about 5 times lower than concrete and 6,6 lower than steel.

CO2 emissions for a 7.3m beam made of different materials, as calculated by the Athena software program (source: cecobois via nordic.ca).

If you want to satisfy your thirst of numbers give an eye to the numerous LCA studies made by the Athena institute enlightening how lower is the impact of wood compared to any other building material.

4. Wood industry can be truly controlled

PEFC and FSC are the two main world standards certifying that the wood you’re using is sustainable. The main concept is that you can’t sell a tree if you don’t plant another one who replaces it and let the new one grow the same size, keeping the forest as it should be: alive, healthy, big and beautiful.

I really recommend you to have a look on both links to better understand what they are, because they create a great value for us all.

5. Wood is stronger than steel

It might seem a joke but it’s not. If we take the same weight of steel and wood, wood resists more. As you can see from the image below the experiments conducted by the japanese institute HOWTEC give a clear proof of that:

  • Wood Tensile Strength
  • Wood compressive strength
  • Wood Strength

HOWTEC institute strength tests on wood, and comparison with concrete and steel

Analyzing the results of the test it comes out that wood behaves 10 times better than concrete and 4,4 times better than steel in the compressive strength test, 225 times better than cement and 2,1 times better than steel in the tensile strength test, and 400 times better than concrete and 15,4 times better than steel in the flexural strength test. Not bad, isn’t it?

An effective visual representation of that is picture below that has been shot right after the tremendous Hanshin earthquake of 1995. Guess which one is the only wooden structure…

This KES wooden house is one of the few houses surviving the great Hanshin earthquake of 1995 (source: structure.kes.ne.jp)

6. Wood provides great insulation

Due to it’s organic nature and due to the fact that wood is fibrous, thus having air micro-caves within its cellular structure, it is one of the greatest materials know in constructions for both energy performance and acoustic comfort. How much?

wood thermal conductivity [W/(m^2 x K)] is 5 times better than both bricks and concrete blocks masonries and 335 times better than steel [source: Wikipedia].

wood sound absorption coefficient (alpha), wood is 15 times better than an average masonry made with concrete blocks and 400 times better than steel, [source: University of Illinois]

7. Wood creates healty environments

Number one, wooden houses breath, keeping the air micro-circulation constant and always optimal for occupants.

Number two, wood is hygroscopic, taking the indoor humidity when there’s too much and releasing it when there’s too few, thus keeping the internal comfort of the house always perfect, in every season and condition.

Number three, wood doesn’t release ANY invisible toxic particles in the air. I am talking about raw wood but also about laminated wood, if you choose the ones manufactured with environmentally-friendly glues (as I will for sure in case I go for laminated wood).

8. Wood lasts long

As the famous wooden structure of Casa Isolani (dated 1450) proves, a good wooden structure can last more than 500 years. That’s more than 5 times the average life span of cement. Steel is not an option since the house is going to be built in a marine environment.

The wooden tructure of Casa Isolani (Bologna, Italy) is dated 1450

9. Wood is perfect for DIY

First of all, wooden structures are super fast to build and that means one thing: wallet sustainability. Depending on how many friends will help me I could easily finish the house in something like 2-3 months, instead of more than 1 year required for a traditional building.

Not only, working with wood is much simpler. When you were a kid you probably learned the basics of woodworking at school, right? What more to say? I have always loved DIY and I have always loved the idea that one day it could be me and some friends building an entire house. Wait,it will be me and some friends building the entire house! Yeah!!!

In any case I’m pretty sure that more than half-millennium lasting house should be enough.

10. Wood is awesome

And that truly matters.

One more great thing

Wood is lightweight. That allows me to build the entire house suspended from the groundavoiding the huge impact of concrete ground foundations.

Not only, this will translate also in a better ventilation of the entire house, all year long, able not only to increase the internal comfort for occupants but also giving no humidity problems, especially during the two-weeks yearly floods.

I love the idea that, one day, I could be able to disassemble the entire house leaving no trace on the land, like if nothing had ever happened in that piece of land. Awesome.

In the forthcoming articles I we’ll see the impact of transportation and we’ll decide which wood and which building technology to use (starting defining the first details of the project).

Parallely, I have started searching nothing else but the greatest wood supplier for Fuerteventura. With that I mean not only someone selling top-quality, sustainable wood but, most of all, someone who believe in true sustainability.

Let’s move on!


1. [CtoG-LCA-Canadian-CLT.pdf] Cradle-to-Gate LCA study on canadian cross laminated timber wood
2. [Alan_Truesdale_Absorbtion_Coefficients.pdf] University of Illinois study on sound absorption coefficients of the main building materials

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