Thermally treated wood is quickly becoming a viable alternative to exotic hardwoods. Viewed through the lens of sustainability, the choice between thermally treated wood and exotic hardwoods seems obvious. Thermally treated wood is a domestic product that is both durable, beautiful and easier to work with then exotic hardwoods. Surprisingly, thermally treated wood, though sustainably harvested in the United States, is often shipped to Eastern Europe for the thermal process and then shipped back to the U.S., wasting energy and creating pollution through the shipping process. As demand for thermally treated wood increases, it is likely that more domestic processing facilities will be constructed, eventually yielding a viable alternative to exotic hardwoods.
Composite materials are another option fraught with contradiction. Composites are primarily composed of recycled plastics and mill waste, are highly durable, and require minimal maintenance. Unfortunately, there is a downside to most composites. At the end of their lifecycle most readily available composites fall short because in the process of creating a product made from both plastic (which is recyclable), and wood waste (which is compostable), the resulting combination is a product that is neither recyclable nor compostable.
There has been a lot of interest in composite materials lately, and we’re looking forward to seeing where the research and development takes us.
Here are a few products we’ll be keeping an eye on:
Modified wood resources:
Wood certification resources:
Designing The Sustainable Site- Heather Venhaus
Sustainable Landscape Construction-J. William Thompson and Kim Sorvig
Beronio Lumber, San Francisco
Truit and White, Berkeley