|Wood has been used as a building material for thousands of years, being second only to stone in terms of its rich and storied history in the world of construction. The chemical properties of wood are inherently complex, but even in spite of this challenge, human beings have successfully harnessed the unique characteristics of wood to build a seemingly unlimited variety of structures. This exceptionally versatile material is commonly used to build houses, shelters and boats, but it is also extensively used in the furniture and home decor industry as well.
Perhaps one of the biggest advantages of using wood as a building material is that it is a natural resource, making it readily available and economically feasible. It is remarkably strong in relation to its weight, and it provides good insulation from the cold. Wood is highly machinable, and can be fabricated into all kinds of shapes and sizes to fit practically any construction need. Wood is also the perfect example of an environmentally sustainable product; it is biodegradable and renewable, and carries the lowest carbon footprint of any comparable building material. In addition, no high-energy fossil fuels are required to produce wood, unlike other common building materials such as brick, steel or plastic. |
LUMBER OR TIMBER?
The words “lumber” and “timber” are often used interchangeably to refer to wood used in construction work, but there has been considerable debate as to which term should apply in a given scenario. Pieces of wood that are smaller than 5 inches wide by 5 inches thick (regardless of length) are generally referred to as lumber. These pieces are machine-planed and sawn to fit certain dimensional specifications (e.g., 2×4″, 2×8″, etc.) and are primarily used in residential construction. Pieces of wood over 5 inches wide by 5 inches thick (regardless of length) are referred to as timber, and any timber pieces that exceed 8″ wide by 8″ thick are referred to as beams. As timber pieces are larger in dimension, they are often used to construct the frames of large structures such as buildings and bridges. Timber is also commonly utilized in large quantities for railroad ties, mine shaft supports and crossbeams on utility poles.
Another type of wood commonly used in construction is known as engineered wood. As its name implies, engineered wood is the product of a more intricate fabrication process in which various wood strands, fibers, veneers, or other forms of wood are glued together to form a type of composite material that is used for specific construction applications. Common examples of engineered wood include plywood, glued laminated timber (a.k.a. “glulam”), oriented strand board, fiberboard, and particle board. Engineered wood products are commonly used in a wide variety of residential, commercial and industrial construction projects.
TYPES OF WOOD
Wood has traditionally been classified into two primary categories: Hardwood (any leaf-bearing tree) and softwood (any cone-bearing tree). As with most other general classifications, this can get somewhat confusing due to the fact that there are some leaf-bearing trees that can have relatively soft wood, while some coniferous trees that can have rather hard wood. Generally speaking, however, hardwoods are by and large considered to be heavier and more dense than softwoods. Hardwoods are commonly used in the construction of walls, ceilings and floors, while softwoods are often used to make doors, furniture and window frames. Some examples of the most popular hardwoods include oak, maple, mahogany, cherry, walnut, and teak. Commonly used softwoods include pine, hickory, beach, ash, birch, and cedar.
The National Hardwood Lumber Association (NHLA) of America has created a grading system to rate various types of lumber, primarily based on the amount of defects that can be found in a board. Below is a brief summary of NHLA grades for both hardwood and softwood lumber.
1. First and Seconds (FAS) – This is the highest grade possible for hardwood lumber, and is mainly suited for high-quality furnishings, solid wood mouldings and interior joinery. Contains 83% usable material on one face (minimum 6″ x 8″ board size).
2. Select (Sel) – Also contains 83% usable material, but for a smaller minimum board size (4″ x 6″) than FAS.
3. #1 Common (#1 Com) – Contains 66% usable material on a 3″ x 4″ board face.
4. #2 Common (#2 Com) – Contains 50% usable material on a 3″ x 4″ board face.
1. C Select – Almost completely free of all defects; commonly used for cabinets and interior trim
2. D Select – Comparable to C Select, but may contain small knots (no bigger than the size of a dime)
3. 1 Common – Contains small, tight knots that won’t fall out; offers a high-quality knotty appearance (e.g., pine)
4. 2 Common – Very similar to 1 Common, but with slightly larger knots; often used in shelving and paneling
5. 3 Common – Larger knots that what are found in 2 Common; typically used for crates, boxes and fences
BENEFITS OF WOOD IN CONSTRUCTION
Wood carries several benefits that make it an excellent candidate for use in a wide array of construction projects. One such benefit is its thermal properties, which give it an advantage in terms of its resistance to high temperatures. Unlike steel, which can expand or even collapse in high heat, wood actually dries out and becomes stronger as the heat increases. In addition, the heat conductivity of wood is relatively low in comparison to other materials such as aluminum, marble, steel, or glass. This gives wood an advantage in terms of being used in various applications such as matches, hardware equipment handles, wall coverings, and ceilings.
Wood also contains highly-sought-after acoustic properties. It can absorb sound and echoes, and is a favorite material of choice for the construction of structures where proper acoustics is important, such as concert halls. Wood is resistant to electrical currents, making it an optimal material for electrical insulation. Another important characteristic of wood is its tensile strength, which is its ability to bend under pressure without breaking. Wood is exceptionally light in proportion to its tensile strength, making it the preferred construction choice for surfaces that take a constant beating such as basketball courts and bowling lanes. Tensile strength is also one of the main reasons for choosing timber as a building material; its remarkably strong qualities make it the perfect choice for heavy-duty building materials such as structural beams.
Of the many construction materials that a person can choose from, wood stands out as a unique and amazingly versatile product. Its aesthetic appeal, tensile strength, insulation qualities, and ease of fabrication enable it to remain a favorite choice for use in an extensive array of construction applications.
Timber buildings have been around for centuries. Thankfully, over time, code restrictions have been revised and changed, with concerns of fire safety topmost in many architects’ and builders’ minds.
Recently, new height restrictions have been introduced for wooden structures in the newest Mass Timber Code Proposals guide. Specifically, Code Change Proposals G75-18, G80-18, and G84-18 deal with tall wood buildings. The three code changes state that height, number of stories, and allowable area, should be reviewed only after one becomes familiar with the types of construction.
According to a recent news article, ‘Peter Busby designs a 40 storey timber tower proposed for Vancouver’, posted on treehugger.com, a new timber tower is in the works. Peter Busby of Perkins+Will Canada is the designer onboard the proposed green-build project. According to their website, Perkins+Will has one of the highest numbers of ‘Certified Passive House Designers’ of any design firm in North America (presently 25 in Canada, in case you were wondering).
One of the founders of the Canada Green Building Council (CGBC), with which Longhouse remains a member, Busby has a vision towards reducing energy consumption in new builds. To paraphrase, the tower is the tallest Busby thinks can technically be made with wood today. The building is to be predominantly made out of cross-laminated timbers (CLT) and dowel laminated timbers (DLT). This timber is manufactured in British Columbia and culled from damaged trees. Busby is optimistic it can be built between 35-40 stories high.
However, several people doubt the project will in fact go ahead due to the revised building codes. The new codes permit wood structures up to 12 stories with exposed wood elements, and up to 18 stories with wood enclosed in gypsum board. Procedures may be taken that permit variances from the code but could be time-consuming. To date, the tallest wooden skyscraper in Canada is the Brock Commons at UBC, at 18 stories.
Furthermore, zoning on the site in question has a limit of 14 stories. Unquestionably, every project should be studied to be suitable to the existing neighbourhood. Although wood is having a renaissance, there seems to be much debate about whether the proposed 40 towers is too tall for the site.
Longhouse Specialty Forest Products has played a role in thousands of exciting custom projects worldwide. We’ve had the pleasure of working with several talented individuals in the design and construction industry. Dedicated to sustainable construction methods and growth, in addition to maintaining as tiny of a carbon footprint as possible, we’re keeping a close watch to see how these new height restrictions affect future modern projects.
Designing a deck distinct from identical, cookie-cutter ones around you is a visionary’s dream. And certainly, creating an outdoor living space with worldly charm can be seamlessly tied into your home when prudently thought out.
Knowing what types of plants are native to each area, along with typical local decor, can assist you in constructing your exotic patio area. With these concepts from other countries, you too can feel like you’re on vacation as soon you step outside your home.
Canadian East Coast
East Coast decks are strung with lanterns and lights for evening outdoor entertainment after hard work days. Toss in some Muskoka chairs, teak furniture with bright red Canadian colours for a true Canadian feel. Wood or interlocking stone decking. Ornamental grasses that tolerate salty, humid coastal conditions.
Canadian West Coast
A typical modern West Coast style deck is constructed from locally sourced British Columbia cedar wood, conveniently sourced through Longhouse in Yellow or Western Red Cedar. West Coast patios are open, often accented with modern wicker furniture or teak, and outfitted with an outdoor kitchen. Patio covers are also constructed for our unpredictable rainy weather. Large pots varying heights, of greenery, ornamental grasses and blooms placed thoughtfully throughout the patio space accent our naturally beautiful outdoors as well. Strings of lighting to brighten cool coastal evenings on the patio.
The casual ambience of a Balinese patio offers tufted floor cushions and hanging lanterns for romance. Mix and match seating a further candle light mimic the magical space. Tropical greenery planted (palms) and stone sculptures often accompanied by a water feature.
An outdoor California patio may overlook a pool for an inviting oasis built with paving materials that withstand the sun. The design may incorporate a greenhouse for fresh, organic vegetables. You may find an old growth tree and perhaps a living wall with native plants, built out of reclaimed wood. A pergola climbing with honeysuckle also offers day to night enjoyment. There is also a rich array of wild flowers and palms.
A rose garden is a popular planting with a cosy cottage feel. English gardens are often overflowing with blooms and colourful pots of flowers, and a seating area for much-loved afternoon. Concrete pavers create quaint garden pathways.
Sleek and modern with an aim towards minimalism, showcase the palms flowing in the breeze. Alternately, they may be jazzed up with patterned seat cushions and colourful, tropical throw pillows for comfort. Modern lanterns hung add cool ambiance for late night soirées.
Think European vibes with a Parisian bistro set, beside a lush teak pergola climbing with clematis. Toss on black and white striped cushions for an authentic Parisian feel. French countryside patios often come with a variety of sweet potted plants and a statement repurposed mirror or frame as a focal point.
For a tropical feel, go with bright tropical print cushions, plenty of palm trees swaying, and a cement patio that withstands the humidity. Open-aired Place carved tiki accents and torch lighting for an authentic island feel.
Think Positano without the breathtaking views, unless you’re lucky to already have one of those! Italian marble sculptures are typical for outdoor living spaces, along with potted plants, wisteria, and climbing ivy. Throw in a gazebo for an intimate dining area to search those fresh Italian pasta dishes. Comfortable cushioned chairs, a long dining table for lots of family and friends, and pendant lighting setting the mood.
Beautiful handcrafted Mayan hammocks and dazzling hand painted tiles and pots accent Mexican terraces, along with drought tolerant potted plants. A trellis or pergola adds shade as well. Covered sundeck for plenty of outdoor entertainment as Mexican families love to spend time together enjoying delicious Mexican food. Wood deck made from coconut palm wood.
A Moroccan terrace, you’ll find brilliant coloured cushions, sheer drapes swaying in the breezes for a romantic, laid-back ambience. Elegant and confident. Beautifully patterned textiles mixed in, metal Moroccan style lanterns, and hand painted Moroccan tile flooring. No Moroccan garden is complete without some super-sized palms or heat-loving exotics. Not only do these architectural plants create cool, shaded areas, they also form beautiful shadows on smooth pools of water, they also create a year-round lush garden. Evergreens contrast with richly painted walls too; a common colour scheme used is a deep raspberry pink plaster and aqua-green tiled floor which blends beautifully with the foliage of towering banana plants. Plant them in enormous terra-cotta pots for added impact.
A Turkish patio might be constructed with local marble, accented with brass details, and finished with a terrazzo flooring. Iroko wood is a teak-like material used. Gorgeous Turkish lanterns add warmth and exoticism to the space.
Travel lovers can find all sorts of inspiration observing patio designs. Fortunately, Longhouse is Vancouver Island’s source for amazing outdoor deck design and can bring your exotic patio dreams to fruition.