Wood is far more versatile than even most wood lovers realize. The idea that wood can only be used for construction and furniture is definitely not accurate. Innovative thinkers, inventors and scientists are turning to wood for a whole range of purposes, which only makes sense; after all, wood is cheap, renewable and ubiquitous. Wood has been a key part of human civilization since the very beginning and its uses are far from being exhausted. In this article, we will take a closer look at a few cutting edge uses of this beloved natural material. Today, wood is being used in some truly surprising and innovative ways.
Cutting Edge Use #1 – Wood Skyscrapers
Not too long ago the idea of a wood skyscraper would have seemed far-fetched, but in recent years, builders and architects have turned to wood as a renewable way to build all kinds of structures, including skyscrapers.
The Pacific Northwest has become home to many such projects. For example, in the city of Portland, Oregon, a 12-story wood building called Framework is taking advantage of cross-laminated timber to build strong structures out of wood. Building out of wood makes a lot of sense in the Pacific Northwest as the area is literally covered in trees. Once completed this wood building will be one of the tallest wood structures in America. Lever Architecture, which is based in Portland, is overseeing this exciting project. LEVER Architecture is pioneering the development of what they call “mass timber building in the United States and have several projects in the works. LEVER was founded in 2009 by Thomas Robinson who holds a Master in Architecture from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design.
Part of what makes building with wood so attractive is that a building like LEVER’s Framework works to sequester carbon. By contrast, concrete manufacturing produces large amounts of carbon dioxide. The cross-laminated timber being used is, shockingly, stronger than concrete and has the considerable added benefits of being lighter and possessing a lower carbon footprint. Buildings like LEVER’s Framework might be unusual now but in the near future such buildings may in fact be commonplace. As it turns out, wood has a real future in construction even in the construction of skyscrapers.
In 2015, French architecture made headline when the world’s tallest wooden skyscraper was proposed for Paris, as part of the design competition “Reinventer Paris.” You can read more about it in this CNN article.
Don’t be surprised if you see a “plyscraper” pop up in a city near you.
Cutting Edge Use #2 – Transparent Wood Windows
Transparent wood windows may sound a lot like science fiction, but as it turns out scientists have indeed figured out a way to make wood semi-transparent. Researchers at Stockholm’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology have done what would have seemed to be the impossible by developing transparent wood. Not only is the new wood product invisible, but it is also potentially inexpensive, yet the news gets even better.
As it turns out, the transparent wood they’ve developed is also a good material for solar cells. The semi-transparent nature of the new product means that light could come into a structure while at the same time maintaining privacy. All of this means that we could someday have wooden skyscrapers that also have their own transparent wooden windows! Visit Science Daily to learn more about the new wood breakthrough from KTH Royal Institute of Technology.
Cutting Edge Use #3 – Wood Batteries
Now, if you are thinking that transparent wood is pretty amazing and unexpected then you’ll love wooden batteries. Wooden batteries would be a fantastic development for the environment. Commonly used batteries contain toxic compounds and heavy metals. Those toxic compounds and heavy metals find their way into our water supply, our food supply and eventually into our bodies. Removing even a fraction of these toxic compounds out of the battery manufacturing process would be a huge win for the planet and people alike.
Researchers at the University of Maryland have come up with a great idea. They have taken wood fibers and coated those fibers with tin. The end result is a small and potentially long lasting battery that would also be environmentally friendly. An additional benefit to wood batteries is that unlike other batteries, wood batteries would be flexible giving them a range of new uses. Stay tuned to see what the future of wood batteries holds. Someday, you could be looking out of a translucent wood window in a wooden skyscraper while holding your cell phone which is powered by a wood battery!
Cutting Edge Use #4 – Cork is Ready in the Here and Now
While wood batteries and transparent wooden windows may still be a few years off, one of the most cutting edge uses of wood is happening in the here and now. Once overlooked as a building material, eco-friendly and versatile cork is gaining in popularity. Cork has the advanced of being extremely eco-friendly in that cork trees are not cut down after their bark is stripped to make cork. Cork trees can, in fact, be used for up to thirty years.
Many people associate cork with wine bottle stoppers and not much else, but cork has made its way into everything from sound absorption tiles to building tiles and floor tiles and much more. One of the easiest ways to see a cutting-edge use of wood is to buy a cork product. Cork is naturally water repellant, durable, lightweight and of course, eco-friendly. Check out our recent article exploring cork in greater depth.
Simply stated, wood isn’t going out of style. Instead, wood is here to stay and will actually be gaining in popularity. The flexibility of wood is such that there seems to be no end to what wood can do. In the future, we may be using much more wood instead of less and that is a pretty exciting prospect.
The Boulder Creek TV Stand has the curved silhouette, arched panels and ebony inlaying that are the Boulder Creek line’s signature features. We’re showing the 63” TV stand, but many sizes are available. This TV stand has 3 sliding front doors. The central compartment comes standard with a mullioned glass door, shelves for electronic units and has a hole for cords in the back. Behind the side doors, it’s a great idea to customize each side compartment for your needs. Here we’re showing full extension drawers on the right, and shelves on the left. This wood is quarter-sawn white oak with Golden Brown stain.
The Barrington Dining Chair is a traditional-style chair whose design adds comfort. Traditional or Queen Anne designs feature curves, and the Barrington chair uses this theme to contour the back splat for lumbar support. It also has a contoured saddle scoop seat. For even more comfort, you may add upholstery or arms. We’re showing the side chair in quarter-sawn white oak with Michael’s Cherry stain.
Do you want to see more wood in the world around us? Many people believe that sleek and innovative structures must use materials like glass and steel or even more exotic materials such as polymers or carbon fiber; however, this isn’t the situation. One of man’s oldest building materials, good old-fashion wood, is alive in well in modern architecture.It is a design trend that we believe is just now taking off and we should be seeing more of it in the coming years!
Clever and forward-thinking architects have been able to use wood to create some truly amazing, and often unexpected structures. Wood has many benefits over its more “modern” and technologically oriented building materials. Wood can be renewable, nonpolluting and have a much lower carbon footprint than other materials.
Far from being out of date, wood is beginning to enjoy a considerable renaissance amongst today’s leading architects and builders. As the world increasingly looks for greener ways to build everything necessary for modern society, it is quite likely that wood will continue to enjoy renewed interest and use for today’s leading builders and architects.
Let’s take a look at a few of the most innovative wood structures that have been built in recent years. These structures prove that wood can simultaneously be versatile, green, cost effective and innovative.
Innovative Wooden Structure #1 Pallet Homes
The world literally has billions of pallets. Manufacturing pallets is cheap due to the scale of production. Visit any loading dock or factory and you are sure to see a seemingly endless supply of these durable and cheap workhorses.
In recent years, many savvy builders and architects have turned to pallets as a way to quickly and easily build a range of structures. Pallet construction has been seen as a way to provide low cost housing in the third world as well as emergency housing in disaster locations. In short, innovative thinkers have realized the tremendous potential of pallets. Much as builders and architects have seen and embraced the potential of building homes and structures out of shipping containers, the same holds true for building with pallets. Of course, pallet construction has a major benefit over shipping container construction in that pallets are renewable.
Those looking to see the full potential of pallet homes and pallet construction can look at Paletten Haus. Paletten Haus is the brain child of two students at the University of Vienna. In 2008, the Paletten Haus won the GAUDI Europen Student Competition on Sustainable Architecture and they did it by using old pallets.
The idea behind Paletten Haus was that it was a viable ultra-low cost building option. While the construction and concept behind building the Paletten Haus was exceptional, there have been other ideas for building using pallets as well. Many tiny home enthusiasts have turned to pallet homes as a way to build quick and cheap structures that are also durable and, with the right design, visually pleasing as well.
Around the Internet, you can find a variety of plans and concepts for building with pallets. At 99Pallets, you can even find plans for building your own tiny pallet home. As 99Pallets points out, it is important to remember that pallets are usually treated with chemicals due to the nature of their use.
If you are chemically sensitive or have children, this could be an issue and you may want to buy untreated pallets or simply skip a pallet home altogether. 101 Pallet Ideas also has a DIY tutorial for how to build your own tiny pallet cabin. 101 Pallet Ideas, much as the name indicates, also does a great job of outlining the tremendous flexibility of using pallets for construction.
Innovative Wooden Structure #2 The Skateboard House
You did indeed read the headline correctly, the Skateboard House, was in fact built with indoor skateboarding in mind. What could be more fun that incorporating one’s favorite hobby into one’s home?
Now, if you love skateboarding this is clearly a dream come true! This has to be one of the more innovative homes out there and certainly does an excellent job showcasing all that wood can do. It is hard to imagine this fun home being built using any other material than wood and further demonstrates wood’s exceptional versatility.
If the idea of skateboarding in your home and doing so in a variety of ways sounds like fun to you then you’ll definitely want to take a closer look at the clever, cool and innovative skateboard house! Check out this rad concept by visiting Bored Panda.
Architecture Art Design magazine has also gotten pretty excited about the skateboard house. In the version that they highlight on their website, the wall becomes part of the continuous surface and even the furniture can be skated on.
Innovative Wooden Structure #3 Wood Skyscrapers
If you think a skateboard house is a surprising idea for a wooden structure, then you’ll really be shocked to learn that wood is making its way into skyscraper design. Most people when they hear the word “skyscraper” think of lots of metal, concrete and glass. But recently architects have turned their attention to building skyscrapers out of wood.
The University of British Columbia is building an 18-story resident building for students using wood. The project uses cross-laminated pieces that produce strength comparable to steel and reinforced concrete. You can learn more about using wood for skyscrapers by visiting Architect Magazine.
Wood isn’t “going out of style” as many have believed, instead wood is being seen as a building material of the future and for good reason. Wood is renewable and has a lower carbon footprint than other building materials. The fact that wood can often be grown close to where it will ultimately be used means far less energy is spent in the transporting of wood.
Today’s forward thinking builders and architects see a great future in building with wood, and that is something that should make us all happy.
The Ava Hutch is an elegant take on the traditional style with straight lines over woodturned bun feet. Laura is showing the two-door closed hutch with straw leaded glass; the wood is brown maple with coffee stain.
Inside the hutch are LED lights and a convenient touch switch. This hutch has two adjustable glass shelves, but you may order a third shelf. There is also an adjustable wood shelf inside the buffet. As usual, the buffet base on its own is just as beautiful in homes that don’t need the full hutch.
The Albany Dining Chair is a spindle chair with a Windsor base, a solid head rest, and just enough contouring for your comfort. We’re showing this chair with black paint and a distressed look, perfect for a country kitchen table. We have a variety of paints and stains, and you can call us to order a custom finish. Depending on how you finish the Albany, it can look great in a modern, classic or transitional dining room.
This chair is also available with arms, with an office chair gas lift base, or as a bar stool with swivel seat. A unique option with this Albany Dining Chair is a kick plate for the bar stool. Add upholstery options and you have virtually unlimited styles.
Woodworking can be amazingly rewarding and fun. The end result can be useful, functional works of art that one can be proud of and even share with others. The simple fact is that woodworking is a significant life skill that can pay dividends in a variety of ways.
While the world is full of an increasingly wide array of building and construction materials, it still plays a central role in our lives. In short, woodworking has a lot to offer, but that doesn’t mean that there are no safety concerns. Many safety concerns are obvious, but other woodworking safety concerns are less apparent and can lead to health problems and even disaster.
In this article, we will dive in and explore a few of the more overlooked hazards associated with woodworking. Luckily, these hazards have easy fixes and workarounds.
Hazard 1 – Danger to the Eyes
You’re unlikely to forget the importance of protecting your hands from saws, for example, while woodworking. But eye protection can be a different story. One of reasons that you should always wear protective eyewear is that it is a good habit to develop. It may seem silly to use eye protection with simple and quick jobs, but freak accidents have earned their name.
Simply stated, you never know when a strange twist of fate can cause wood fragments toward your eyes. Additionally, when you get into the habit of always wearing protective eyewear, you’ll never have to worry about forgetting to wear protective glasses or goggles during a more dangerous part of your woodworking.
Protecting your eyes might seem obvious to some experienced woodworkers, but unfortunately it is an area many newbies really do overlook.
Hazard 2 – Avoid Chemical Exposure from Glues, Varnishes and Paints
Woodworking is usually about much more than simply working with wood. Most woodworkers at some stage or another are also likely to work with a range of glues, varnishes, paints, strippers and other chemical agents. These chemical agents can be dangerous in a range of ways. Handling certain chemicals without gloves can be dangerous, and that means that some woodworking projects can require special gloves, such as rubberized gloves.
Chemicals also mean chemical fumes. Woodworkers need well ventilated spaces for several reasons. Many woodworkers realize that they need proper ventilation to keep from inhaling wood dust. But many people overlook the need for ventilation associated with chemical fumes.
Investing in an air purification system doesn’t have to be expensive. There are plenty of online videos for how woodworkers can construct their own woodshop fans that incorporate filters. A good workshop filter will help reduce your exposure to both wood dust and chemical fumes.
Hazard 3 – Unique Dangers of Reclaimed Wood
Stating that reclaimed wood can be dangerous might at first seem a little sensationalistic. But unfortunately there are some real dangers with some reclaimed wood. Reclaimed wood isn’t like working with the kind of wood that many woodworkers have grown accustomed to using.
The majority of woodworkers work with new growth wood. Since this more common type of wood comes from younger trees, it is much softer than most reclaimed wood. Reclaimed wood often comes from old growth trees, and this means it is much tougher as a result. Working with reclaimed wood is different as you need to plan to encounter more resistance when cutting.
Another key hazard with reclaimed wood is that some reclaimed wood, if it was previously painted, can contain lead paint. You should never assume that a piece of painted reclaimed wood is safe to use. At bare minimum, you should use a lead testing kit to verify that the wood does not have lead paint. Stripping wood with lead paint can release dangerous and toxic lead into your environment.
There is zero safe level of lead. Always remember that lead is extremely dangerous for children to be around. So if you have children that want to assist with your projects, you are best off saying no if your reclaimed wood has any old paint on it. Stripping wood with lead paint with a sander will spread the lead paint into small particles, essentially spreading it out into your environment and contaminating your surroundings. Once lead is particularized it can be extremely dangerous, as it easy to inhale.
The bottom line is that unless you are an expert with lead safety protocols and procedures you should steer clear of working with lead painted wood. It simply isn’t worth the risk.
Hazard 4 – The Untidy Workshop
Saw dust and wood burns quickly. Now, while this fact might be obvious, it is easy to let wood pieces, fragments and sawdust pile up. But this is a very bad idea. If you also have chemicals and paints in your workshop, then your excess wood can be all the more dangerous.
Removing extra wood and sawdust from your shop and keeping open flames far away are two woodworking essentials. The dangers of sawdust are often completely overlooked. Likewise, any oily areas that you have lying around your shop may be a very serious fire hazard. A fire in a woodworking shop can spread very quickly. Bag up and properly dispose of your sawdust and other excess word on a project by project basis. Your woodworking shop should be clean, neat and free of open flames and potentially dangerous heaters at all times.
Not every woodworking shop hazard is obvious, and also every woodworking shop is different. Factors including the layout of your specific space, as well as your regional climate and ventilation (and many other issues too) all combine to make each woodworking safety environment unique and different from the next. The most important shop safety tip to follow is to constantly access and reevaluate the safety of your shop. Once an accident has taken place, it is too late.
When you think of cork, what first comes to your mind? Perhaps wine bottle corks? Cork has long been thought of as something that is used for wine bottles and not much else. But as it turns out, cork is one of the more versatile and interesting materials at our disposal, especially when it comes to our homes. The diverse ways that cork can be used are nothing sort of stunning. Perhaps best of all is the fact that cork is environmentally friendly and safe.
Whether it’s being used in sound proofing, flooring tiles or a range of other uses, cork stands as one of nature’s most impressive materials. The simple fact is that while cork may not be “new and sexy” there is no denying it’s benefits. If you want a greener and healthier home then you’ll want to opt for cork whenever possible. In this article, we will explore the diverse ways that cork is being used as well as its many benefits.
1.Cork is Environmentally Friendly
First, it is important to note that cork is viewed as being environmentally friendly and for good reason. Typically, wood products depend on wood being harvested from trees; this of course means that trees must be cut down to provide the wood used in the form of lumber.
Cork, however, is quite different. Cork harvesting does not require trees to be cut down. Instead, the bark of a tree is removed and harvested in order to create the cork. The tree then regrows its valuable cork. Since cork is completely renewable and requires no trees to be cut down, cork is seen as a very environmentally friendly product. Combine all of these facts and it becomes clear that cork is an outstanding, if not overlooked, material.
2.Cork Can Be Great Home Insulation
In understanding why cork is so impressive it is first key to understand cork’s properties. Cork is used in wine bottles due to the fact that it is practically impermeable, but that is only the beginning. Cork is also naturally fire retardant and has both acoustic and insulating properties. This combination of properties means that cork is an ideal choice for home insulation.
3.Cork Has Acoustic Properties
Those worried about chemical insulations and the health hazards that they bring will, will find that cork is an interesting and compelling alternative. Today, cork tiles are uses in flooring for many reasons. One of the top reasons cork tiles are appearing with greater and greater frequency in homes is that cork tiles have acoustic properties.
If you want to keep noise from traveling from one floor to the next then cork flooring can do the trick. While there are plenty of other sound absorption options, cork has the benefit of being natural and renewable.
4.Cork Doesn’t Trigger Allergies
Individuals with chemical sensitivities will really love all that cork has to offer. New cork can smell upon initial installation, but the truth is that cork is generally a non-allergenic product and is considerably safer than chemical-based options.
5.Cork Resists Mold Growth
Plus, unlike most other forms of insulation, cork is highly resistant to water damage and thus mold growth. Mold is a constant concern for homeowners but those who opt for cork insulation have a little less to worry about. For homeowners living in colder, wetter climates, the benefits of cork all around can be rather substantial.
6.Cork Board is Also Easy to Use and Loaded with Benefits
Considering all of these facts it is no great surprise that cork insulation is a winner. Products such as cork board help underscore the versatility of cork as a building and insulation product.
Cork board is all natural and does not require glues or binders, which is important for those with chemical sensitives are looking to achieve a high indoor air quality. Glues and binders are some of the more problematic areas when it comes to air quality issues and cork easily addresses this issue.
Cork board also has a good R-value meaning that it functions well as an insulator, meets fire-safety requirements and even qualifies for LEED credits. Additionally, cork insulation is durable while at the same time biodegradable. The biodegradable nature of cork is such that cork products can easily be recycled and contain no harmful chemicals. It is possible to find cork board and cork insulation that is made from waste that comes from the cork stopper industry. Recently, cork has even been used for the facades of buildings, due to its insulation properties, durability and exceptional acoustic insulation properties.
7.Cork Can Make Amazing Flooring
Both cork flooring in the form of tiles and cork insulation are also becoming increasingly popular in home construction and remodeling due to the fact that they are easy to use. Cork flooring and tiles are lighter weight and easier to cut and place than stone tiles. Cork flooring is more durable than linoleum and other engineered flooring products and does not have the degassing issues associated with petroleum based tile and flooring options.
Sound absorbing cork tiles are also a good option for those looking for ways to reduce sound while also avoiding degassing. Sound absorption tiles are usually made from chemicals and can provide significant issues for those with chemical sensitives or homeowners looking to improve indoor air quality.
Even Your Wine Corks Can Be Useful
We started out this article mentioning wine corks. Now that we’ve pointed out so many benefits to cork, perhaps you’re a little less eager to throw away those handy plugs that keep our wine so well-plugged. If you’re looking for ideas for what to do with your old corks, check out this great article at This Old House. Their creative ideas range from making mulch to making doorstops.
The future is very bright for this versatile, eco-friendly and green building product. Cork may be more expensive than other options, but there are many benefits that make up for the difference in cost. The fact that cork products tend to last much longer than other options is a significant benefit. If you are looking for an eco-friendly product with superior capabilities, you’ll want to check out how cork can benefit your home.
The 4 Post High Back Chair and a Half Glider gets its name from being wider than your average living room chair. This chair is perfect for a grandparent and child to spend time together. Its glider provides more support than a rocker and is easier on your floor.
We’re showing this chair in oak with acorn stain. This fabric is 28-10 Ro Ann. We have numerous upholstery options in fabric, leather, faux leather, and recycled fabric.
While the chair and a half’s size gives it special function, you can also use it to add big style to statement rooms.
Wood is often underappreciated, and even taken for granted. But the truth is that there is a tremendous difference between old growth wood and new growth wood. The idea that “wood is wood” is simply inaccurate.
Just as there are substantial hardness and durability differences between particular types of wood, the same holds true when contrasting old growth wood and new growth wood. In this article, we will explore a few of the key benefits of old growth wood. When it comes to wood, old is quite often better.
Benefit #1 – Old Growth Wood is Tough, Very Tough
At the top of the list of reasons that you’ll want to consider old growth wood is its toughness. Old growth wood comes from trees that are old, often hundreds of years old. Old trees are denser and as a result much sturdier; after all, they have withstood the test of time!
It is no accident that old growth wood is prized. In fact, it is common for buildings that used old growth wood, such as old school buildings, barns and other older buildings to have their old growth wood reclaimed. If an old building is being torn down or renovated, builders often even go out of their way to reclaim and resell the old growth wood.
The durability and toughness of old growth wood means that it will always find a second or even third life whether in flooring or in wood furniture. Reclaimed old growth wood is often used to make long-lasting and impressive furniture; furniture that will stand the test of time.
The strength of reclaimed old growth wood has other benefits as well. Thanks to its strength, old growth wood can bear heavier loads. I has the capability to do so across considerably longer spans than new growth wood.
Benefit #2 – Old Growth Wood is Good for the Planet
Using old growth wood means using wood that has already been processed, and that means lowering your carbon footprint. New growth wood has another unexpected benefit. Not only has old growth wood not been recently cut down, but it also has not been processed and that saves energy.
These factors all add up to increase your carbon footprint. Opting to use old growth wood building materials, especially in a project like the building of a new home, can substantially improve a project’s overall sustainability. Using old growth wood is essentially an excellent form of recycling. Reclaimed timber builds both a strong home and helps the environment at the same time; it is a true win-win.
Benefit #3 – It’s Rot Resistant
No wood is rot proof, but old growth wood is far more rot resistant than new growth wood. As any woodworker or builder will tell you, water and wood don’t mix.
When it comes to the benefits of old growth wood, rot resistance ranks high on the list. Obviously no wood is rot proof, but old growth wood provides far more rot resistance than new growth wood. The same softness that makes new growth wood weaker than old growth wood also means that new growth wood is more susceptible to rot. Play it safe and opt for old growth wood whenever possible.
Benefit #4 – It’s Beautiful
There is a charm and appeal to old growth wood that is unique. Simply stated, old growth wood is stunning. The world’s most beautiful furniture and artwork is usually created with old growth wood. The intricate, natural patterns in old growth wood, patterns created over hundreds of years, cannot effectively be reproduced.
Looked at another way, old growth wood is a work of art created over time by nature and the results can yield unforgettable artwork and furniture.
The possibilities are virtually limitless for how old wood can be put into use in new applications.
It looks stunning when it is used for wood flooring, rustic furniture, musical instruments, exposed headers and even open beam ceilings. The truth is that the sky is the limit for what you can use this wood for; so feel free to use your imagination.
Benefit #5 – Not Quite as Attractive to Termites
No wood is rot proof. Likewise, no wood, not even an old growth hardwood, is termite proof. If only life were that easy. If you are living in a termite zone like the southern part of the United States, then no wood is potentially off limits to termites.
However, the good news here is that old growth wood is harder and denser, and that means termites are often less interested in it. New growth wood is a different story, for once again, new growth wood, being softer, is simply easier to chew through. Take a look at a close-up picture of the jaws on a termite and you’ll quickly realize just how quickly a group of hungry termites can gobble their way through new wood. Once again, old growth wood is a different story!
Benefit #6 – Heirloom Quality
Thanks to its great durability, whether it is a home, a table or any other item, anything made with old growth wood can be passed from one generation to the next. The cheap pressed wood furniture found in the big box stores isn’t built to last.
In fact, pressed wood furniture is literally in a constant state of decay. Your grandchildren won’t be using the pressed wood table you bought from your local big box store in fifty years, or likely even in fifteen. One of the key benefits of old growth wood is that it will, when properly cared for, last for generations.
Added together the benefits are clear. Old growth wood is special. People who know wood understand that old growth wood is superior to younger woods. Younger woods simply don’t have the durability or the visual appeal so often found in old growth wood. Furniture that uses old growth wood might be a little more expensive than other options, but for those looking for the best investment possible, one that will last a lifetime and beyond, there really is no replacement for old growth wood.