Walnut floors and bookshelves gives “warmth”, but at a cost of live trees that take 50 years to grow
The use of ornate wood products in building homes, furniture and ships has been part of humanity since time began. Even the Bible gives note to using wood for ornate construction projects with such examples as King David living in “a palace made of cedar”, and of King Hiram of Tyre sending his best wood craftsmen and “trunks of cedar” to King Solomon in Jerusalem for use in building the First Temple for the Jewish people. With world forests being depleted at a very rapid rate, continued use of wood in architectural projects as well as for furniture has often been put into question as whether this practice is sustainable in today’s climate changing world. Wood can be used as a carbon sink, but what if it’s being shipped around the world?
American black walnut tree in its prime
Wood flooring and even parquet flooring, often makes use of recycled wood products as is planned for a new green eco tower in Tel Aviv Israel. A project in which American walnut hardwood was used in architecture could be an issue in the recently awarded construction of a library at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi. This project, which cost $4 million USD and entailed the use of American walnut hardwood for building the library bookshelves and flooring was selected due to the walnut wood’s beauty and durability. T
he resulting project enabled it to win an award from the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) which is a leading international trade association for the American hardwood industry.
Just positive PR for itself?
The choice of American walnut for use in the library was explained by Carrie Das, design manager with AHK International: “We had chosen to use American walnut across the whole library because of its … straight grained appearance and its durability, being highly resistant to heartwood decay. It was also able to warm the environment and simultaneously provides a modern, classic and comfortable feeling.”
While this beautiful wood certainly does create a feeling of warmth, it undoubtedly did so at the expense of a great number of walnut trees that take much longer to grow to maturity than other types of wood such as pine and fir.
The length of time for re- growth of hardwood trees, including those like oak was recently pointed out following the disastrous Carmel Forest fire in Israel in which more than 30 thousand Dunam (3,000 hectare) for pine and hardwood forest were destroyed in early December 2010. This included a significant portion of forestland and residences at nearby Kibbutz Beit Oren.
“It takes 50 years or longer for hardwood trees to be fully grown” says Sela Rotenberg
Beit Oren’s resident ecologist, Sela Rotenberg explained to Green Prophet that it takes only 15 to 20 years for pine trees to reach maturity; but that hardwood trees like oak take 50 years or longer. This also holds true for replacing the American hardwood trees that were harvested for their wood to construct the Abu Dhabi library.
A more feasible idea, from an ecological standpoint, could involve the use of recycled wood products from doors and other wood products for making parquet flooring and in constructing tables and bookshelves.
It’s not that we are advocating the non-use of wood in designing such projects as the library, but simply to incorporate a more sustainable use of wood by recycling wood already used in other products; thereby saving some live trees. A trend in North America is to re-use old wood. Or to purchase trees grown sustainably and sustainably harvested.
More about wood use issues in building and design:
13 Principals of Sustainable Architecture from Nadir Khalili Student
Recycled Furniture From Middle East Rugs and Doors
Studio Ubico’s Furniture Collection Reincarnates Wood into Trees
Tel Aviv’s $60 Million Sustainable Office Tower A Go