Woodea and the century of wood in construction.

Building construction, wood framing structure at new property development site

…or how the tale of the three little pigs has impacted the planet

Part 1

The classic tale turned into a Disney movie in 1933 has created a misconception about the use of wood in construction, you know… “and he huffed and he puffed…

Established in the collective subconscious that houses built with wood are fragile, associated with people of low working capacity who must resort to others more cautious living in brick houses, the tale has defined constructions of masonry as “success,” and even more so, those of concrete, steel, and glass that allow mere mortals to be seen from the towers of triumph, whose ultimate representation is skyscrapers.

But the wolf changed, and today the wolf we should all fear is the environmental crisis and the health of the planet.

And wood changed; it went from being just “wood” to being “engineered wood,” a new way of using the material in construction with maximum efficiency and utilizing leftovers that had no value before.

Since the ’90s, terms like GLULAM and acronyms like DLT, NLT, and the most well-known CLT (Cross Laminated Timber) have emerged. CLT is nothing more than wooden boards assembled and glued along their short sides and turned and glued along their long sides, forming a continuous wooden panel that is glued and pressed with another panel in the other direction (at 90 degrees) in multiple odd layers of thicknesses up to 0.30m and sizes up to 16m x 3.5m wide.

Constructions made with this material could easily withstand the attacks of the 20th-century wolf (resistance and precariousness; and the blows of the wolf) and those of the 21st century (mainly environmental crises).

Even recognizing the benefits of engineered wood construction to tackle the bigger wolf, that of the 21st century, the environmental crisis, remnants of the 20th-century “three little pigs” persist—preconceptions that need to be changed based on information: fire, resistance, durability, deforestation, price…

Wood in construction: fire resistance

We could go into much detail about this, but currently, there are fire stations made of wood. Is that proof enough? But let’s delve a bit deeper.

Wood has the ability to burn with a very predictable behavior (0.7 mm/min), allowing for careful planning of structure dimensions against fire to ensure safety.

Furthermore, it has excellent resistance to fire penetration due to its low thermal conductivity and its ability to form a surface char layer (pyrolysis) that allows it to maintain its physical and mechanical properties for a longer time than steel and concrete structures.

There’s even another effect: the action of fire increases due to the dehumidification of the resistant capacity, as wood’s resistance is inversely proportional to moisture content.

How can a company like Woodea, born within Zubi Labs, whose goal is positive impact and sustainability, support deforestation? What about deforestation?

The wood we use in our constructions comes from certified forests. In these plantations, only those specimens “ordered” by a forest plan, planted 30, 50, 70, or 100 years ago for that purpose, are cut. Through responsible silviculture (forest cultivation), these plantations help regenerate forests, aiding in carbon sequestration.

There are two major global certification systems, PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) and FSC (Forest Stewardship Council), which oversee both forest utilization and the traceability of all their products. In some cases, they go further, ensuring respect for indigenous peoples, ethics, utilization, inclusion, etc. These seals can be found on almost all woods and paper packaging on the market.

Through responsible and well-managed silviculture, we protect the health of our forests, promoting population growth in rural areas and preventing depopulation while providing effective fire management.

Despite the increase in demand for wood in construction and other multiple uses, in most developed countries, more forest area is regenerated each year than disappears, either through planting or natural regeneration.*

Source: FAO Global Forest Resources Assessment 2020

Wood in construction: maintenance and durability

Now, there are much less violent wolves to deal with…

What about maintenance? Wood is a natural material, and in contrast to other artificial materials that hardly age, it changes its appearance over time. Still, we can use technological means available to delay this aging (heat treatments) or use it previously aged so that it does not change appearance.

And the durability of wood? There are current examples that demonstrate durability is not a problem for wood as a construction material. We can study the Hōryū-ji temple complex near the Japanese city of Nara with five stories built around 600 AD. Another 26 buildings in the complex were built before 800 AD.

Regarding strength, in the tale, if the wolf were an earthquake and the three housing options were subjected to the same stress, the ending would change. Surely in this case, the wooden house would be the safest option due to its greater ductility compared to brick and concrete.

This is because seismic forces are proportional to the weight of the building, and the weight of wood is substantially less than that of other materials (a wooden structure can weigh up to 5 times less than a concrete one). The second reason is that wood has a great elastic capacity; it can absorb significant deformations before failure.

These two elements converge to make engineered wood a highly recommended material for seismic areas.

If we continue presenting the virtues of construction with wood, a material that regenerates naturally 365 days a year, that creates value in sparsely populated areas, that is a “carbon jar,” that is malleable and resistant, precise, highly industrializable, with which new architectures can be built, creating sustainable cities with healthy buildings that provide well-being to their inhabitants and that, once its useful life is over, can be dismantled or partially reused or recycled, we would surely see the “practical pig” working in a nearby warehouse to assemble his wooden house long before the wolf arrives.

We cannot conclude this article in any other way than by joining the call to action of the European Bauhaus and the “Wood4 Bauhaus” movement:

Discover why wood construction is a key factor within the Woodea Production System