Why use wood?

Wood is perhaps the most elemental human material. Used for thousands of years for buildings, tools and fire, the basic staples of civilisation and commerce.

Over time, the role of wood in our society has altered. As humanity made its progression through the stone, bronze and iron ages, the tide turned from living materials to metals and petrochemicals, culminating in the industrial revolution.

Wood was relegated as old-fashioned, rustic, idiosyncratic material, with its use often a deliberate anachronism in the brave new world.

But this story is changing.

Over the last century, many forward thinkers have been at work to redefine wood as a material fit for the modern world, and today we stand at a crossroads where the opportunities for wood to play a central part in our future are more clear than ever.

Currently, many of the materials we use in the engineering and architectural sectors are incredibly energy intensive. Materials which are extracted and refined have often been storing carbon for millions of years, which is released during their processing. The cement industry, for example, is the second largest producer of carbon dioxide globally.

The process of creating wood has the opposite effect. Carbon dioxide and water are absorbed into the structure of the wood whilst it grows. This means that when we use wood to create products and buildings, carbon is being locked away inside them.

Even when wood is burned, the net carbon released into the atmosphere over the lifetime of the tree is zero. In contrast, when coal or other hydrocarbons are burned, carbon which was captured millions of years ago is released, from a time where the atmospheric makeup was very different to today.

Engineering wood for the future

Having fallen out of mainstream favour in its raw form, developments in engineered wood are expanding the possibilities for using wood in modern industrial contexts. Glulam beams and parallel strand lumber allow smaller wood pieces to be attached together to span large distances, as strong as rolled steel joists and a tenth of the weight.

Finger-jointing techniques are likewise allowing smaller wood pieces to be used together to create viable lengths, reducing the dependence on large, single piece timber sourced from old growth forests.

At the centre of the engineered wood revolution is Plywood. Coupled with modern CAD and CNC machining technology, the 150 year-old material is reaching levels of complexity and precision unimaginable when it was first introduced. This development is making it very attractive to be using in engineering and architectural applications, due to its excellent strength to weight ratio and cost benefits.

Cambian are making our mark on this story by consistently leading the industry in producing the highest quality engineered wood projects, working together with clients pushing the boundaries of their industry.