. Fittingly, reclaimed wood has a long and storied past. The reclaiming of wood stretches back to the early twentieth century with methods evolving over time. Here’s an abridged history of reclaimed wood and a look into its impact on contemporary architecture and design.
, predated only by brick. Wood consumption was particularly high during the Industrial Revolution and
in the period following World War II. As a result, by the mid-twentieth century, old-growth wood, wood from trees that grew naturally for over a 100 years, became increasingly rare. Old-growth wood is still sought after today because it’s extremely durable. As a tree age, its wood grows denser and stronger, which is ideal for building.
. However, old-growth wood still exists in many buildings, especially those built in the early twentieth century. Since this wood is so valuable, it’s often reclaimed from older buildings that have fallen or been demolished. When architects are in search of high-quality wood that will serve as a visual and load bearing component, they often seek to spec reclaimed old growth wood.
Reclaimed Wood and Sustainability
Reclaimed wood delivers on aesthetics, but there are two central reasons why reclaimed wood has surged in popularity, sustainability and depth of supply. Architects and designers are seeking to create buildings that contribute more than they consume from the earth. Choosing reclaimed wood utilizes an existing resource and eliminates the need to cut down living trees. When builders elect to use reclaimed wood, it is a sustainable option that further protects living old-growth trees from being unnecessarily cut down.
Over time, there has become more aware of full impact cost for materials, and commercial architects and designers have become more tuned in to energy costs that come with sourcing new wood. During the cutting, processing, and transport of new wood, much energy is expended in various forms. Reclaimed wood requires fewer resources and thus, consumes less energy in the process.
, but post-industrial and post-consumer are the most common. At TerraMai, we look for any instance where quality wood is considered a waste product and is slated for the landfill, wood chipper or firewood pile. Working with sourcing partners to salvage this discarded wood ensures our deep and continuous supply of beautiful reclaimed woods. We also like the idea of salvaging wood so it can be used for its highest use potential with the hope that reclaimed wood can have many lives and be repurposed again at some point.
Typically, the salvaged wood is dried, milled, and finished with stain, oil or poly to prepare the wood for its end application. When the character of reclaimed wood is preserved and the material is finished, it’s often the most beautiful it’s ever been in its lifetime. Reclaimed wood can be a utilitarian component as well as contribute charm and a timelessness to space. It’s a win-win; builders gain aesthetic and functional advantages while preserving trees and what remains of old-growth forests.
The use of green building materials like reclaimed wood is also helpful for buildings pursuing various certifications such as LEED, WELL, and Living Building Challenge. Since reclaimed wood is both sustainable and
, it positively impacts both humans and the natural environment. This, in turn, satisfies requirements of many building standards.
Like artisanal goods, reclaimed wood embodies the essence of craftsmanship and brings an authenticity reminiscent of simpler times. While it first enjoyed popularity as a niche product, reclaimed wood quickly became a standard material for commercial projects. At first, its use was common for businesses like coffee shops and restaurants that aimed to evoke an artisanal atmosphere. It swiftly crossed over to commercial buildings and has since become a favored choice for spaces like offices, restaurants, and hotels. As health and wellness benefit data surfaces, reclaimed wood is finding its way more and more into hospitals, schools, and retirement homes.
center around a deeper connection to nature and reclaimed wood is a natural biophilic fit. It excels at fostering a material connection with nature, and its natural patina can connect occupants to natural systems, which creates an environment that is “relaxing, nostalgic, profound, or enlightening, and frequently anticipated” according to Jones Walker in
Terrapin Bright Green
. In other words, wood helps people feel better and look forward to being in a space.
that can improve how people feel, work, and interact in a space. The presence of wood lowers heart rates and stress responses, so occupants feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally. When used in conjunction with biophilic elements like natural light and greenery, or in spaces meant for refuge or collaboration, reclaimed woods’ effect intensifies, resulting in a built environment optimized for human well-being.
When architect & design experts realized the benefits of reclaimed wood in commercial projects, word began to spread and reclaimed wood use began to really grow. At this point, reclaimed wood ceased to be a mere trend and became something more significant. The broader adoption of reclaimed wood coincided with the new era of sustainability in A&D. Now, more than ever, the focus on environmental friendliness, biophilic design and occupant wellness encourages builders to seek out greener materials and methods. And, reclaimed wood, while providing an eco-friendly option, can hit a designer’s aesthetic vision.
Even though reclaimed wood began as a design trend, it has become much more than a fad. Its sustainable nature and scientifically backed benefits have made it consistently one of the best green building material choices for commercial projects. Reclaimed wood is also a major signifier of the future of the Architecture & Design industry. The building is greener and more health-centric than ever before, and reclaimed wood is one of the many vehicles that have allowed A&D to move forward in a more positive, sustainable direction.
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