Though timber is amongst the most sustainable materials, how it is delivered and treated can rank up the overall environmental impact.
• Embodied energy from transport. Most of the timber we use is still imported largely from North America and Scandanavia. Local UK production is stepping-up and starting to provide real alternative sources. Where possible its better to select materials closest to the site.
• Timber treatment. There are plenty of naturally durable timbers that can be used for cladding that don't need treating against fungi and insects. We stay clear of wood treatment where possible.
Countering natural durability is the fact that suppliers provide warranties, typically for 30 years, where timbers are pre-treated.
• Timber coating. Though timber coating can enhance the appearance of timber in many different ways, it does add to the environmental impact. Coating also implies a maintenance regime, which needs to be carefully considered in terms of access and ongoing cost. Uncoated naturally durable timber cladding weathers over a period of time to silver grey. For many, this is a desirable effect, but clients should understand what is going to happen to their colourful timber after installation. In more polluted environments dirt can also be more readily picked up by uncoated timber eventually resulting in blackening of the surface. The rate of surface bleaching can also be uneven due to shading from projections such as eaves, balconies, sills etc.
• Chain of custody. Always use one, preferably FSC.
Some timbers are more expensive than others. Consider the price, the function and the appearance, particularly where using untreated timbers which tend to fade to a similar silver grey.
Choosing untreated timber will in most cases realise the advantage of not needing significant maintenance.
4 Resistance to damage
Some timbers are more vulnerable than others to damage. For example, Western Red Cedar is relatively susceptible to damage and should not be used where it can be vandalised or suffer collision from vehicles at ground level. Consider a more robust species such as European Oak or European Larch in risky locations.
5 Finishes and profiles
• Traditional sawn finishes include profiles 'square-edge' and 'feather-edge'
• Choose a smooth finish with machined profiles such as 'shiplap', 'half lap' 'and TG+V'
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