We asked Material Specialist, Adele Orcajada to talk about a trend we are very much aware of, the use of reclaimed timber.
By Adele Orcajada
With the world increasingly taking an interest in protecting the planet, designers and artists worldwide are looking towards reclaimed materials wherever possible. And in particular, the use of reclaimed wood has never been more in demand. Not only is it a renewable resource, this material is also admired for its aesthetic properties and statement-making appeal. No piece of reclaimed wood is ever the same, making every piece unique.
Over the centuries, wood has been a key building material. Dating back to about 8,500 BC, wood is the world’s second oldest building material, predated only by brick. During the Industrial Revolution, wood consumption became particularly high and then further increased right after World War II. As a result, by the mid-twentieth century, old-growth wood, that is, wood from trees that grew naturally for over a 100 years, became increasingly rare. Still today, old-growth wood is still highly sought after because it’s extremely durable. As a tree ages, its wood grows denser and stronger, which is ideal for building.
As we look into a future with dwindling resources, architects and designers are seeking to create buildings that contribute more than they consume from the earth, and repurposed wood ticks all the boxes. It still provides the visual and tactile warmth of wood but also has a lower ecological footprint than other materials—including virgin wood. Choosing reclaimed wood utilises an existing resource and eliminates the need to cut down living trees, protecting living old-growth trees from being unnecessarily cut down. During the cutting, processing and transport of new wood, much energy is expended while, reclaimed wood requires fewer resources and therefore, consumes less energy in the process.
There are many approaches to sourcing reclaimed wood, but post-industrial and post-consumer are the most common. Designers use their eye for aesthetics to uncover sources where quality wood is considered a waste product and is slated for landfill, wood chipper or firewood pile. From old cladding and furniture to even the shavings covering the floors of joineries, or the branches collected after pruning- wood waste is an available resource just waiting to be transformed.
The rise of biophilic design has also contributed to the increase in demand for reclaimed wood. Designers and architects realised that this material helps people feel better and that they look forward to being in a space made where wood is predominant. The presence of wood lowers heart rates and stress responses, so occupants feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally. Wood is a warm, tactile material that often has a light scent that can connect us back to nature. When used in combination with other elements such as natural light and greenery it results in a sensory environment optimized for human well-being.
Who are the designers and makers working with reclaimed wood?
Timber Terrazzo by Foresso
Foresso produces a highly aesthetic composite material called Timber Terrazzo that is made with FSC certified British timber, cement, resin binders, and wood waste and shavings from planing machines. The high quality timber that would otherwise be burned due to its odd size or the inclusion of knots and defects inspired Conor Taylor, the creator behind this material. Finished by hand and sealed with hardwax oil, it is a practical sheet material available in standard 2.4 x 1.2 m sheets. Set on a birch plywood substrate, it requires no specialist equipment to alter or install, and can be cut using standard woodworking tools or CNC machined to fit any project.
Spelk! By Orla Lawn
UK-based Material and Surface Designer Orla Lawn created this innovative surface material called Spelk!, inspired by the luxurious marble veneers of early 20th century interior design. Spelk! is a fresh take on decorative plywood panelling, but elevating it to an elegant surface product. By enhancing the natural textures and tones of the engineered wood board, a unique and unpredictable pattern is achieved by Orla, with no two pieces being the same. The natural beauty of the wood strands is accentuated by contrasting colours and finishes in the material. The material is perfect for use on walls, floors and in furniture.
Acoustic Pulp by Baux,
The 100% bio-based BAUX Acoustic Pulp panel is the first in the world to uncompromisingly combine the performance properties of sound absorption, safety and durability with sustainability and modern aesthetics. The result is a product that is harmless for humans and harmless for the environment.
Designed by Form Us With Love and manufactured by Sweden-based company Baux, the material is made from sustainably harvested Swedish Fir and Pine trees (contributing cellulose), non-GMO wheat bran (providing color and strength), potato starch, plant-derived wax and citrus fruit peels (as bio-binder). Recycled water is used for production, and there is no use of chemicals. The 100 % biodegradable material leaves behind no pollution or waste. It is lightweight, durable, water repellent and fire retardant.
The laser enhanced geometric surfaces of the panels are inspired by Origami folding techniques. To further amplify strength, the back face of BAUX Acoustic Pulp panels is also carefully designed using a honeycomb structure, often found inside the wings of aircrafts and spaceships. The honeycomb structure helps minimize the amount of material used without compromising the product’s strength. Since adding paint would have negated the vision of creating a 100%-bio-based product, here color is achieved using different percentages of wheat bran—0, 5 and 30%.
Even though reclaimed wood began as a design trend, it has become much more than a fad. Designers and material makers are pushing the boundaries and finding exciting and new ways to incorporate wood into our spaces and environments. It’s sustainable nature and scientifically backed benefits have made it consistently one of the material choices for architecture and design. Building, making and crafting is greener and more health-centric than ever before, and reclaimed wood is one of the materials that will allow designers move forward in a more positive, sustainable direction.
Note: Paragon also work with reclaimed timber, if we can be of assistance don’t hesitate to get in touch.