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Effect of building material on Environment (Timber)


7 to 8 billion acres of land should be replanted in order to overcome the loss caused by the deforestation. Earth Island Institute says that the world trees are cut and burned 30 times faster then they are planted. People of the world need to use less timber and not so wasteful of the resources we have, increase in the demand of timber should be checked as soon as possible, Sustainable Forestry and Eco – labelling are not enough. In developed countries, industrial wood (paper) is largest category of wood used, while fuel wood is the largest category in developing countries.

In compliance with general plantation drive, there should be use of more diverse plantation technique such as sapling on the boundaries of cultivated land as it will also help in getting riddance from soil erosion.

It is now imperative to respond to the environmental crisis: to find, create, develop and promote ethically harvested timber and environment friendly building materials. As we know its famous saying Less Consumption – More Joy.

Majority of timber is accumulated as the building material, so the use of non – timber building alternatives has to be looked upon in order to reduce our need to imprudently consume precious timber resources. Many more methods should be added look upon this such as –

  • Tendering should be done by government for cutting of trees
  • Wood use reduction campaign should be initiated
  • Extra taxation on timber
  • Mainstreaming of non – timber building materials
  • Timber Certification (as its done in Australia). In timber certification, assessment
    is done abould the ecological health of forest, economic viability and social
    impact of logging activities in forest).

Use of less wood in structure

Attempt to reduce wood consumption should not be done blindly on wholesale substitution of other building products for wood framing. Steel framing and cement both are energy exhaustive to produce, and are not necessarily an environmental
improvement over wood framing. Improvisation in design and construction practices can lead to saving in wood consumption. If the construction firms implement the changes in design and site – practices, then we can experience good industry – wide
wood – use reduction.

Engineered wood, for instances, is stronger and more consistent in quality, with less fibre and weight than a solid saw wood products. Use of engineered and well measured component prevents wood wastage from extra cut offs at construction site. Consistent in quality also lead to less rejection of low quality wood at the construction site.

In small towns houses are getting bigger even though family size are decreasing. It is important issue in countries like India where majority of populated places comes under the bar of small towns and villages. The most constructive idea of decreasing the consumption of wood and other building resource is to build smaller and space oriented houses. Use of engineered trusses instead of stick framing allows a substantial reduction in the amount of timber. Engineered wood also use less wood for roof and
floor framing. Wood floor framing should be eliminated and cement concrete flooring with ceramic tiles should be used.

Retrofitting an existing structure is far more energy and resource efficient than constructing a new one. For eg: Seismic retrofitting the existing Earthquake damaged or vulnerable structures is far more convenient then constructing the new structure.

New approach to Timber use for sustainable construction

  1. Second hand material should be used in the place of new timber.
  2. Offcuts should be reused instead of throwing. Off cut problem can be reduced by using more engineered woods.
  3. Use jointed timber as it can be joined on its end by finger joints and metal nail plates or, on its width by various adhesives.
  4. Composite beam use less timber acquiring their strength than pure graded
    timber beams.
  5. Wood recovery should be done at saw mill by radial sawing, band sawing, laser
    sawing etc.

Recycled timber should be used. Recycled timber is extracted from old buildings,
demolished buildings, boats, shed factories etc. Use of recycled wood is also pocket

  1. Old power poles & old railway sleepers could be use (though they are not practical)
  2. Salvaged wood can also be used, their use is environmental friendly because it
    majority cases it comes from dead trees or trees that are cut in town for
    developmental purposes.

Non Timber building materials

  1. Bricks made from sun baked clay
  2. Aluminium (used in window frames and light weight mouldings)
  3. Bamboo (high tensile strength)
  4. Bamboo plywood
  5. Bio-cement
  6. Cement blocks, Concrete
  7. Ferrous Cement (form of reinforced concrete made of wire mesh, sand, water & cement. It reduces mass of material in structure)
  8. Gypsum (forms base of Plaster of Paris and is used in wall lining & flooring)


  • Innovative Civil Engineering Materials from Sewage Sludge: Bio – cement and its use as blended cement materials)
  • Wikipedia – Decrease in forest area
  • Wikipedia – Timber Certification
  • Google search on Retrofitting, radial sawing and band sawing
  • Earth Island Institute

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