How Wood is Being Used to Build Just About Everything

  • Plastic alternative made from no fossil-based materials, 98% wood fibers and reduces carbon footprint by up to 80%
  • The hottest selling kids toys: 3D wooden mechanical robot puzzles and projects
  • Thousand foot tall timber skyscrapers the size of the Empire State Building are on the horizon

Who would have thought that the earliest human civilizations were building with the same materials that the 21st century would turn towards to combat the climate crisis? Primitive structures, tools, weapons and boats were originally made from sticks, leaves and timber… the original clean tech. As we move away from plastics and resource intensive building materials with high carbon footprints, we find ourselves returning to wood with a wave of newly innovated products and technologies. From thousand foot tall timber sky scrapers to wooden t-shirts and shoes, it’s all being built by startups and businesses focused on sustainability.

The oldest wooden structure in the world

The masterfully magnificent Horyu-ji Buddhist temple in Japan is the oldest wooden structure in the world, originally built some 1400 years ago. Wooden tools have even been found dating back 100,000+ years.

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In relatively recent times we have innovated materials, mainly plastics, that have carelessly been used to make items cheaper and faster than ever before. The price difference between products such as a plastic fork and a metal fork is exponential, one costing hundreds or even thousands of times more than the other. Unfortunately with every action there comes a consequence, and these cheap alternatives are damaging our environment.

Fortunately we are now beginning to see the results of billions of dollars (and countless hours) poured into innovating and creating sustainable, renewable, and recyclable building materials. Wood is being re-invented and re-used. A timber skyscraper full of plant based furniture and a closet of wooden clothes is on the horizon.

Over the last 50 years the human population has doubled in size which has led to rapidly building cities lined building by building that have essentially transformed our fields and forests into concrete slabs. With urban expansion set to triple in the next decade, the bio-economy looks to thrive as the need for sustainable alternative materials rises. Government action plans are driving demand for materials reducing global emissions and environmental impact.

A study by the United Kingdoms Committee on Climate Change concluded that the UK would not meet its targets from the Paris Act “without the near-complete elimination of greenhouse gas emissions from UK building.”

The future of urban development will include an endless amount of construction, but new technologies are emerging from companies who are quietly and more efficiently building better structures.

Cross-laminated timber

Innovations such as cross-laminated timber (CLT) comes from sustainably planted forests and is currently being used in projects worldwide as a replacement to concrete. Being a much better insulator and using less fossil-fuels during the entire building process, wooden structures are sprouting up all over the planet in part due to the much quicker build times and quieter build zones absent of jackhammers or concrete saws.

A Thousand Foot Skyscraper

A 42,000 sq foot, 14 residential unit standing 84 feet in Portland is currently the tallest CLT structure in the United States. An ambitious 70 story, 1,148 foot timber skyscraper is scheduled to finish construction in Tokyo in 2041 that will consist of approximately 90% wood. The idea of a wooden building towering as tall as the Empire State Building is truly remarkable and cements the notion that cross-laminated timber is a building block for future cities.

Currently a 52 metre office building built in Brisbane is the tallest CLT structure standing but the race is on and it’s easy to see why. Cross-laminated timber is the building material of the future. 

3D puzzles and DIY toys

DIY mechanical 3D wood puzzles are the most entertaining ‘toys’ on the market

Robotime has many incredibly unique and challenging mechanical wooden puzzles and toys that capture the imagination of the most curious children. These DIY kits inspire creativity and build confidence while providing valuable educational lessons along the way. On Amazon, Pendulum clocks, treasure boxes, tractors, locomotives and old school cameras are just some of the top selling STEM projects that can be built. Between those 3D puzzles, the sound controlled walking dinosaurs, DIY music boxes and miniature replicas of the Eiffel tower, wood is the only thing any kid needs to play with.

“mouldability and flexibility of plastics plus the strength and natural feel of wood.”

Wood replacing plastics

Whether you are looking at sustainably made renewable building products, food take-out containers or dining room tables, Swedish based Stora Enso offers a glimpse into the future with many revolutionary renewable materials. One of their sustainable products is DuraSense, which has the “mouldability and flexibility of plastics plus the strength and natural feel of wood.” With 98% wood fibers and no fossil-based material they reduce carbon footprint by up to 80% and the bio-composite material was conveniently developed to fit existing plastic moulds. Environmentally friendly cigarette boxes, ready-meal packaging trays, magazine papers, and massive wood building products are just a few products of the future being offered today by DuraSense.

Wooden clothes coming to your closet

Wood is even now being used in your wardrobe for more than just dressers and drawers. Some beautiful and durable clothing is now derived from the sustainably sourced material. Wijld, German clothing company, offers wooden shirts that compete comfortably with your favorite brands. There is also a Finnish company, Spinnova, that makes sustainable wooden fibers spun into textile fibre using a mechanical process that uses far less water than traditional materials like cotton.

Effective alternatives to reduce our carbon footprint are being introduced, refined and mastered across many industries. Research, development, innovation and ultimately the deployment of clean tech is a major part of the climate action plans of many governments worldwide. It is our responsibility to support brands working for renewable energy and a sustainable future, and hold companies and governments worldwide accountable. Join the Millennial Online Community for updates on more sustainable developments and environmentally friendly products.

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