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Specifying wood

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Wood - a paradox amongst materials, used for fuel and fire doors - provides architects with a wealth of possibilities for structural and aesthetic design and yet is often overlooked, write John Park and Brian Keyworth. It is possible that wood does not make it to even the preliminary design stage owing to a lack of confidence in its specification. Wood and timber are, of course, basically the same - lumber being the North American term for structural timber - but we regularly refer to wood windows and timber- frame. As a means of definition we suggest that 'timber' is structural, where naturally occurring 'defects' may limit performance, 'wood' non- structural used where the same 'characteristics' may be visually enhancing. So, what and how should you specify?

Hardwood or softwood, heartwood or sapwood, temperate or tropical? The enormous variety of tree species provides the specifier with a wide choice of wood, compounding the 'problem'. What will affect performance? How long will it last? On these pages over the coming months we will provide you with a better understanding of wood. From basic facts we will progress to more practical aspects to enable you to specify and use wood with confidence.

With wise and informed use you can cut down on wastage and reduce energy consumption. By specifying lesser-known species you can capitalise on the richness of the global forest resource. Wood exports provide much- needed income for developing nations, and by giving the forests greater long-term financial value, we can help reduce indiscriminate logging.

Less than half of the trees which are felled annually are used for industrial purposes. By encouraging proper forest management this vital, renewable and renewed resource and the forest habitat will be available in perpetuity.

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