In the ongoing debate about the sustainability of building materials, the use of wood remains a contentious subject: is it more or less sustainable than fabricated materials?
Other building materials are resource-intensive, require excessive energy in their production, and cannot be disposed of easily without further damage to the environment. Concrete and steel, for example, have larger carbon footprints than wood – and aren’t biodegradable, either.
The inherent sustainability of using wood as a building material means there are fewer concerns for the wellbeing of the ecosystem and climate. When it comes to different types of wood, softwood is even quicker to replenish than hardwood, making it more favorable in terms of sustainability.
However, wood has a shorter lifecycle than fabricated materials, meaning it needs to be replaced more often than other options.
So the question remains: is wood the most sustainable building material, or can it be improved upon for even greater environmental benefits?
In this article, we’re exploring a specific type of wood – Accoya wood – that promises sustainability benefits over traditional wood and fabricated building materials, enabling the constructing of the most environmentally-friendly buildings possible.
What is Accoya?
Accoya is a type of wood that’s hitting the building industry with a unique and more eco-friendly approach to traditional wood products. Accoya uses acetylation to make the wood more resistant and durable. The process has been described as ‘pickling,’ soaking the wood in acetic anhydride, an organic compound.
Acetylation is a non-toxic process, and there are no unsustainable resources involved. The wood remains biodegradable, but also lasts longer, maintains dimensional stability better, and improves the strength of softwood to rival that of hardwood.
It is still a relatively new trend, but its environmental benefits are catching the attention of environmentalists and builders around the world.
Accoya vs Softwood: Which is more sustainable?
Hardwoods are typically stronger, more expensive, and considered less sustainable due to the time it takes for the deciduous trees to regrow. The traditional green approach to wood selection has been to choose timber and other wood products based on a sustainable softwood choice.
Softwoods include evergreens such as fir, pine, and spruce. These trees are usually softer in texture and density and less expensive than the more highly coveted hardwoods.
Now, Accoya wood is levelling the playing field, giving softwood an advantage that could lessen the demand for hardwood altogether, ultimately leading to a more sustainable timber industry – and wouldn’t that be a win for Mother Nature!
Accoya wood offers numerous advantages beyond traditional softwood, not the least of which are its impressive environmental benefits.
Softwood Doesn’t Last
Untreated softwoods are less durable than other building materials, which led the building industry to use chemical treatments to make the products more robust. However, such chemical treatments can be detrimental to the environment.
The acetylation process Accoya uses is non-toxic, leaves no chemical residues in the wood, and strengthens the timber to such an extent it comes with a guarantee. Combined with a certified stamp of approval from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), you can rest assured your Accoya softwood purchase is truly environmentally friendly.
Softwood Loses Dimensional Stability
Softwoods also lose dimensional stability more easily than other materials, which poses great architectural challenges. Acetylated softwood solves this problem by creating stronger, more resistant wood through organic processes.
Accoya wood, for example, is more resistant to moisture, rot, and infestation after the fast-growing pinewood undergoes acetylation. Eco-friendly construction of any structure can only benefit from these improvements.
Accoya in Practice
Accoya softwood is excellent for a range of uses, including windows and doors, decks, artistic endeavours, cladding and landscaping, structural pursuits, and timber that comes into contact with water (like pools, spas, and terraces).
Windows and Doors
When used in wooden window frames and wooden shutters, Accoya is surprisingly robust and also carbon negative. When it replaces unsightly uPVC options, the choice is even smarter.
Timber windows and doors have character, and now, last for decades longer than traditional softwood options. Accoya windows and doors can be painted, and won’t fade, crack, leak, or rot. It also lends an appeal to the property that cannot be rivalled by plastic.
For decking material, patios, and terraces, Accoya is equally desirable. Wood decking has traditionally been a costly affair (and a headache) that’s sometimes not worth the effort or the maintenance.
Timber decks can be a suitable solution for a short while, however after a few years, the elements take their toll. Composite materials are no better as an alternative for decking. Plastic might last longer than traditional softwoods, but its texture can’t be compared to traditional wood, and ultimately its production is a bane for the environment (as we are finding out more each day in the age of the microplastic debacle in oceans and other waterways).
Accoya has made outdoor wooden decking more appealing and affordable by offering improved durability of its materials. With Accoya wood, you can expect less maintenance, less deterioration, and decades longer to enjoy the finished product.
When you do need to dispose of the material, it’s biodegradable and renewable (or even easily upcycled if you have the imagination for it).
Accoya: The Greener Ideal
Wood offers a uniquely natural aesthetic to any construction project. However, some builders still opt for fabricated materials instead due to a perceived greater durability over natural products.
Accoya wood offers the best of both worlds, as a long-lasting and durable building material that is also sustainable in its production and overall lifecycle. The added peace of mind about its sustainable origins and reduced future impact on the Earth makes it all the more beautiful.
Is Accoya the greener ideal over other softwood, then? It seems so.
Tell us what you think in the comments below.