Advantages chosen when designing a building. Timber is

Advantages and
Disadvantages of Timber

With the global concern for protecting the environment, there
has been a massive movement in construction towards sustainability, which is
shown through the materials chosen when designing a building. Timber is an
example of a material which can be used in order to maintain sustainability
both during and after the building’s lifetime. During the construction process
of a building, using wood as a material lowers a building’s carbon footprint as
it creates less pollution in fabricating the timber than constructing metal.
During the demolition of a timber building, the wood can be recycled to aid the
construction of other buildings or structures. It can also be easily disposed
as it is a biodegradable material and will be less harmful than
non-biodegradable materials.

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There are many reasons why an architect will choose to
design a building made out of timber. Wood is visually decorative coming in a
wide range of patterns, natural colours and, warm and attractive textures
whether it is sanded and polished or left unfinished. Compared to other
materials such as steel, timber has a low thermal conductivity which allows it
to insulate the building without the risk of surface condensation or the
excessive loss of heat in the building, increasing the building’s economic
efficiency. Furthermore, in a wooden frame structure, it is easier to integrate
insulation into the frame without increasing the thickness as wood already has
some insulation capabilities. However, unlike timber buildings, the thickness
in masonry buildings would have to increase with the installation of the
insulation as stone does not have the same thermal insulation capabilities as
wood. As well as thermal insulation, wood is also thermally stable. This
prevents the wood from warping, losing strength or altering its performance
when placed in either extreme heat or cold, allowing timber to be used in
extreme locations, such as high mountain altitude.

Figure 1
shows the charring process of wood

As with most other materials used in building, timber is resistant to
fire, to some degree. Unlike with metal materials such as steel which becomes
malleable or aluminium which burns under high temperatures, wood retains its
structural strength. Although wood is a combustible material, when exposed to
fire, it will form a charred layer which slows the burning rate of the wood
underneath the layer. The pyrolysis zone, shown in Figure 1, acts as an
insulating layer, preventing the normal wood layer underneath from burning too
quickly. This allows the wood to be used as “sacrificial timber” (Trada Exova
Ltd 2016) contributing to the necessary fire protection of a building and
providing more time before the whole building collapses.

There may be a range of advantages in using timber as a
building material, however, with every material, there are also disadvantages
in its usage. If timber is not properly maintained or protected then it is
“prone to pest, rot, mold and fungi attacks” (Landmark 2016), especially with timber
that is placed near the ground, where it is vulnerable to splash back from
rainfall. However, this could be fixed by using a varnish to protect the wood
or cover the vulnerable part with a metal or other protective materials. The
disadvantage of using steel as a building material is that if it is exposed to
air, water or humidity, it is vulnerable to rust and corrosion increasing a
building’s maintenance cost as it will have to be protected or painted in some
way (Assakkaf, A. 2002). However, in contrast to this, masonry is both weather and
termite resistant (Ultimate Construction 2013). In masonry buildings, there is no
wood which lessens the risk of termite attacks and the exterior walls of the building
will be able to hold up extreme weather conditions and UV degradation.