When a home or other structure is constructed using air-dried structural oak beams, the builders and carpenters consider the selection of the lumber their number one priority. Air dried oak beams have been drying for anywhere between 3 to 15 years and have very unique characteristics. When traditional construction methods such as wooden joints and fastening techniques are combined with modern construction methods and materials, the final structure makes a statement the can be both powerful and dramatic, especially when you add into the equation the natural beauty and characteristics of air dried oak beams.
Over the last 40 years, there has been a steady rise in the awareness of sustainable development and concern over environmental issues. The world’s forests stand at the forefront of these issues. Forests are both a provider of oxygen and a carbon sink, which absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This increase in concern has shown favor for the use of green air drying oak beams.
Concern with regards to non-sustainable rates of felling oak trees and other hardwoods eventually led to a United-Nations Conference on Environment and Development called the “Earth Summit.” The conference was held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and it formed the basic principles of sustainable forest management.
We all understand that structural air dried oak beams originate from the forest, and there will always be concern about the environmental effects of harvesting this natural resource. When we investigate the environmental impact of these oak beams, which are the oldest form of current building material still in use today, there are several things to consider, and we must examine their entire life-cycle.
Forest Stewardship Council:
In 1999, every forestry-commissioned-woodland in Scotland, England, and Wales was assessed against the United Kingdom Woodland Assurance Standard. This was performed by an independent auditor recognized by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). As a result, all of the Forestry Commissioned Woodlands now meet the FSC’s requirements.
It is worthy to note that in any case and with few exceptions, oak and other timber felling in the United Kingdom is controlled and requires a felling license issued from the forestry commission. These licenses are only earned if certain conditions such as replanting are met.
When oak trees grow in sustainability managed forests. The energy used is zero. During harvesting, the only energy used comes from the felling equipment and its environmental impact is minimal.
The next phase in the life of oak timber is transport, which involves three stages: Forest to sawmill, sawmill to fabricator, and fabricator to the construction site. When compared to other construction materials such as concrete and steel, timber is relatively light-weight and pieces can be packed tightly together. Energy consumption is not a major concern in this area, and is effected only by the distances between the three locations.
Processing and Certification:
Certification is a procedure by which timber and forestry processing operations are assessed independently against various social, economic, and environmental criteria. These are based on the principles that were laid down in the Rio Declaration. If the processor meets the requirements, they become certified by the FSC. Oak and other timber offered as certified must always be able to be traced back to the forest from which it was cut.
Processing structural oak beams at the sawmill takes two steps, cutting and drying. Seasoned timber uses more energy than green oak during processing because it’s typically cut down to standard sizes, and then either planed or re-cut to its final size. Kiln-dried beams require additional energy to heat the air that circulates around the timber as it dries. However, the impact on the environment is minimal.
Green oak structural beams consume the least amount of energy during processing because they only require a single cutting operation to reach their final size and they dry while in operation.
During assembly, air dried oak beam frames are more labor intensive to work with than softwood or green oak beams, but oak frames don’t have a metal fastener requirement, and they can be secured using wooden pegs and joints.
Oak is generally used in its raw state and doesn’t require any preservatives or formaldehyde treatments. Oak is most frequently used without any applied finishes as well. These qualities are very good for the environment.
Framing and Erecting:
When you consider the fact that framing with structural oak beams has been performed by hand for centuries, today’s construction methods requires minimal mechanical assistance; however, heavy-duty commercial grade saws are used on site and cranes can be used for convenience and speed.
While in Use:
Given the durability of air dried oak beams and the fact that they require no finishing treatments, stains, or sealants, they remain virtually maintenance free during their entire service life. The only maintenance involved occurs when the frames are being constructed using green oak structural beams. As movement occurs during drying, the wooden pins need to be pounded in periodically until the wood has lost most of its moisture.
For centuries, timber frames have been broken down, moved, and then reassembled. This was demonstrated when they dismantled the historic Globe Theater on site and then reassembled it on the South Bank of the Thames River. This occurred in London, England, in 1599. Additionally, records have shown that
Into the future:
When it comes to the environment assessment, it’s apparent that the use of air dried oak beams in construction is a top scorer on the list. Currently, several environmentally friendly home designs have been evolving and being implemented. These are based on a modern use of green oak frames that incorporate many additional energy-saving features.
Oak timber is accepted as a good choice for use as a construction material by environmental standards, and it remains the only renewable construction material resource on the planet.
Use in Landscaping:
Due to the durability of oak beams and lack of chemical treatments, air dried oak beams are an excellent material for use in landscape construction projects; they’re ideal for building raised flowerbeds, steps, decks, and walkways. Air dried oak is also a great material for carvings and sculptures, and is an outstanding material for use in building tree houses.
When it comes to building materials and sustainability, air dried oak beams are an excellent choice. This is due to the fact that they lock up carbon, require no chemical treatments, have a low embodied energy, and they can be sourced from sustainably-grown forests. For more information on air dried oak beams, take a look here www.greenoakbeams.co.uk.