The Initiative for Green Habitats represents a long term commitment towards providing solutions for the creation of Sustainable Built Environments. This blog attempts to provide an insight to our views, commentaries on our work, ideas that we are working on, and provoke thought where there are more questions than answers.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

What's the deal with deal wood?

It is known more commonly as packaging wood, but has earned a common name of deal wood.... maybe because it forms the main packing material for all trade deals. Considering that, there must be a lot of timber that is going around as part of packaging worldwide. Check out some of these figures:
  • The European pallet and packaging industry consumes about 20 million cubic metres of timber annually
  • Packaging is a huge consumer of wood and as a disposable product accounts for one third of municipal waste streams.
  • A report shows that containers and packaging ranked as both the most generated and most recycled municipal waste in 1999, according to Waste News 'September 3, 2001 article. "Economy waste generation soared in late 1990s, an EPA Report says. "Americans generated 76 million tons of both containers and packaging, and of that 37 percent were recycled. EPA's study also revealed that while municipal garbage (one indication of consumption patterns) reached a high of 230 million tons in 1999-- a 7 million ton increase from 1998-- the recycling rate remained flat at 28 percent over the same period.
  • In 2003, the wood packaging represented about 3% of the woodworks industry of the EU.
There are apparently no specific type of wood that is in use, but a predominant volume is pine and other soft woods. The choice is primarily cost, easy to nail, and density. The intention of this post is not to complain on the quality of wood in use, but more on the quantity in use and the need for looking at this material as a potential material for reuse in different applications. Yes, the primary effort should be at reducing this enormous consumption to reduce the up-the-chain load on forestry (considering that none of these can be considered sustainable plant species).
Every tonne of dry wood stores about 1.8 tonnes of CO2 and by letting this resource go to waste and decay, we ensure that much of this is released back into the atmosphere.

You could buy packing wood (or deal wood as it is know here in India) in many of our older wholesale market areas. Considering the huge quantities being generated as a result of our growing economy, we need to start looking at this as a good resource. This wood is susceptible to borers and termites, but simple treatment and only specific uses should resolve that matter. For example- for internal door shutters and for interior woodwork. We find that this wood can also do decently well in outdoor use, with simple linseed oil treatment and similar such methods. Take care to pick the redder of the varieties, which indicates a high content of natural oil already in the wood. The paler versions only mean greater treatment.
Of course, the Indian situation is better- in the sense, we recycle much of this waste. Already, much of poorer India uses this material for their meagre furniture and other woodwork needs, but surely we can put it to better use...
This very argument can apply to the reuse of reclaimed timber from demolished homes, discarded furniture, and many other kinds of waste. All one needs is an open mind, and the intent to reduce our collective ecological footprint.

Perplexed about a lack of imagination...

I have always fretted and fumed about this, but two things triggered this impulse to write about this. One was the inauguration of the 2010 Commonwealth games at Delhi, and the other was an article by Suhel Seth in the TOI (writing for Lavassa Cities).
The former example was resplendent with imitations of what others had done, and the usual repetitive themes of pan-Indian culture. The latter waxes eloquent on the sheer lack of imagination amongst architects and designers.
Do we really suffer from a lack of imagination? How? or rather, Why?? In a country that needs over 256 million colours to paint it and a land of innumerable stories we suffer from a interesting themes to paint and stories to tell!!! Our airports, our stadia, our shopping complexes, our offices, the homes we build, our parks, our streets, all are examples of rip-offs from the shiny west.
What drives us emulate imported models without questioning their appropriateness? Clients? The big bad market? Or, is it simply an easy alternative to what we perceive as reinventing the wheel?
What if:
  • Bangalore resurfaces as the city of tanks, valleys and hillocks?
  • there hot-dry regions had courtyard homes with pedestrian streets?
  • informal market places became integrated to add texture to our cities?
  • Spaces and corridors for rituals, festivals and celebration were given their rightful urban space?
  • Maidans and playgrounds (not 'hands-off' and fenced landscaped parks) were an imperative?
  • glass gave way to screens, jaalis and verandahs that performed the same job of reducing dust, letting light in and also formed thermal controls?
  • building blocks varied from district to district... depending on soil, stone and other raw material?
  • craft of the region found space in all buildings?
  • what if pavements got bigger and roads narrower..... (have to think this one through).?
  • what if orchards, and mini forests dotted our city-scapes?
  • what if agriculture was part of urbanity?
I am sure you can add much more to this list.
Without a doubt there is a great deal of national pride in who we are, but the expression that we lend to our architecture does not compliment that position. I would not want to sermonise anyone on how we can dream of architectural expressions, forms, types, etc for the various regions and sub regions of this country, and would only hope that we find our ways to do our bit.