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Watch this video: Respect for material and care for the future

With a focus on selective usage and natural regeneration, hardwood forests in the US are being managed sustainably. See how this combines with the knowledge of designers to make timber a sustainable and sophisticated choice.

Wood is a material best understood through the dimension of time. Not only the time it takes for a forest to grow, and the history contained within one tree, but the lifetime of expertise developed by those who manage the forests and the designers who understand the value of quality material. Two fundamentals ensure successful timber design: a reliable and sustainable source of a supply and understanding of how to create with natural materials.

Sydney-based furniture designer Tom Fereday speaks of his work being “material-driven” and the importance of “celebrating the beauty of natural material.” Each piece has its own qualities so the task of the designer becomes one of working with the material rather than over-working it and exposing the character of the timber.

As AHEC regional director Roderick Wiles explains, as a natural material, wood has a huge amount of natural variation. However designers should not be daunted, as one of the roles of organisations such as AHEC, is to support designers in their understanding of the qualities and capabilities of different species, allowing them to work with confidence.

Perhaps most importantly, if selected with some understanding of source, designers can be certain that they are acting responsibly with regards to minimising the environmental impact of their design.

In the hardwood forests of the US, approximately three-quarters of the resource is owned by private individuals. Wiles describes how the owners “understand the value of the forest and want to look after it for future generations.”

They allow their trees to grow for longer and selectively harvest only a few trees per hectare. This practice promotes new growth through natural regeneration and this growth outstrips harvest. This means that the US forest is a resource that is increasing in volume every year. This is quite different from many forestry practices around the world.  

With a combination of certainty of environmental impact and the vast range of quality species from which to choose, it is clear why American hardwoods are the go-to choice for a designer of Fereday’s calibre.

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