The popularity of exposed wood as a construction material has seen a recent resurgence for those seeking a rustic appearance at their home or business. However, it almost goes without saying that the “rustic” theme they seek has its roots within log cabins and other primitive structures. That gives us hundreds of years’ worth of wood-based construction practices on the books, with some of the earliest industrial applications including the coating of telephone poles or railroad ties with preservatives. Time would tell that some of the chemicals we were using to extend lifespans weren’t all that good for us nor the environment, but we’ll have more on that later.
Given these concerns, Todd Shupe is encouraged by entities such as “rethink Wood,” which is made up of softwood lumber companies. The consortium is keeping a close eye on durability, fire safety and sustainability when it comes to construction. According to an October 2017 press release from the organization, members are taking the global impact of wood harvesting quite seriously. “It’s important to make advancements in wood buildings because we need more sustainable building materials – and more building systems that can build density in our cities in a sustainable fashion,” architect Joe Mayo said in the press release.
Todd Shupe certainly agrees with the strides toward sustainability. After all, he was a wood science professor with LSU, holds three degrees in the field and was a lab director at the university, as well. During his career, Todd Shupe turned his attention to the chemicals that are used to preserve wood so that’s it’s more resistant to deterioration. The unfortunate endgame of throwing out chemically-treated wood is that it is ending up in landfills and its contents are slowly seeping into the earth. This is different from the field of bio-deterioration, as we’re talking about lumber from demolition that has prematurely ended up in the trash heap. Given that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has only in the past decade clamped down on some commonly-used preservation chemicals known to have adverse effects on human health, it’s clear that there’s still progress to be made. This is the topic Todd Shupe is keeping an eye on, as he says it is crucial to find preservatives that are free of arsenic. By using metal-free preservatives when treating lumber for construction projects, we can dispose of it guilt-free at the end of its useful lifespan.