Wood's Timeless Appeal

Despite an influx of new materials for facades, wood continues to find a major number of takers in the premium class of buildings

Greenlam Industries
Why is wood still coveted as a façade material? According to Parul Mittal, Director, Greenlam Industries, wood has long been a building material that expresses warmth while acting as a structural element, and even though wooden low-rise buildings have given way to steel, wood is still coveted as a façade material. As technology progressed, wood has come to be used in a variety of ways, often defying convention.

Wood can be a translucent façade or a rain-screen. When it is placed vertically, wood takes on the characteristics of a tree or forest, but often architects like to manipulate its natural look by truncating it into figural outline, such as a rectangle or a house-like shape. These projects combine the natural and artificial into an ironic combination. The different façades feature different arrangements of windows, which alternate with the facades to let light in and out, based on the direction they face.

Suggesting façade design ideas, she recommends Digital Compact Laminates which give architects the freedom to play with designs. "Compact laminates are an excellent option for exterior clads. They are durable, self-sustainable, and offer infinite design options and spectacular colors. Their sturdiness makes them apt for a wide range of exterior applications. Digital compact laminates give architects the freedom to play with designs, and bring in customized images for a personal touch. Exterior grade compact laminates have the revolutionary GLE Technology, which makes them fade-resistant, weather-proof, and fire-resistant. Made from compact laminates, clads internal wall panels have captivating aesthetics, numerous colors options, rhythms and depths.

"Facades are quite versatile aesthetically. Apart from making the building look phenomenal, wall clads also give an external coating of protection to it. Façades activate space, drawing out the relationships between light, environment, view and void. And they also accommodate varied levels of privacy. Adding warmth and elegance, facades are designed through studies in transparency and liminal conditions. Together, they show how we can frame new perspectives by rethinking how we connect to everyday cladding," she adds.
mixed use building
"In modern façades, the building envelope is programmed to enhance interior conditions through haptic connections and integrated systems, and every new design is made to bring out the character of such assemblies"

Parul Mittal, Director, Greenlam Industries

Sustainable, modified exterior grade wood

With wood, the concern regarding its source and sustainable production is never far behind. Says Satinder Chawla, MD, Span Floors, "With our Outwud brand of exterior wood collection for outdoor use, our aim is to give consumers a highly suitable and improved alternative to traditional woods like Ipe, Cumaru, Teak etc, which due to suspect origins, are destroying our fragile environment. Outwud focuses on sustainable, modified exterior grade woods giving consumers the joy of using a beautiful natural material, responsibly. All products have highly improved performance and aesthetics as compared to normal, unmodified woods. They develop a beautiful silver-grey patina over time, if left untreated (without coating). Besides the looks, all products from this collection come from FSC-certified manufacturers sourcing raw wood from sustainable, responsible forestry."

According to him, the Outwud exterior wood is strong enough to withstand harsh outdoor conditions and exposure to sun and rain, making it suitable for use in Facades, Decking, Pergolas and Louvers, plus it incorporates aesthetics, durability, and sustainability.

span floors

"The primary issue or limitation that a building designer faces while using wood on the facade is the movement, colour retention and durability of wood when exposed to sun, wind, water and organisms such as termites, and fungus. To address these concerns as per the threat level in that area/application, each Outwud product is treated to handle specific project requirements including for colour retention, protection against fungus, termites etc, and to ensure that the wood does not warp or bend when exposed to a wet/dry cycle."

The made in New Zealand Outwud Vulcan range is based on a patented process called Vulcanization, wherein, sustainable wood species like Radiata pine are made more suitable for outdoor applications. The timber is treated with heat at high temperatures, engineered to provide superb stability, and further impregnated with lowest impact preservatives to provide protection from termites and rot.

Adds Chawla, "Moreover, the Outwud Vulcanization process improves a lot over the normal thermal modification process, which alone cannot handle a termite situation as prevalent in India." He informs that the maintenance regimen is also specified which is essentially very simple and cost effective. "If the client desires, we take up the requisite AMCs as a complete solution. In any case, full support is offered by our technical team lifelong, even if the client decides to maintain the facade himself. The lifespan of the products is really long if maintained well… even going up to 30+ years."
satinder chawla

"The design flexibility and scope offered by wood in the making of a building facade is immense"

Satinder Chawla, MD, Span Floors

Wood: The 'Go To' Material

Says Ar. Vikas Gandhi, "Wood is one of the oldest materials that have been used in building construction. It's very versatile and has been practically used in every part of a built form including structure, façade, windows, doors, floors, and partitions. It's the innumerable variety in wood types that makes it the 'go to' material for so many uses.

In recent times, wood is going through a technological transformation, which is making it more durable and stronger, thus, providing further possibilities. Advancement in its chemical properties has led to creation of cross laminated timbers and Glu-lams, which has made wood very lucrative for use in larger structures, and there is also talk of creating timber skyscrapers soon. Further, various coatings such as PU, polyesters, oils etc. are making wood more durable and long lasting. Wood is one of the materials that exudes warmth like no other material. Its sustainability, quality and speed of construction is noteworthy. The 21st century is looking to leave behind concrete and steel and be the era for timber."

In this west-facing home, Plan Loci's design incorporates the front façade into its interior articulation. The linear texture of timber takes precedence in its architecture, uniting contrasting concepts of shading and the diffused internal natural illumination. A three-storied light well achieves the connection amongst all living floors, although, the house is planned for future expansion internally across the upper storeys.

Plan Loci

The degree of perforation varies geometrically, with relatively solid base encasing circular glazed openings, while semi-open areas, into which the staggered screen is integrated, achieve the screening of living spaces. This provides privacy, diffuses the direct sun, and serves as the building's primary visual identity.
vikas gandhi

"Advancement in the chemical properties of wood has led to the creation of cross laminated timbers and Glu-lams, which has made wood very lucrative for use in larger structures"

Ar. Vikas Gandhi, plan loci

Clues from this overarching tectonic language of a sinuous form in wood pushes past traditional geometries of the material, breaking the dominant verticality of the volume through segregated planes. It further ties together the principal elements of the interior, such as the staircase, lobbies, skylight and furniture. This enables the spatial feel of movement and textures against only plain plaster finish, in a frugality of the material palette, but richness of a lived experience.
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