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Eco-Friendly Home Design with a Wood Alternative

Eco-Friendly Home Design with a Wood Alternative

As the ethics of using real wood become more open to question, using faux wood as an alternative is a smart choice for those planning a more eco-friendly home design.

Wood and timber are two of the most popular materials for both home construction and interior design, because they're incredibly versatile and affordable - but in recent decades, the last half of that statement has become open for question.

Kitchen with Custom Timber faux beams on the ceiling
Kitchen ceiling with Custom Timber Beams

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) recently published a report on the impact of timber on the environment, and it makes for sobering reading. The global market for low-cost timber has increased by over 800% in the past three decades, and sustainable sources of timber have been unable to keep up with demand. As a result, some 10% of all timber produced for the market actually comes from sources that are in violation of national laws, and that represents half of all the logging and timber production in valuable and threatened forests.

In the United States especially, efforts have been made to keep up with demand in a sustainable fashion - with 2.5 million acres of land converted to fast-wood forests every year. While this meets a lot of domestic demand for low-cost timber, like pine, which can be used in home construction, it does present an issue when it comes to more decorative types and species of wood.

Other types of wood, like mahogany and cedar, are becoming increasingly expensive to source, and increasingly difficult to produce sustainably. In addition to increasing costs, this also adds a question mark to the ethics of using types of timber popular for decorative features in the home like hardwood flooring and, of course, real and artificial wood beams.

This is where the beauty of 'going faux' comes in.

Wine cellar with Custom Timber Beams
Wine cellar with Custom Timber Beams

Our faux wood products are made with a lightweight and durable polyurethane foam, which is largely manufactured from oil. While this initially might not sound very good for the environment, there are actually a number of reasons why this is a better ethical choice than real wood.

For a start, the global production of oil has been increasing massively over the past few decades, with America moving from being in desperate need of foreign oil to becoming the world's global oil producer. This means that oil, while a finite resource, remains abundant and accessible.

Secondly, the explosion in alternative sources of energy, like solar and wind, plus the expanded market for hybrid and electric cars, means that oil is no longer required exclusively to produce fuel - and can be used more frequently for the production of material goods like polyurethane foam.

Developments in the way polyurethane is produced have dramatically changed the impact it has on the environment - with non-emission and
low emission catalysts becoming available that enable polyurethane to be made without producing emissions that can contribute to global warming and harm the environment.

Decorative trusses built with Custom Heavy Sandblasted beams
Decorative trusses built with Custom Heavy Sandblasted Beams

Given how massive the carbon footprint of the timber industry is - with heavy gas and diesel-burning machinery required to cut, move and finish real wood, plus the impact of cutting down carbon-consuming trees in the first place - it's clear to see that the balance between the two has rapidly shifted in favor of 'faux' wood.

Faux wood also has a number of advantages in the home. It's lighter and provides better insulation, making it a smart choice for more energy-efficient homes, and doesn't emit any Volatile Organic Compounds like treated wood does.

All of this adds up - and when you compare the two materials, it's clear to see that on a global scale, 'going faux' has become the more environmentally-conscious choice.

While that's good, for most people the deciding factor in which material they choose remains a little more selfish - normally looks, cost and practicality. As mentioned in our opening paragraph, the massive explosion in demand for real timber has seen costs skyrocket, so in terms of affordability, 'going faux' instantly comes out on top.

Secondly, it's cheaper to transport, cut and install - and offers immense versatility like the ability to hide cables, wiring and ducts inside the hollow beams. In some homes, this can actually help conceal more modern, environmentally-sustainable heating and cooling systems, once again indirectly contributing to helping the environment.

Finally, the one aspect in which timber has always previously come out on top is now in question more than ever. People used to use real wood and timber because it looked the best - but that is no longer the case, and in the example of, hasn't been for a while.

Bedroom with Custom Tuscany Beams
Bedroom with Custom Tuscany Beams

Our industry-leading faux products look incredibly realistic - molded from authentic materials, and then recreated using an innovative injection molding process that perfectly captures every knot, grain and imperfection.

Whether customers stain them at home, or order any of our incredibly realistic wood color finishes, the beams and other synthetic wood products we sell are now practically indistinguishable to the 'real thing' and in some cases actually look better because they recreate types of wood that are no longer available, or difficult to source.

So, as you can see, the advantages of 'going faux' stack up pretty quickly - especially from an environmental point of view. This is why global demand for synthetic wood products is increasing even faster than that for real wood; and of all the 'faux' wood products available, ours remain the industry leader.

We're really proud to be able to balance giving people the 'look' of wood they want, while also giving them the option to make different and smarter choices about the impact their home design projects have on the environment.

For more information about the impact the timber industry has on the environment, check out the WWF website here: