It may sound like a silly rhyme, but it’s true: wood is good. As a construction material, wood is beautiful, practical, and versatile. The great strength, light weight, and excellent insulating properties of wood make it ideal for many applications, especially at a time when timber is delivering efficient solutions at different scales. Despite these benefits, wood is highly susceptible to decay, especially when used outdoors.
In the past, builders have addressed durability issues by using tropical hardwoods or applying chemical treatments. However, increasingly scarce supplies of those woods have led to illegal logging and deforestation, while processing has produced harmful toxins. Interest has grown in acetylated wood, which, as you will learn in AEC Daily’s online course, is a sustainable, environmentally friendly material that offers exceptional durability and stability.
Documented by scientists over 90 years ago, acetylated wood was first produced commercially in Japan in 1980. Until recently the technological challenges and high cost of processing the wood made it too expensive for commercial-scale production. While the initial expense remains higher than conventional wood products, users will save money in the long run through lower maintenance costs.
Acetylated wood is often produced from fast-growing radiata pine sourced from sustainable forests. Through a series of chemical reactions, the treatment process protects the entire piece of wood, as opposed to other methods which only treat the surface and leave chemicals that can leech out. It also permanently “swells” the wood, creating a stable material with superior dimensional stability, which is a measure of its resistance to cycles of stretching and shrinking. These products have strong resistance to rot-producing fungi and are indigestible to insects (such as termites) and micro-organisms.
There are numerous applications for acetylated wood. For window frames and shutters, there is less warping than other woods, and, depending on assembly, greater energy efficiency and thermal insulation. It is well suited for aesthetically-pleasing cladding, façades, and siding. As outdoor decking, it maintains its beauty under all weather conditions and will not split or rot. Its dimensional stability makes it ideal for external joints, which hold tight after long exposure to the elements. For all of these uses, there is a greater variety of coatings and stains that can be applied, requiring fewer touch-ups.
Acetylated wood is guaranteed by its manufacturers to last 25 years underground and 50 years aboveground. When its lifecycle is up, it can be recycled or used as a clean fuel source.
The AEC Daily course will also examine the chemical processes which create acetylated wood, and compare its strengths to other materials. There is extensive discussion of its environmentally-friendly advantages, including its carbon footprint. There are also several case studies which demonstrate its uses and durability in a variety of climates.
Find more information about this course here.
The basis for this article is a continuing education course sponsored by Accsys Technologies. This course is managed and maintained by AEC Daily, one of the world's largest sources of FREE continuing education for architects, engineers, and construction professionals. Note: You will need an AEC Daily user account to access the full course and earn CE credit.