Diary of an Eco-Builder

What is similar to fibreglass, light and flexible, as well as tough?

The clouds hung low over our Clapham building site this week. Someone has been fly-tipping next to our skip, spilling rubble across the street. Site foreman Steve has done his best to clear it up, but it's a miserable business. Let's hope the perpetrators choke on their own cement.

The clouds hung low over our Clapham building site this week. Someone has been fly-tipping next to our skip, spilling rubble across the street. Site foreman Steve has done his best to clear it up, but it's a miserable business. Let's hope the perpetrators choke on their own cement.

I got out of the way, taking the Caledonian Sleeper to the north of Scotland to visit a factory that produces a remarkable construction material. It's similar to fibreglass in its design, a composite of tightly woven fibres and resin which gives great strength, while remaining light and flexible. It's also tough - absorbing serious knocks without shattering - but is stiff enough to hold up considerable loads without buckling. To cap it all, it's made from renewable resources using 100 per cent renewable energy.

Bizarrely, many people remain doubtful about the material's ecological credentials. I am not among them - after all, if Tree House is to express the beauty and integrity of the tree that towers over it, we can only construct with the wonder material that is wood.

Anxieties about wood run deep. Logger's trucks and wrecked rainforests have become iconic images of ecological devastation, and the most high-profile eco-warriors in Britain have been tree-dwellers, facing down the forces of the state from the canopy of ancient woodlands. Trees are venerated across the world; we rarely take pleasure in their loss. Such anxieties are well placed. It is scandalous, for example, that we continue to import tonnes of illegally felled timber from the rainforests of Indonesia and Brazil. Nearer to home, logging in the old growth forests of Finland has been criticised for disrupting the reindeer grazing grounds of the Saami people.

Happily, thanks to the work of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and others, the ecological contradictions of buying wood can be overcome. If you buy wood that is FSC certified, it will have a documented and independently audited "chain of custody", tracing its journey from a forest that is managed in a manner that is "environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable".

My visit to the Moray Firth retraced part of the chain of custody of the wood that will provide the structural skeleton for Tree House. The manufacturer, James Jones and Sons ( www.jji-joists.com), has just gained FSC certification for its specially engineered timber products.

Wood does present the odd problem, above all its tendency to shrink, twist and move - witness all those Elizabethan houses delightfully free of right angles. Our "I-beams" (pictured left), made from compressed timber particles, will never shift. I-beams also provide excellent thermal insulation in walls, use relatively little timber, and are easy to handle on site.

FSC-certified products, from sheds to salad bowls, are now widely available. The big DIY stores stock FSC wood, so it's not hard to find - check out the product selector on the FSC website ( www.fsc-uk.org). If you're buying from a timber yard, ask for FSC and your invoice should have a number on it with "COC" (chain of custody) in the middle. If you want to know exactly where the wood came from, ask to see the documentation. If you're in B&Q or Homebase, you won't get this level of detail, but their FSC timber should be clearly packaged.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Sport
footballLIVE City face Stoke, while Warnock returns to Palace dugout
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
News
Paul McCartney backs the
people
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

Commercial Property Solicitor - Bristol

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: A VERY HIGH QUALITY FIRM A high qual...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone