Wood in architecture
Milan || Italy
The American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) supported the USA pavilion at Expo in Milan with a stunning 500 m2 white oak deck. The American hardwood floor ran the length of the pavilion on the first floor, where the main exhibition area was located. The white oak was chosen by New York architect James Biber, whose practice designed the pavilion. He wanted a classic-looking hardwood to blend in and complement the rest of the decking, which has been recycled from 100-year-old salvaged timber from the original Coney Island boardwalks.
The USA pavilion had a very strong sustainability theme featuring a vertical farm, the latest energy efficient technologies and reclaimed wood. But one of the strongest environmental messages was told through the use of the sustainably produced new American oak.
AHEC, using its ground breaking Environmental Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) research, has produced a full cradle to grave environmental profile for the white oak deck.Data on the forestry, sawmilling, drying and shipping impacts of sending the white oak lumber to Italy were combined with data collected during manufacture. Included in the assessment are all the non-wood materials (glues, oils and fixings) transport, installation and predicted life expectancy. At end of life the deck can either be recycled or burnt as a renewable fuel.
The American white oak resource is not only renewable but is expanding. The resource is so large and growing so rapidly that it takes less than 25 seconds for the white oak harvested to manufacture the deck installed at Expo Milano to be replaced in the forest. The deck is better than carbon neutral on a cradle-to-grave basis. The carbon emissions associated with delivery of materials and fabrication of the deck are more than offset by energy generated from wood offcuts and disposal at end of life. Much of the energy input for production of the deck derives from renewables. For as long as the deck remains in use it will store the equivalent of 14.5 metric tons of CO2 equivalent.
For David Venables, European Director of AHEC, this project was a great opportunity for the US hardwood industry to support this important event and the strong USA presence and messages. “The floor looked amazing, it was full of character and vibrant grain patterns and clearly everyone involved, including the architects were really pleased with the end result. It has also given us the chance to LCA profile a decking product for the first time, and results show once again just how strong the environmental credentials of American hardwoods really are.”
The white oak decking was manufactured in Italy by Imolalegno. Comprising profiled random length strips, 20mm in thickness and 80mm wide. The floor was laid using a hidden clip mounting system with 5mm gaps between each strip. Stainless steel fasteners were used and the decking can easily be taken up without damage either for routine maintenance or re-use, thus considerably extending its life expectancy. The deck is finished with one coat of a clear anti-oxidant oil.
American red oak (Quercus ssp.)
American red oak is an attractive oak with distinct reddish-pink tones. The wood is similar in general appearance to white oak, but with a slightly less pronounced figure due to the smaller rays and a more porous end grain structure. The wood is mostly straight grained with a coarse texture.
American red oak is the most abundant species in America’s hardwood forests and is used for flooring and a wide variety of furniture and building applications. The wood is hard and heavy, with medium bending strength and stiffness and high crushing strength. It is very good for steam bending.
Client: Friends of the USA Pavilion/USA Department of State
Gross Floor Area: 3,900 m2
Architects: Biber Architects
Works Management: Genius Loci Architettura
Structural: SCE Project
M.E.P.: ESA Engineering
Architectural Lighting: Tillotson Design Associates
Lighting: Viabizzuno, Flos
American Hardwood Flooring: Imola Legno
Porcelain Stoneware Flooring: Marazzi
Outdoor Furniture: Arper
Opening photo © Saverio Lombardi Vallauri, Courtesy of Biber Architects