In any form, wood is a fantastic material and we love to use it. More accurately, we hate to waste it. While wooden flooring is a bit of a fad these days, with hundreds of companies vying to sell plastic laminated planks to customers, real wood flooring is remarkably different. Amit Khanna, Principal Architect, Amit Khanna and Design Associates, New Delhi, tells us how.
I am often asked by clients, students and even contractors on how to contribute towards making buildings more sustainable; whether from the point of view of efficiency, design or economy. My usual response is that one needs to be sensitive to everyday issues as a first step and rethink mundane wasteful activities. The typical Indian construction site wastes an unbelievable 20-25 per cent of material, due to non-standardisation and an “aesthetic-centric” approach that negates the dimensions of the purchased product, focusing instead on the finished dimensions required at site.
A more appropriate method is to learn and imbibe from the skills and experience of people who actually craft the buildings and objects that is designed. Their early involvement acknowledges them as equal stakeholders in the process, and allows them to give feedback when required. It is better for the contractor to suggest a 3” change in the size of a flooring pattern or a cupboard or a glass partition rather than waste an additional 10 per cent trying to achieve the exact specification. This approach makes for a small, but incremental change towards making a construction site more sustainable. I am not faulting the architect here – the materials market in India is simply not standardised enough to support consistent specifications. The focus should be on how to better predict construction outcomes and improve quality control.
Demolishing old buildings is a part of the job on a regular basis. Typically, these old structures are between 30-50 years old and they have marvellous old wooden frames and doors. A common practice is to have them removed and these are then sold for recycling or reuse in less premium markets. Rather than have them being sold for miniscule amounts or worse still, being burnt by the site workers, we greedily harvest them.
Nothing is allowed to go waste, especially since wood that has had a quarter of a century to dry out, is incredibly stable. Anyone who has worked with wood knows that it bends and warps and changes shape with the seasonal change. Aged wood does not have that problem and can be used for any number of applications, and looks especially good in flooring.
In any form, wood is a fantastic material and we love to use it. More accurately, we HATE to waste it. I have been known to pick up scraps of wood at site and have the carpenters turn them into handles, name plates, even coasters and platters! Long story short, wood is sacred, it is provided by the earth and used wisely, it is by far the most sustainable material there is. Wooden flooring is a bit of a fad these days, with hundreds of companies vying to sell plastic laminated planks to customers. Basically consisting of printed paper covered with a hard coating, it isn’t really wooden flooring. It is a laminate with a wooden pattern. That is why it is available in all sorts of exotic grains and textures, because it can be made to look like anything you want.
Real wood flooring, though, is remarkably different. It has grains that speak of the seasons; it varies in colour and has genuine character. Wood that is removed from an old building comes in all sizes and normally varies in length as well. As a typical procedure, we have them all cut to 1″x1/2″ strips to minimise the wastage, leaving the lengths variable, so we can play around with the patterns a little bit. Coupled with a waterproof plywood base over a screed floor, this forms a robust flooring material. We generally like to put it in a part of the building where it adds to the overall character of the room.