Carbon-Neutral Woodcube Building Made Without Steel or Glue

WoodCube Sustainble Wood BlocK Building

Wood is starting to steal steel’s thunder. The latter’s popularity has fallen out of favor in recent years for large building projects, and the argument that it’s more sustainable than wood is questionable, to say the least. Now, structures and tower concepts made entirely of wood are proving that this natural, renewable material is more versatile than many people have imagined. Woodcube, a 5-story carbon-neutral apartment block in Germany, is one notable example.

Woodcube, by German architectural firm Architekturagentur, is made almost entirely of wood, with the exception of just a few parts like fixtures and the elevator shaft. It was built without glue or chemical treatment of any kind for a high-performance result that’s not just aesthetically pleasing, but also easier to recycle.

The 16,000-square-foot building contains eight residential units, and everything inside including beams and diving walls was made out of wood. Wooden dowels hold the various components together, resulting in thick, strong, naturally insulated walls that eliminate the need for toxic materials.

Wood is gaining traction as an attractive and environmentally responsible addition to modern architecture, showing up in beautifully carved exterior facades that provide shade and privacy, lowering a building’s energy consumption and adding visual interest. It’s also the focus of a new movement for sustainable super-structures, starting with a 30-story wooden skyscraper in Vancouver.

Cabin Kits: An Affordable Option for Log Cabin Living

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Whether it’s a hunting shelter, vacation getaway or a full-time residence, a log cabin is a beautiful option for rustic lodging. Pre-cut log cabin kits make it fairly easy and affordable to build your own. Often made of Eastern White Pine, these kits include coded or tagged logs, screws, insulation, floor joists, windows, decking and virtually everything else you need to construct a cabin ranging from the most simple shed-sized structures to larger, multi-story homes.

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Modular cabin kits allow aspiring cabin owners with a D-I-Y spirit to play a role in every step of building their own structure, from the ground up, while sticking to a budget and following expert instructions. Generally, you just need some basic tools like a ladder, power drill, circular saw, hammer and caulking gun.

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Log cabins made from kits are different from handcrafted log homes, in that the latter are produced from whole logs by artisans who hand-peel and notch the logs individually. Because handcrafted log homes are made one at a time, using traditional techniques, they have a different feel from cabins produced using logs milled to be uniform in shape so they fit together like puzzle pieces.

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There are many log cabin companies offering kits that they will ship anywhere within the continental United States, but you can also find a provider in your area. Once you choose the model you prefer, you can often make small changes to the design to customize it to your preferences.

Photos: Merrimac Log Homes

Home Building Materials: Why Choose Wood?

EWP Why Wood for Building

Wood is among the most ancient of building materials, used to create a stunning array of human dwellings all around the world in places where plentiful trees have long made it a natural choice. But with so many other materials now available to the modern home builder, why choose wood? There are a range of excellent reasons to consider building with wood rather than environmentally questionable composites, plastic-based materials, and steel.

Warm, cozy and full of character

Imagine walking into your new home and taking a deep breath. In a structure that’s made mostly of wood, you’ll inhale a comforting natural fragrance with no worries about what you’re taking into your lungs. Do the same in a house that’s filled with PVC, linoleum flooring and other synthetic materials, and you’re likely dosing yourself with potentially carcinogenic substances.

Each knot and tiny imperfection in a length of wood tells a story about the tree from which it came. It brings to mind peaceful forests where tall trees full of birds, squirrels and other wildlife sway gently in the wind. These qualities tie a living space to the natural world, giving it a sense of tranquility that can’t be matched by other materials.

Natural, renewable and sustainable

When you purchase sustainably grown wood, such as Eastern White Pine, you’re fueling demand for large tracts of forest where trees are allowed to grow strong and tall as an integral part of local ecosystems before they’re harvested. The value of Eastern White Pine as a green building material is a strong incentive for land owners to preserve woodland habitats and log their trees according to strict standards set by the Forest Stewardship Council and other third-party organizations.

Learn more about the sustainability of Eastern White Pine versus plantation-grown pines.

Image via: Trophy Amish Cabins

The Best Tree for the Job: Eastern White Pine Log Homes

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“We do not mill Eastern White Pine because it is the species closet to our mills;” says log home builder Moose Log Homes, “instead, we moved our mills to be closer to this magnificent tree and its abundant supplies in the U.S. East.” This company is among many that choose Eastern White Pine not only for its striking beauty and affordability, but its stability. This tree is listed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wood Products Laboratory as having the least amount of radial shrinkage of any species of wood used as an engineering material.

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Eastern White Pine performs extraordinarily well when compared to other pine species like Southern Yellow Pine, Lodgepole Pine, Ponderosa Pine and Western White Pine. Low shrinkage rates mean log homes made of Eastern White Pine will be stronger and more durable.

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Log homes have been built in North America since the first British settlers arrived in what would become New England nearly 500 years ago. The earliest stacked log structures were very rustic, made using the simplest of techniques, so inevitably, there were gaps between the logs. Development of the ‘military dovetail corner’ in the 18th century provided the interlocking log pattern that we recognize in log homes today, making these structures much more comfortable and stable.

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Modern log homes can be built with logs in a variety of shapes and sizes including round logs, D-shaped logs, dovetail and tongue-and-groove. These logs can reach up to 14 inches in diameter and an incredible 50 feet in length, creating dramatic looks that show off the natural beauty of wood like no other building material and construction technique.

Eastern White Pine: A Greener Choice than PVC Trim Board


PVC trim board products like AZEK are often touted as a low-maintenance alternative to wood trim for interior and exterior walls, in both residential and commercial building projects. But what’s the real cost of choosing this synthetic material over one that is natural and renewable? It’s true that PVC trim board, which is engineered to look like wood, is long-lasting and impervious to rot and insects. But so is Eastern White Pine – without the negative environmental effects. While some builders try to pass PVC off as ‘green’ due to its durability, in truth, it’s anything but.

Polynvinyl Chloride has become a very common building material over the last half-century, with over 30 million tons of it used every year. According to the Healthy Building Network, which calls it “the antithesis of a green building material,” PVC poses major environmental and human health hazards throughout its manufacturing, use and disposal. Its production represents the largest use of chlorine gases in the world, a group of chemicals that have come under scrutiny in recent decades due to the unusually severe hazards they tend to pose.

Many of the chemical mixtures used to make PVC haven’t yet been identified or tested, and some of these chemicals have been found to bioaccumulate, meaning they build up in the tissue of living things. The basic materials, additives and byproducts of PVC have been found to cause cancer, disruption of the endocrine system, reproductive impairment, impaired child development, neurotoxicity and immune system suppression. The Healthy Building Network is calling for PVC to be phased out as a building material.

On the other hand, Eastern White Pine is a renewable resource grown in sustainably managed mixed hardwood forests that maintain the balance of natural ecosystems and provide homes for a wide variety of wildlife. This inexpensive and truly eco-friendly building material, which is commonly used for interior and exterior trim board, has many of the benefits of PVC without the serious drawbacks. A traditional building material used in historic Northeastern United States homes for centuries, Eastern White Pine boards provide greater stability and less movement than any other product on the market after being acclimated properly to its new environment.

Photo: NELMA