There was a time when modern house building seemed to be heading towards steel and plastic. But recent advances in knowledge of wood is making it the comeback kid.

New Zealand wood has a proud history – though much of it involved levelling most of our native forest and selling it to other people.

One minute we were dragging out kauri logs the size of tube trains. The next we were reduced to selling imported radiata pine we had to treat with toxic chemicals to use outside. We kept our villas and boarded homes but seldom went further in exploring how wood could really help shape a home, rather than just decorate it.

More recently, companies such as Auckland-based Abodo began bringing wood back into fashion. It pioneered new takes on what could be done with native timbers. Abodo also treats pine with heat rather than chemicals, so the end results can return to nature rather than a toxic dump.


Fast forward to the latest developments in wood, including innovations like Cross Laminated Timber (CLT).

It bonds wood together to create 15-20cm-thick slabs akin to concrete walls. These can be formed into the shapes required, are much lighter and easier to work than their concrete cousins, reducing the costs of labour and machinery to make a competitive alternative. The material also has outstanding insulation characteristics.

The results are also finding their way into interior design magazines. Many homeowners in Europe are keeping their CLT walls 'raw' and treating them to show off the natural material.

It's not just aesthetics. Many studies confirm the beneficial health effects of surrounding ourselves with natural rather than synthetic materials. There is even evidence that using natural materials like wood and stone extensively in our homes helps to reduce anxiety and cut stress.

Daniel Gudsell, marketing director at Abodo, says: "People are keen on the look of timbers like the western red cedar. But a lot of that is being felled in old growth Canadian forests.

"We ask people, 'if someone came to New Zealand, cut down a 300-year-old kauri and fixed it to the outside of their house, would you be happy?'

"We have some great local renewable alternatives now. For us it is working because, first and foremost, we have a great looking product that performs. Once people see it they want it. Then people hear the sustainability story and it adds to the feel good factor."

We are seeing more and more architects and home designers getting up to speed on wood. Do your own research before you complete the specs of your new build or refurbishment. Take another look at wood. You might find it grows on you.