Wood Construction Can Last a Long Time

wood beams
CC BY 2.0. Lloyd Alter

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Often when I write about wood, commenters note that it isn't as durable as other materials. And while that might be true of 2x4 wood frame construction, it isn't about heavy timber. The most surprising I have ever seen is in Bologna, Italy.

credit: Lloyd Alter

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0Almost all of the buildings in Bologna have arcades, which protect pedestrians from the elements, not to mention horses then and motor scooters now, and most are now built of brick. (stone is rare up here in northern Italy)


Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Back in the 13th century, however, they built this arcade in wood. Here it is, eight hundred years later, and the exposed wood of the arcade is still there, still holding up masonry walls above it.

wood detail

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Now it is true that we don't see a lot of wood of these dimensions in the lumber yard these days, but we have new technologies that can give us pretty much the same thing. I think that holding up a brick building for eight hundred years is pretty impressive.