Green Deck Design

Tuesday, November 28, 2017 | By | Add a Comment


Green Deck Design

A green deck is an environmentally sound construction that takes into account the need to observe ecological responsibility.  Building a green deck involves the use of recycled waste products that do not rot and last for a long time. There is pleasure in knowing that not only is the deck durable, it is also a direct contribution to the preservation of the environment for generations to come.  The most ideal materials to use when embarking on a green deck design are derived from technical resources.  These are typically recyclable and they can be used frequently.  They are also designed to be rot resistant.

What are options for sustainable decking materials?

  • Natural Wood Decks
  • Treated Lumber
  • Composite Decking
  • HDPE Plastic Decking

Natural Wood Decks

Natural wood decks have advantages that no other decking material possesses. Wood is nontoxic and extremely strong for its weight. It is beautiful and easy to work with. It is a renewable resource. And as long as the forest has been sustainably managed and the wood has been procured with limited fossil-fuel inputs, it can be a wonderfully green product. It is also relatively easy to reuse in future projects.

The problems associated with wood decking spring from its advantages: the natural inclination of your beautiful wood deck is to return to the soil from whence it came, by the action of weather, insects, bacteria, and mold. To delay this effect, you can choose wood that is naturally resistance to rot and insects, like native cedar and redwood and imported tropical hardwoods such as teak and ipe (a Brazilian hardwood also known as ironwood).

It is worth noting that the famed rot-resistance of redwood is measurably greater in lumber made from old-growth trees. This wood is now unavailable except as reclaimed wood from old buildings.  If recycled redwood or cedar is available in your area, it is worth seeking out, both to conserve natural resources and as a superior building material. If you cannot find old growth redwood, you can *seek out sustainably harvested redwood. To ensure that your wood is sustainably sourced, look for wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

Treated Lumber

Naturally rot-resistant wood is wonderful stuff, but this type of wood has become increasingly expensive, forcing people to search for more cost effective alternatives. A popular substitute, especially in areas far from cedar and redwood forests, is decking made from less rot-resistant, cheaper softwoods that are treated with chemicals that inhibit decay.

The degree of a woods rot-resistance depends upon the depth of treatment—wood that is in contact with damp soil needs the deepest treatment.  Treated decking can be finished with stains and paints much like natural wood (with some adaptation), and it retains all the strength of natural wood.

Slightly less poisonous treatments like amine copper quat (ACQ) and copper azone (CA) are starting to replace older, more toxic options for residential use.  The safer alternatives are still far from benign, however. ACQ- and CA-treated wood cannot be recycled or burnt—it’s toxic to produce, work with, and dispose of. Currently the best alternative wood preservative is borate. Borate is water-soluble, meaning that it cannot be used in ground-contact situations, but it is fairly inert and non-toxic.

Composite Decking

Composite decking products blend waste wood fiber and recycled plastics, adding in waxes, fiberglass, and preservatives to form wood-like boards. Some products last up to 20 years with little maintenance. However, all will weather, and warping is not uncommon. Composite lumber has some of the strength of wood, it looks and feels very similar, it can be worked with wood tools, and it uses waste products that might otherwise end up in a landfill.

In terms of green building, the biggest objection to composite decking is that, although it lasts a long time, it is very difficult to dispose of once it reaches the end of its life because the biological components (wood and other cellulose) and “technical” components (plastics, waxes, and fiberglass) are blended.

HDPE Plastic Decking

Lumber made entirely from High Density Polyethylene resin— the same plastic that makes milk jugs— is made from waste plastic. Like composite lumber, it is workable with wood tools and is available in a variety of colors and textures.

Plastic lumber does not possess the strength of wood and it is thus best suited for low-load structural applications, such as tables, benches, or planks on well-supported walkways.  It is not intended for primary structural load-bearing elements, such as posts, joists, and beams. Manufacturers of plastic lumber vary in their use of post-consumer waste. Look for products that contain at least 50% post-consumer waste plastic.

As we design and modify our living spaces, finding the right decking option for your budget and your values is key, and these four sustainable decking solutions can help you decide which material is right for your needs.

The use of natural materials when constructing decks is a commendable trend.  Designing a green deck is a fun endeavor because it is such a worthwhile undertaking.  Apart from using natural materials, it is also important to make use of eco-sealers that will preserve the quality of the deck.  These types of sealers are safer to use because they do not contain a high level of toxic chemicals.

Deck building has not been left out of the building industry’s focus on green ‘behavior’.  Green decks have longer life spans and they make a significant impact on the survival of the earth.  They consist of a sustainable design that is gradually being considered to be more satisfactory.  It is built in a resource efficient way that initially costs more than a conventional deck design.  These costs prove to be worthwhile in the end because the deck will not require costly maintenance in future.

Successfully designing a green deck incorporates a number of aspects.  The landscape on which the deck is built should be worked on in its natural state.  The materials used to build the deck should exhibit low toxicity, durability and be recyclable.  The amount of building materials used should also be reduced as an element of resource efficiency.  During construction, minimal space should be used so as to facilitate further recycling efforts.  The less space used, the less waste is likely to be generated.

In terms of lighting, natural light or solar lighting are the best green options.  During the day the deck will be exposed to natural design, if its placement is well thought out.  During the night, the light can be generated from light produced from solar power during the day.  If solar power is not sufficient or feasible, efforts should be made to use energy saving light systems that come with dimming facilitation.  All in all, green deck building is a rewarding venture.  As one sits back and enjoys a cool drink on their deck, they can also enjoy the fact that they have actively preserved the environment’s resources.


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Category: Architecture and Home Design

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