How has the advent of wood working impacted the construction industry as we know it today?
The construction industry as we know it today is an evolution of all the thinking and development that has gone before. From advanced materials to complex construction techniques, everything that we have come to rely on in modern building is the result of progress made by earlier pioneers. Wood and wood working had a huge impact on how the construction industry developed into the sector that it is today.
Construction in the early years
Some of the earliest roots of the construction industry stretch back to The New Stone Age (9000 BC to 5000 BC). During this time wood was one of the materials of choice for Neolithic builders – although wood working was yet to be developed. Alongside bone, grasses and stone, wood was one of the few options from which a shelter could be built. It was also thought to be the way that the earliest bridges were constructed – wooden logs placed across a stream enabled humans to cross, later to be replaced by timber trackways. Wood features heavily in Neolithic architecture but, with only basic tools available, the options were still relatively limited in terms of what could be done with it.
The versatility of wood in construction
As the world entered the Copper Age and the Bronze Age, the use of metals to create tools, such as a saw, introduced wood working and made it easier for techniques and results to be refined. Wood became an important material in construction methods too, with the invention of a wooden wheel and the use of wooden rollers to move heavy loads making it possible to transport construction materials to sites further away and increase the scope of what could be achieved. For example, while the Ancient Egyptians are well known for building their enormous pyramids from blocks of stone, wood was crucial to the construction process. According to an account of pyramid construction by Herodotus in the 5th century BC, “This pyramid was made like stairs, which some call steps and others, tiers. When this, its first form, was completed, the workmen used short wooden logs as levers to raise the rest of the stones.”
How wooden construction contributed to the industry’s heritage
Before 650 B.C.E ancient Greek temples were all built of wood and the Romans used a large amount of wood to create construction cranes and tools that were used to build the roads and ruins that remain today. The Romans are even credited with the invention of the first sawmill, they valued wood so highly. Wood was also crucial to the construction of The Great Wall of China, both in the wall itself and to build the forts along it. Traditional Chinese timber frames used post and lintel construction and many also highlighted the aesthetic appeal of working with wood. Despite the increasing use of brick and stone in building construction, timber remained one of the most popular choices for frames and roofing throughout the Middle Ages and right up until the Industrial Revolution when steel, concrete and glass began to take over.
The use of wood in construction has come full circle. As one of the earliest materials available to use in the construction process, wood working made the building of structures possible when there were few other options. Today, wood working has once again become an important element in construction, particularly with respect to building that is focused on sustainability.
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