07 August 2008

Sustainable lumber that looks great

If you spend any time in art or craft galleries in Florida, you have no doubt run across bowls and vases made from palm wood. There's a detail shot here that shows palm wood's unique, "thready" grain pattern. The structure of a palm tree trunk is essentially a tightly packed bundle of fibers and when its cut and stained the effect is really stunning. I don't know how popular palm wood is outside of areas where palms grown, but in this part of the world it's pretty popular stuff. I love seeing it: it's an organic, local touch and I've always wondered why it doesn't get used outside of bowls and vases.

Enter Smith and Fong's Durapalm. Smith and Fong is a San Francisco-based building product innovator and their Durapalm product is made from culled coconut palms. A coconut palm has about a 100 year lifespan as a coconut producer before it's cut down. Until Durapalm, the spent coconut palm ended up as more agricultural waste. Durapalm takes the palm tree and makes it into laminate plywood, similar to how bamboo gets turned into flooring.

That laminate plywood ends up as a sheet good for use as paneling or cabinet doors, it gets cut into planks for use as flooring, or it gets cut into what are essentially tiles and then used as wall cladding. It's really wild stuff and certainly unlike anything else you're likely to come across in somebody else's house any time soon.

Pretty neat all around. It's unusual, beautiful and sustainable --a triple crown. But where to find it? Why Indigo of course. Hurray Indigo!

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