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Houses made of wood take off

Wood is gaining popularity as a building product in because of environmental concerns, with sales up 50% since 2000.

Houses made from wood are increasing in popularity across France - with sales up 50% since 2000.

Following last year’s Grenelle de l'Environnement environment summit, wooden houses’ ability to reduce energy consumption has seen architects and builders take an even greater interest in this building material.

The benefits to the home owner include an average 30% saving on electricity bills due to the natural insulating properties of wood.

The buildings are also seen as blending better into a natural landscape and can be combined with building materials such as steel, glass and stone.

In 2006 these houses represented just 4% of the market.

Now 20% of manufacturers say they would consider using wood for construction.

The homes cost 15-30% more compared to properties made with concrete and traditional building materials because most of the wood is imported.

Italian architect Antonino Cascio has built a five-bedroom wooden house, pictured right, with a south-facing glass front, in a forest in Saint-Paul-de-Vence in the Alpes-Maritimes.

The glass front looks over a wooded landscape and swimming pool.

A wooden platform was built in front of the house which left the roots of surrounding trees intact and was built around any large trees growing up through the terrace.

Mr Cascio's wife Renée said: "We did not want to use concrete as this would have cut into the tree roots. With the trees growing through the terrace, it feels a bit like living in a nest."

The northern wall of the house which receives less sun, is built from wood panelling, with very small windows.

The wood used for the exterior framework, interior wooden staircase and parquet floor is imported from Africa.

The east and west façades of the house are built on a wooden frame with ochre-coloured plaster matching the red colour of the stones of the region, replacing a costly all-wood finish.

A sloping roof prevents a build-up of falling leaves.

The couple had wanted to install solar panels but were not able to, due to a shortage of natural light.

They also considered installing a sprinkler system around the house to avoid the risk of fire.

Other popular wooden house models include a house in the Var which fits against a rock wall and recently won first prize at the Salon européen du bois (wooden home expo) held in Grenoble.

Another type made in Yvelines (Ile de France) mixes ideas used in the construction of Australian colonial houses and Feng Shui - the concept of a feeling of well-being created through the position of objects in the home.

Photo: The interior of a wooden house in Saint-Paul-deVence, by Joel Carlou

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