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Wood from submerged forests combines style and sustainability

Suriname is South America’s smallest country. The country is home to the Brokopondo Reservoir – an artificial lake created by the Dutch in the 1960s as a means to produce power for the aluminium industry. Back then, large swathes of jungle were flooded. The result is that, today, there is a huge supply of premium wood concealed underwater. The majority of the tropical trees that grew there have long since died – but this hasn’t been to the wood’s detriment: The water has acted to relieve the inherent growth-related tensions in the wood, making the material easier to work with and particularly resistant to deformation. Even though many of the trees belong to protected species, in this case they can be felled as what is referred to as "reservoir wood". The actual process of felling them, however, isn’t that simple and in some cases, can even be dangerous.

Piranhas and pitch blackness

To get their hands on the highly coveted wood, the lumberjacks need to don diving gear and swim down to the bed of the lake. One problem they face is the lake’s large population of piranhas. Another is that visibility drops to almost zero after reaching a depth of 1.5 metres. This means that once they’re down there, the divers have to work in pitch black darkness – using chainsaws powered with compressed air. A team of lumberjacks working this way harvests up to fifteen giant trees from the lake every day. These often include such exotic woods as Purpleheart, Partridgewood, Basralocus or Brazilian Walnut. According to estimates, there are more than ten million cubic metres of wood in the Brokopondo Reservoir – around 500,000 truckloads.

Not your usual tree-felling operation

Reservoir wood for more sustainable interior products

The particularly durable reservoir wood is exceptionally well suited for furniture production and is often also used for wooden patio flooring. The wood has the considerable added benefit that no tropical wood needs to be cut. Using wood from this source is also ecologically valuable as getting it out of the water prevents it from rotting there, where it would release the harmful greenhouse gas methane.

At present, the wood cut here includes visually unique wood types that are beyond the reach of conventional forestry because they are protected by the CITES treaty. This makes reservoir wood an excellent alternative for anyone who wants to build sustainably but still desires top material quality and sophisticated, individual design. 

When deciding on your interior, do you look to material properties first or do ecological aspects affect your decision too?

Innovation Sustainability Wood

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