The Spinnaker Bench great for public seating in the urban environment

Bespoke Urban Street Furniture and the Environment

Posted on December 17, 2010

Planning your bespoke urban street furniture project or any form of public seating such as tables, park seats, chairs, bollards and noticeboards or any kind of modern and contemporary street furniture has many pit falls and considerations and quite often the main aspect that is so often overlooked in the planning of health and safety and fitting in with it's surroundings is using wood and quality timber from sustainable and environmentally friendly sources.

Large Bespoke Roadside Planter
The Spinnaker Pathway Bench
The Wykeham Litter Bin

Far too often, green considerations for timber used in bespoke urban street benches and seating simply come down to one factor: Does it carry the Forestry Stewardship Council certification? (FSC for short). The FSC work in sourcing timber from renewable sources, however, they are not alone in certifying timber that has a low or no consequence to the environment, and FSC endorsed wood and timber is sometimes more expensive than standard timber. This does not mean that you should therefore not use FSC certified wood or use inferior, cheaper and less environmentally friendly timber, or even use other materials such as plastics, concrete and steel of which all have their own significant effects to the environment.

The main criticisms in the use of timber in outdoor and street furniture focus on the prickly issue of de-forestation. Compared with concrete, steel, aluminium, plastics and other materials, we generally believe that sustainable timber can cause less environmental damage when measured against a true lifespan analysis.

Timber is highly waste efficient, renewable, natural, non toxic, organic, degrades quickly and safely and is completely recyclable. Evidence points to timber's contribution in the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, and therefore helps to soften the impact of global warming. All of these reasons means that it is most advantageous to the environment to contribute to and maintain the international trade in sensibly managed timber, and to recognise the importance of the renewable timber resource we have at our fingertips for future. Modern and contemporary outdoor street timber furniture such as urban litter bins, signage, wooden chairs, bollards, picnic suits, dining suits, finger posts, planters, shelters and information signs can also turn an otherwise very urban and unnatural street or city centre into a much more comfortable setting, often re-dressing the balance between nature and steel, concrete, glass and pavement. We should do our up-most to ensure that modern forestry stocks are maintained at a much higher sustainable level by investing in sensible forestation that is going ahead and maintaining tree stock levels all over the world and ensuring that we use timber in a controlled and sensible way.

Roadside wooden bollards protecting grass verges from car parking
Roadside timber bollards with reflective strips
Detail of the Spinnaker bench

When looking for bespoke outdoor furniture manufacturers and timber suppliers, make sure you don't just give a passing glance to the FSC logo and give it no further thought, but actually make some effort to trace the source of the softwoods and hardwoods involved in the products. Make sure there is some accountability involved in the production of wood from developments in forest management and ensure the wooden furniture produced by the manufacturer refers to well-managed forests where evidence is available.