Geek Out

How A Design Trend Is Helping Prevent Wildfires In The American West

As wildfires continue to plague the American West, fire prevention is becoming more and more important. And prevention doesn’t always mean Smokey the Bear PSAs. In fact, the lumber industry has developed a symbiotic relationship with the very material feeding many of the fires.

It’s called Beetle Kill Wood, and you’ve probably seen it, even if you don’t recognise it. The blue-tinged wood is the result of the Mountain Pine Beetle, which has swarmed forests in Colorado and across the West in recent years, feasting on the pines that make up almost 10 per cent of many forests. The dead husks of trees that are left behind usually end up toppling over — and often become the dry kindling needed to feed a growing wildfire.

Figuring out a way to remove Beetle Kill Wood has been a huge topic in recent years — but it’s being made a bit easier by the growing demand for the stuff by architects from California to Colorado. According to a story on Archinect, Beetle Kill Wood is officially a trend in the design world, with architects harvesting the stuff from their own backyards and selling it for $250 per linear foot or more. In fact, there are now entire companies that specialize in the look, which is known as “denim wood” amongst designers.

It’s fascinating to see demand for a fashionable material develop symbiotically with a real — if perhaps unintentional — benefit to the public. Now how long before IKEA offers a veneer option? [The San Gabriel Valley Tribune; via Archinect]

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) campus in Colorado.

Beetle Kill panels at Proper, a restaurant in Tucson.

Beetle Kill Wood furniture by Beetle Builds.