Close up on traditional wood cladding, photo.
Photo: Géraldine Brun

Doctoral research: Traditional craft knowledge for regenerative architecture - wood cladding

Research project

Short description

The project investigates how traditional craft knowledge can contribute to regenerative architecture. The aim is to identify relevant craft methods to bring into the future to ensure positive interaction between built and natural environments. The focus is wood cladding, and the main research method is the study of existing objects in Scandinavia and France. The project is based on the characterisation of the quality of wood panels that can clad facades in a responsible and sustainable way, i.e., for longer than it takes for trees to regenerate and without creating waste, while making the environment resilient. This implies analysing technical factors such as forest management, natural properties of tree species, manufacturing, assembly and maintenance processes, as well as society-related factors such as worldview and lifestyle.

Research aims

The project’s goal is to identify traditional craft methods that are relevant to bring into the future to ensure a positive interaction between built and natural environments. Concretely, this project focuses on characterising the quality of wood panels that can clad facades in a responsible way, i.e. for longer than it takes for trees to regenerate and without creating waste while making the environment resilient instead of destroying it. The project also aims to understand how wood cladding can constitute a platform for re-implementing local and low-tech production of wood products, depending on societal and normative contexts.


Cladding facades with wood is an old tradition in Scandinavia and in some regions in France and has seen a renaissance in Europe over the past 20 years. The increasing demand for wood products has been met by a rather inadequate supply chain, encouraging short rotation periods of trees, international trades of forest products and wood modifications.

Wood modification methods such as acetylation or furfuryl alcohol impregnation have developed significantly in order to prolong the technical and aesthetic service life of certain qualities of wood. But as wood from species considered non-durable has been cladding facades, raw or coated with traditional paints, for centuries, the relevance of our modern understanding of durability can be questioned. Furthermore, traditions such as the use of wood from deciduous trees are threatened today as standardisation of production methods and efficiency are hardly compatible with the use of local tree species growing in natural forests issued from regeneration. Preserved pre-industrial wood claddings must be better understood because they can carry important information to consider for performance amelioration and symbiotic relations between built and natural environments.


The project has its roots in sustainable development and specifically, it has a strong connection to the goal Responsible consumption and production ( and obvious implications with the goals Sustainable cities and communities ( and Life on land (

By combining concepts such as resilience of craft and regenerative architecture, this project seeks to go beyond sustainability and insists on the importance of a collaborative relationship between built and natural environments. Wood as a construction material offers the opportunity to build in a regenerative and circular way because it is grown and biodegradable.

Wood cladding appears as an optimal platform for reflecting upon durability and regeneration because of its paradoxical status of a sacrifice layer, made to protect the rest of a building while carrying an important aesthetic value. Furthermore, the aesthetic dimension of cladding and its non-structural role makes it a motivating and accessible application for enrolling novices in house building. Participation in home construction and self-building can make users more responsible and communities more resilient.


The main research method is in-situ observations of existing objects in Scandinavia and France. Study cases are preserved and damaged traditional claddings, to be understood as cladding type representative of a specific area, manufactured from local resources and without industrial process.

The project is structured as follows:

  • observations (façade typology, details, wood identity, tool marks, eventual coating)
  • complementary information (interviews, archives, regulations, local forest)
  • and technologies and processes (photogrammetry, dendrochronology)

A holistic perspective is adopted in order to connect various parameters such as forest management, natural properties of tree species, and manufacturing, assembly and maintenance processes.