A good deck can transform your life. Encouraging us to spend time outside, but comfortably so, decks provide us with a whole other entertaining space for family and friends, or in the case of Faaborg, Denmark, the entire town.
“The project was to design a sea bath facility accompanied by a series of functions such as changing rooms, facilities for rowers, a sauna, a diving platform and a water activity playground,” says Julien De Smedt, of Julien De Smedt Architects (JDS), who have offices in Copenhagen, Brussels and Shanghai and have taken the concept of a public deck to a whole new level.
“In Faaborg we’re really happy to see that the project has spurred an entirely new relationship to the waterfront and has dragged a huge variety of users, from the youngest to the oldest,” says De Smedt.
Specializing in waterfront facilities, JSA have completed the Copenhagen Harbour Bath and the Kalvebod Waves project that faces it and are working on a “masterplan” of Sweden’s Norrtalje waterfront, with similar concepts developed for Rimini and Albenga in Italy, Buenos Aires, Beirut, Trondheim in Norway and Aalborg in Denmark.
Living on our decks is not a new concept says Matthew Peek, the principal architect at San Francisco’s Studio Peek Ancona.
Peek was a finalist for The High Line in New York and recently completed a multi-level roof deck and penthouse project in San Francisco’s Marina District for a client who wanted to watch the America’s Cup.
“I had a Fulbright to do research in Italy, years ago after my masters, and found that from Rome on south a lot of people lived on their roofs in the spring and fall,” he says. “So it’s a whole other layer of living. In terms of densification I think it’s really important that we use every square inch.”
Peek says it was the dream of early modernist visionaries that we could live in the upper reaches of the city and this is where the ideas for elevated railways and helicopter launching pads came from.
“In San Francisco there’s a huge boom going on so what they’re doing downtown is beginning to build extensively on all the roof decks,” he says.
In a city like Vancouver, you have to choose your decking materials wisely, says Craig Beere, of Beere Timber Company, which has specialized in architectural wood products for more than 30 years.
“It all depends on where the deck is situated on the house,” he says. “Protection versus exposed; is it sitting on a slab? There’s no one great product that’s good for everything.”
A good place to start, says Beere, for people who are wanting to replace or update an existing deck or build a whole new structure is to visit a lumber yard that deals primarily with builders and contractors, such as Griff Building Supplies, Northern Building Supply Ltd., or his own company, Beere Timber, as their sales people are incredibly knowledgeable about what works and what doesn’t.
The variety of building materials available for decks is ever increasing, says Beere, and it’s all about knowing what you’re signing on for.
A self-confessed “wood guy” since the late ‘70s, Beere began importing the composite TruGrain from Germany four years ago (made of 60 per cent rice husk and 40 per cent PVC and therefore resistant to mould and mildew) because of how well it performs in a city like Vancouver and it has since been picked up by UBC, BCIT, SFU and The Park Board for park benches and picnic tables.
For those who prefer hardwood for their decking, Beere says, one that works well in Vancouver is Ipe, which they import from Panama, where it is underwater harvested in flooded valleys — reservoirs for hydro-electricity dams in the late ‘70s — so naturally this wood does well in humid climates.
Not all wood production out of the tropics means the end of the rainforest says Tennessee-native Aram Terry, whose Nicaragua-based company Masaya & Company began planting trees and harvesting them along with hurricane felled lumber for export seven years ago.
“The U.S. and Canada have had sustainable forestry practices for over 100 years,” he says. “The U.S. has had positive forest growth over the last several decades. The forest isn’t disappearing it’s actually increasing in coverage and that has been due to good policy and sustainable forestry practice that do not exist in the tropics.”
Terry’s company exports lumbar to China, India, Taiwan and Vietnam but is shifting the focus to producing furniture from their plantation wood (mostly teak), employing the skills of the local Nicaraguans.
“I like the idea of having a company that actually plants, extracts, processes and delivers finished goods,” says Terry. “Even if it’s on a smaller level. Just having that whole story tied together, where the whole supply chain is integrated.”