87: Cork e-friendly building material



The cork oak tree (Quercus suber) has a much more impressive layer of cork bark. It’s this tree that cork is sourced from. The cork oak tree is native to the countries in the Mediterranean region.

The forests of the Mediterranean region evolved to thrive despite the low rainfall and frequent brush fires: hence Morocco, Algeria, France, Italy, and Tunisia all grow cork oak trees, but Portugal and Spain are the world’s biggest suppliers. Cork does not absorb water or rot.  Likewise, if left uncoated – it is naturally fire resistant.

Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans referenced cork as a preferred material for stoppers used with wine and olive oil. The Romans also recommended making beehives out of cork, because of its low heat conduction; they employed corkwood planks in the construction of their homes, proved ideal for flooring and insulation sheets due to its noise as well as shock adsorption attributes.

Cork harvesting takes place for the first time when a tree reaches maturity, which is usually at about 15 to 25 years of age. The specially trained harvesters will first measure the tree’s circumference to ensure it’s at least 70 cm when measured from 1.3 meters above ground level. The harvesting itself takes place from about the middle of May to the end of August. This is when the cork oak trees enter their active growing phase.

Although the primary market for the material today remains bottle stoppers—which comprise some 60% of leading Portuguese cork producer Corticeira Amorim’s exports—architectural applications are once more on the rise. Panels and strips are not the only formats for cork façades. Cork is used to make bricks for the outer walls of houses, as in Portugal’s pavilion at Expo 2000.

Albacete, Spain–based coating company Decoproyec makes Projected Cork, a spray-finish material composed of fine cork granules and vegetable resin in a water base. When applied to building envelopes, the resulting stucco-like finish is waterproof and well-insulating, yet also breathable and resilient. Projected Cork resists cracking and splitting, and is capable of extending up to 33 percent beyond its original surface area.

What you can do: Apart from drinking organic wine from genuinely corked bottles – search out other cork objects such as furniture for your home and office.

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