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Oh yes you can. Take a look at Copenhagen airport where wood floors were installed in the high traffic areas nearly 50 years ago, and still going strong.
Whenever I’m asked if a wooden floor is suitable for a particular project, I’m sure my face changes colour and contorts without me really realising. I will always maintain that wood is suitable for anything and everything. Most of the time wood flooring isn’t specified because of the cost implications, but the full benefits and huge cost savings in the long term far outweigh cheaper alternatives.
There is of course already an airport with wooden flooring – wood dominates its entire shopping and high traffic areas. ‘It won’t last,’ they all screamed when the first phase was installed back in the 70s. ‘Oh yes it will!’ I shouted back from my pram. I just don’t get why every other airport ever built doesn’t follow suit and put wood flooring in all the high traffic areas. Build the whole place out of wood as well as far as I’m concerned. And the planes. Because it’s been proven a million times over. There’s nothing like wood.
The first wooden floor was laid in Copenhagen airport back in the 60s and was made from solid padauk. Yes, padauk, a wood we hardly ever use in the UK, because, well, because we’ve never heard of it. It’s an African wood which can only be described as moderately hard, with a beautifully deep reddish brown tone to it, and a cost that would surprise most. It’s really not expensive and it has some wonderful qualities to it, including being incredibly resistant to insects and any form of decay.
As the airport expanded over the years, so did the use of wooden flooring, and they now have more high traffic areas fitted with exotic woods like jatoba and merbau. Jatoba, in case you’ve never heard of it, can only be described as Brazilian concrete. You really don’t want to be stubbing your toes on the corner of a bed post made from jatoba. Ouchhh. This stuff is so dense it will blunt any instrument or tool sent to attack it.
Copenhagen airport has managed to keep its wooden floors looking fantabulous for over 40 years. Can you imagine what a linoleum floor would look like after 10 years, never mind 40? We used to have a lino floor in our kitchen when I was growing up. It was hideous. The best place for lino as far as I’m concerned is in your garage workshop or a children’s tree house. And I’ve never heard of anybody looking for a reclaimed linoleum floor. Linoleum maybe cheaper, but not much cheaper, and requires little maintenance. But it’s never going to perform like wood, and needs replacing frequently in high traffic areas, so in the long run it’s going to work out a lot more expensive. Oh, and it’s going to look rubbish.
But the answer to all this longevity and beauty in the wooden floors in Copenhagen’s airport is quite simple. Maintenance, and a little bit of love and affection. And their little bit of love will come in the way of some Viking whose name is probably something like Freidrich Heidle Swenson Christiansen, whose job it is to drive round every evening on a little machine to coat the floor surface with some oil. And that’s it. Job done.
A couple of months ago, London’s oldest schoolboy Boris Johnson instructed one of the world’s leading architects, Zaha Hadid, to come up with a plan to design a new airport somewhere in or around the capital. Well, at least, I think that’s what he mumbled. There is no question that Zaha Hadid is a genius at what she does, but I can’t help feeling that the airport designs I’ve seen from her just look like a place where the Starship Enterprise would land. Maybe it will one day, but an airport with a floor made out Vulcanite polished rock won’t look anywhere near as sexy as an airport with a wooden floor. And I’ll bet you a wooden floor will outlive the Klingons.
Zaha, you know what I’m going to say.