Sengon: A Fast Growing Wood at a Glance

The climate crisis is the most serious crisis of our time, and it affects all of us. The rate of evaporation increases as the temperature of the Earth rises. It causes precipitation to increase in some areas while decreasing in others, and it causes the rain that does fall to fall in torrents. The changing climate causes both severe floodings and extended drought periods, affecting both society in rural and urban areas. Choosing the right materials and using them responsibly is critical in a world with limited resources and space. The construction industry is under pressure to find alternative building materials because cement and concrete production account for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and the global iron and steel industry accounts for another 5%. It is necessary that a change from energy-devouring to renewable resources takes place in all areas of life and culture. Wood is increasingly being considered as a viable alternative in both residential and larger building projects because it is the ultimate renewable material with numerous carbon-reducing benefits.

Sengon (Paraserianthes falcataria), is a woody species found in Indonesia. It belongs to the legume family (Fabaceae) and is categorized in the subfamily Caesalpinioideae. Sengon, a lightwood, has the capacity to be an economic driver in developing countries and also has many advantages over other materials. The sustainable development and application of lightwood in technical wood products and modern mass timber construction can contribute significantly to poverty reduction, climate change mitigation, a post-carbon economy and greater value addition to the producer countries. Sengon has great potential for use as a building material, for furniture, for the packaging industry and in many other areas. Adding value to these products improves not only the local economy of the country, but also the entire supply chain.

Sengon in a nutshell is characterized by three special properties:

    Sengon has very fast growth. On average, it grows 5-7 meters per year. The tree species also holds a Guinness World Record for the fastest growing tree. (  There are two other effects associated with the rapid growth. First, the harvest cycle is greatly shortened, and second, it is accompanied by a high production of usable raw material.
    Sengon is very light with a bulk density starting from 0.27 g/cm3 and has above average strength compared to weight. The low weight becomes clear when compared with conventional woods. For example, Sengon is nearly 75% lighter than our native spruce.
    Sengon is a so-called pioneer tree. Pioneer trees are characterized by having few soil requirements and can therefore be grown in nutrient-poor soils. In addition, they improve soil quality and make it more fertile. In this particular case, Sengon enriches the soil with nitrogen and thus fertilizes the soil in a natural way.

Various semi-finished products are already being produced from Sengon in Indonesian sawmills. The raw material is primarily used to produce veneers, glue-laminated panels, blockboards and other conventional semi-finished products. Three areas of application have emerged that benefit in many ways from the use of Sengon. These three application areas consist of its use as a packaging material, in architecture as construction material and in the furniture industry.

The focus of this article lies on the application as furniture, more specifically a children’s furniture. The idea and design is produced by Mr Moritz Bleicher, who conducted his Bachelor Thesis together with Fairventures Worldwide in the frame of the research project SuMatHaA (funded by BMWK). 

Furniture is probably the object with which people come into contact the most when thinking about wood. How better to introduce and represent a Sengon, than the realization of a piece of furniture? Thus, in order to facilitate access to the material Sengon, a piece of furniture can make a great contribution to making the wood tangible.

Wood is an excellent material for toys and products for children in general. It has been used for a long time for this purpose, because wood has excellent properties. The aim of the children‘s furniture is to illustrate the lightness of Sengon. It is designed to encourage children to play on and with the furniture. The furniture achieves this by being carried around, piled up, lined up and rearranged and used in many other ways. The light weight makes it “child‘s play“ to move and use the furniture. 

The worsening climate crisis requires us to rethink the way we deal with materials. In particular, aspects of sustainability, availability and possible applications of the material must be taken into account when selecting materials. Therefore, Sengon is a very exciting timber. Due to its ease, pioneering nature, and extremely rapid growth, Sengon promises great potential for application in many areas. Fairventures Worldwide strongly emphasizes the use of Senong in construction and is conducting several research projects to analyze the potential of lightwood timbers in construction.