A Guide to Shou Sugi Ban and 8 Homes Featuring the Japanese Technique
The ancient process, which paradoxically actually makes the wood fire-resistant, is now gaining popularity in the west for its aesthetic appeal, endurance, and eco-friendliness.
Although other types of wood are also being employed in the west, the technique was traditionally used with cryptomeria japonica, a species indigenous to Japan that's also known as Japanese cedar. The wood is charred, cooled, cleaned, and then finished with a natural oil, making it a natural way to preserve timber structures without using chemicals. Take a look at the helpful diagram below, as well as some of our favorite modern homes that feature the technique in action.
The shou sugi ban exterior of this home overlooking Lake Michigan was inspired by the architects' exposure to the technique on a trip to Japan. Austin-based Delta Millworks treated the cedar, which was then used as cladding and as details throughout the interior.
Rather than employing synthetic preservation methods, Cheshire Architects worked with an Auckland timber merchant to char the external faces of the boards with an improvised blowtorch system for a modern take on the traditional shou sugi ban process. It resulted in almost the same visual effect.
The ESCAPE One is a 276-square-foot Park Model RV from a Wisconsin-based builder of tiny homes-on-wheels called ESCAPE. Resembling a minimalist cottage, the unit is complete with a stylish shou sugi ban exterior and simple pine interiors.
The dramatic exterior of this Utah home is clad in shou sugi ban, which contrasts with the clear red cedar soffits under the roof that appear to plummet and slice through the house.
This modular prefab studio by Sett Studio in Austin, Texas, is sustainable, handmade, and inspired by shou sugi ban. As a result, they increased the durability of the wood and made it mold- and pest-resistance. It also made it more fire-retardant.
This 2,500-square-foot passive house designed by Pieter Weijnen of FARO Architecten was built using a panelized system, meaning the parts of the house were delivered from a factory and assembled on-site. The shou sugi ban technique was employed as a sustainable feature for the facade.
Adding to a 19th-century barn that was brought to the property from a nearby farm, BarlisWedlick Architects designed the main house to be a soothing space that's clad in shou sugi ban.