Why Specify Timber?

Timber harnesses power from the sun and feeds from water. The tree stores carbon within its trunk and, as a by-product, creates oxygen – without intervention from man.

Man couldn’t create a more environmentally friendly building material than timber

When we choose sustainably and responsibly harvested timber over other materials, we reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and their consequent carbon emissions. Aluminium, steel, concrete & plastic are not produced from sustainable resources. Timber is sustainable, carbon sequestering and natural. It can be used to increase a buildings ‘life cycle assessment’, has minimal embodied energy (the finished product actually stores carbon) and the ability to change appearance by re painting/staining as trends change. – There is no better product!

Timber is recyclable, biodegradable, insulating and hypoallergenic. Plus it will bring a feeling of comfort and warmth to your project. The by-products can be used for carbon neutral energy sources or fertilizers and (providing we replace what we harvest) is the only truly sustainable building material we have.

Of course, many of these environmental factors are well known, but here is some practical information you may not be aware of.

  • When constructing a window, choosing timber instead of aluminium creates a lower ‘U’ value which translates into a more energy efficient and comfortable home. In fact, a single glazed timber window naturally performs better than a double glazed aluminium window without the need for expensive thermal breaks.
  • A hardwood timber window with a protective coating will have the greatest life cycle assessment of any type of window. refer to this comparative life cycle assessment of window systems. This information translates to other building materials too – such as wall claddings.
  • A timber screen wall creates an acoustic and thermal barrier on concrete walls
  • Download the Environmental Product Declaration for hardwood and obtain more credits for Green Star
  • A working hardwood forest is better for the climate than the alternative Carbon Stocks and Flows in Native Hardwood
  • A new study says timber is good for our health http://planetark.org/campaigns/make-it-wood.cfm
  • The by-products of sustainable timber can be used as carbon neutral energy alternatives to fossil fuels
  • Timber has predictable char patterns when exposed to fire which hold some structural properties as they burn. This can make timber favorable over metals that may collapse when exposed to heat
  • Egineered and Mass Timber solutions are now available for construction of buildings up to 25m high (8 Storeys).

Embodied energy of common materials

Typical figures for some Australian building materials are given in the tables that follow. Generally, the more highly processed a material is the higher its embodied energy. This table does not factor in the amount of CO2 stored in timber as it grows – which compounds the benefits of timber even further.

Embodied energy for common building materials
Material PER embodied energy MJ/kg
Source: Lawson 1996
Stabilised earth 0.7
Precast tilt-up concrete 1.9
Kiln dried sawn hardwood 2.0
Clay bricks 2.5
Kiln dried sawn softwood 3.4
Plasterboard 4.4
Cement 5.6
Plywood 10.4
MDF (medium density fibreboard) 11.3
Laminated veneer lumber 11.0
Glass 12.7
Galvanised steel 38.0
PVC (polyvinyl chloride) 80.0
Plastics — general 90.0
Synthetic rubber 110.0
Aluminium 170.0

To find out more about the benefits of using wood in an indoor environment, read the Make it wood – nature inspired design report by Planet Ark.