Ever wondered what building material is the best to use for environmental reasons? Well, here’s your answer.
Hint: it’s timber.
Instead of giving you a long, complicated article explaining why timber is the most sustainable option, we’ve simplified the reasons into an easy-to-read list.
- It’s the Ultimate Renewable
Australian timbers that are sustainably harvested (third party audited by PEFC or FSC) are The Ultimate Renewable. Why? Because as trees grow, they capture carbon from the atmosphere. When that tree is processed into framing, furniture, flooring, stairs, bench tops, etc. the carbon remains stored in that product. What’s better is that trees only require energy from the sun to grow, making it a completely renewable resource. As quoted by the IPCC 4th Assessment “a sustainable forest management strategy aimed at maintaining or increasing forest carbon stocks, while producing an annual sustained yield of timber, fibre or energy from the forest will generate the largest sustained mitigation benefit“. This statement is reinforced by independent studies based on forestry in south-east Australia as seen here.
- It has lower embodied energy than alternatives like concrete and steel
Embodied energy is the energy consumed when producing the material (from start to finish), this includes the extraction and processing of raw materials, manufacturing and transport. Generally, the more highly processed a material is, the higher its embodied energy. The production of wood products uses less energy (usually sourced from finite fossil fuels) than other building materials like cement and steel. For example, a typical family home can save up to 25 tonnes of carbon dioxide if timber was substituted for other building materials.
- Hardwood has a fantastic Life Cycle Analysis
A life cycle analysis (LCA) measures the environmental impacts of building products throughout its life. Wood typically requires far less energy as alternatives, and is why it is often used to improve a building’s ‘life cycle assessment’. Hardwood in particular has a great Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) which not only contributes to a building’s LCA, but to sustainable accreditations like Green Star and LEED.
- Using wood increase productivity and well-being (Biophilic Design)
Biophilic Design is the practice of connecting humans to nature that benefits them on a physical, mental and social level. Studies have shown that using wood in nature connected design improves air quality and emotional state and reduces stress and blood pressure. Wood in the built environment is being increasingly used for its positive impacts on health, wellbeing and productivity.
- Timber weighs less than concrete
Hardwood has exceptional strength to weight ratios (AS1720.1:2010) and far exceeds that of concrete and steel. When comparing beams of a similar strength, a glulam member is four-fifths the weight of steel and one-sixth the wright of concrete. A lighter material like timber can have flow on advantages like reduced foundation costs, easier transport and safer to erect.
- Pre-fabricated timber is easier and quicker to install (reducing transport fuel and on-site energy use)
Pre-fabricated timber like mass-timber beams and columns that are manufactured in Australia can be made to order and delivered to site ready to be erected straight away. Mid-rise construction is said to save between 5% and 25% of building costs. This also equates to a saving in labour (one of the major costs of construction) due to the less time on site.
So there you have it… Timber is our climate change champion.