Is mass timber sustainable?

By August 6, 2019 August 9th, 2019 News page

To some, mass timber is a fairly new concept. To others, it is a well known term in construction. Whatever it means to you, the important factor is to know how it can be used and how it is sustainable.

Firstly, mass timber.

What is it?
As defined within the National Construction Code, Mass timber is ‘mostly engineered timber elements that are generally 75mm or greater in thickness’. They can be solid, glue laminated, dowel laminated or nail laminated to achieve a thickness of 75mm or greater. In other words, a ‘massive’ piece of engineered timber suitable for construction. For example, mass timber products include:

IRONASH-coated-MASSLAM-columns-in-Macquarie-University-Incubator-building

What makes mass timber sustainable?
To start with, timber itself is a renewable resource. When sustainable, responsibility harvested timber is used, it reduces our dependence on materials from non-renewable sources – such as concrete and steel – which have very high levels of embodied energy. Timber is the ultimate building material of the 21st century because;

MASSLAM-beam-in-RMIT-Garden-Building

But, what about mass timber?
Mass timber combines all of the benefits wood offers but makes them bigger and better.

The building industry currently accounts for up to 18% of Australia’s green house gases. The building sector can reduce this percentage through mass timber construction by:

  • Its ability to lower embodied energy through transport (with timber weighing 20% of concrete, deliveries can be reduced by up to 5 times)
  • The increase in off-site fabrication (reducing material waste and increasing productivity)
  • Reducing the dependence on finite materials such as concrete and steel

Take a look at this table that outlines the embodied energy of building materials – kiln dried sawn hardwood beats almost all other materials like cement, galvanized steel, plastics, etc.

So now you know that it is sustainable, what else does mass timber have to offer?

  • Its incredible fire resistance… yes, resistance. See more here.
  • Its unbeatable strength
  • Its beautiful appearance
  • Its affordability – mid rise construction in timber is said to save between 5% and 25% of building costs due to increases in construction speed
  • Tenants can move in earlier
  • And so many more reasons that are listed here
LaTrobe-Regional-Gallery-with-Victorian-ash-mass-timber-desk and alpine oak shelves

What it boils down to…

Wood is the only building material available that grows naturally and is renewable. It is the best possible option for builders, architects and developers to build using a sustainable resource that will help the environment by storing carbon for life. By choosing Australian grown and certified timber, you can rest assured that every tree harvested is regrown – guaranteeing sustainability, now and into the future.

‘Mass timber’ simply adds scale to the sustainability of wood.