Opinion: Timber needs to part of building boom

Building out of timber not only makes your home more beautiful, but it also creates a positive outcome for the environment, writes Nick Steel.

When the University of Tasmania designed new buildings at their campuses in Hobart, Invermay and Burnie, they embraced Tasmanian timber – a smart move on their part.

Not only is Tasmanian timber a great way of supporting the local community, it’s also esthetically pleasing… and great for the state’s environment too.

The University knew that by embracing the use of local timber they were sequestering carbon in every piece of wood used.

But more than that, they knew that by using timber they were creating 40 per cent less greenhouse gas emissions than by using other building materials.

The use of steel or concrete would have created more than double the emissions of timber during their creation. And the use of steel or concrete would not store any carbon after the buildings’ completion – unlike timber, which locks the carbon it has sequestered away for the life of the building.

But it gets better, as using timber has double the impact, because the Tasmanian timber industry replants or regrows at least one new tree for every one harvested – which in turn captures more carbon while it grows.

It meant the University could meet their strategy to utilise renewable, carbon-neutral building materials with 100 per cent sustainable forestry practices.

And the university did all this, whilst showcasing the sense of calm and warmth Tasmanian timber products create throughout their campuses.

It’s an idea that is catching on around the world. The word “sustainability” is appearing more and more frequently in architecture briefs these days, as clients become increasingly aware of the importance of environmentally sensitive sustainable design.

This push for more sustainable and low-carbon building solutions and materials has led to an increased demand for using timber in construction and design, which has in turn led to development of new and sustainable timber products.

The Tasmanian Government’s Wood Encouragement Policy is delivering these positive outcomes to public building across our state.

But more can be done. Local and state government’s across Tasmania could take a positive step to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging, or mandating, the use of Tasmanian timber products for all residential, commercial and industrial builds across the state.

With both the Federal and State governments committing to major housing projects in Tasmania over the next decade, favouring the use of timber for every home could ensure we continue to lock up carbon, reduce our emissions and help the Tasmanian economy thrive.

Timber is the ultimate renewable and should be at the forefront of all new building development in Tasmania – both government and private.

The idea is great for the community, the economy, as well as the environment.


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