Australian architects, engineers and designers are using building timber information to increase their use of wood.
Information about designing and building with timber is increasing the popularity of timber and wood products in building design and construction and interior decor.
A look around new Australian residential and commercial buildings and larger developments will show that wood, one of the world’s oldest and most familiar building products is an increasingly popular choice.
Some of the main reasons for this change in material preferences is access to information about the environmental impacts of buildings. Broadly speaking, there are two main ways in which a built structure affects the environment. The first is during its construction, the second, is during its lifetime of use – which can be extended by an understanding of durability.
Today, we understand more about how factors such as species, application and location interact to affect the durability of timber. Information about this can be found at www.woodsolutions.com.au. The Species section provides a natural durability rating, while other sections of the website show how Australia is zoned to show the likelihood of insect or fungal attack. The durability of timber is also rated according to application, that is, whether it is used in fresh or salt water, or above or below the ground.
Timber treatments, both internal (impregnation) and external (paint or varnish) can significantly improve the durability of timber in many instances.
With easy access to comprehensive information, it’s easy to choose the most appropriate timber for every application.
While the durability of wood affects the lifetime of a structure, other factors determine the environmental impact of its construction. These factors can be complicated and there are reputable lifecycle assessment analyses (LCA) in different countries that can provide more information. However, the main thing to consider is the embodied energy of the materials in the structure. Embodied energy is the energy that is used to produce, process and transport the material to the site. The sum of the embodied energy of all the materials used in a building is related to its carbon footprint. Unlike most common materials, wood has extremely low embodied energy. In addition, wood stores carbon – approximately half its dry weight is carbon – absorbed from the atmosphere by the growing tree. The result is that a building with a high wood content can be carbon negative – that is, more carbon is stored in the building than was emitted by its construction.
A building also affects the environment by using energy during its lifetime of occupation. Using contemporary design knowledge, wood and wood products can be an integral part of building energy efficient homes and commercial buildings. The design and construction principle behind this is termed ‘light and tight’ that is, buildings that are designed with low thermal mass and high insulation values (R-values). These designs reduce the transmission of energy between the exterior and the interior, lowering the need for energy-expensive heating or cooling.
Together, these two factors; using more wood and wood products in the design and construction of a building, and choosing a ‘light and tight’ design, can lower the carbon footprint of a building and therefore its environmental impact.
Architects, engineers and building designers are using information about increased durability, light and tight design and the environmental benefits of wood to lower the carbon footprint of structures and ensure that wood and timber products are the materials of choice for a growing number of residential and commercial building projects.
Forest & Wood Products Australia
WoodSolutions is resourced by Forest & Wood Products Australia (FWPA).
It is an industry initiative designed to provide information on timber and timber products to professionals and companies involved in building design and construction.