Timber building knowledge is increasing the use of wood by Australian architects, engineers and designers

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For a whole range of reasons timber and wood products are becoming increasingly popular material choices for building construction and interior decor.

Building timber information is increasing the use of wood by Australian architects, engineers and designers.

For a whole range of reasons timber and wood products are becoming increasingly popular material choices for building construction and interior decor.

Wood, one of the world’s oldest and most familiar building products is finding new favour in Australian residential and commercial buildings and larger developments.

One of the main drivers of this change in material preferences is a growing awareness of 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.

Assessing the environmental impact of constructing a building can be complicated and there are reputable lifecycle assessment analyses (LCA) in different countries that can provide more information. However, the main factor is the embodied energy of the materials in the structure. Embodied energy is a measure of the energy used to produce, process and transport the material to the site and it is related to the carbon footprint of the building. Unlike most common materials, wood has extremely low embodied energy. In addition, wood stores carbon – approximately half the dry weight of wood is carbon – taken 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.

The other way in which a building affects the environment is the energy used during its lifetime of use. With today’s design knowledge, wood and wood products can be an integral part of building energy efficient homes and commercial buildings. Using a design and construction principle often termed ‘light and tight’ buildings are designed with low thermal mass and high insulation values (R-values). This strategy has the effect of reducing the transmission of energy between the exterior and the interior, consequently 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 reduce its environmental impact.

Another factor behind the adoption of wood and wood products is the availability of new products and strategies to increase the durability of timber.

Today, we understand more about how factors such as species, application and location interact to affect the durability of a piece of timber or a wood product. Information about this can be found at http://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.

Today, information about environmental benefits that lower the carbon footprint of a structure, and knowledge of increased durability are ensuring that timber and wood products are becoming the materials of choice for a growing number of residential and commercial building projects.

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