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Framing the future

Framing the future

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Both durable and reliable, timber is the go-to building material for Australian homes. But a lesser-known benefit is in its green credentials. Here’s what makes timber great.

HIA content team

hia.com.au/housing

As one of the world’s oldest building materials, timber has retained its universal appeal throughout the ages. Its inherent workability translates into ease of construction, which is perhaps why timber-frame building methods have been in use for centuries (or perhaps even longer – in 2012, archaeologists unearthed a 10,000-year-old dwelling in Scotland, touted as the world’s oldest timber-framed home).

In Australia, timber is a significant part of our built heritage: many of our earliest homes were assembled from 1.5-inch slabs of hardwoods, hand-hewn from trees felled on site. Over time, as harvesting and milling methods grew more sophisticated, timber framing became the norm for both industrial and residential construction, and many examples of these early buildings remain in use across the country. 

The timber framing industry employs more than 45,000 Australians
Around 80% of Australian detached homes across the supply chain are built with timber framing 

The forest and the trees

Today’s builders and homeowners have a wide range of building materials to choose from, but lightweight construction methods paired with timber framing continue to deliver the time-proven benefits of strength, cost-effectiveness, speedy assembly and reliability, and remain perennially popular as a result: it’s estimated that 80% of detached houses are built using timber framing.

With climate change dominating headlines, consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about reducing their environmental footprint. According to Patrick Warrand, Managing Director of Wespine, Chair of the Softwood Manufacturing Chamber, and spokesperson for the Timber Framing Collective, ‘Our research shows that 78% of consumers would like an eco-friendly building material option from their builder, but less than half of builders are likely to discuss sustainable materials with their clients.’

The Timber Framing Collective is here to change that. ‘We know that builders love working with wood. Our aim is to equip you with all the information you need to help your clients understand the enormous environmental advantage, as well as the practical benefits, of timber framing.’

 

'78% of consumers would like an eco-friendly building material option from their builder, but less than half of builders are likely to discuss sustainable materials with their clients'
Patrick Warrand, Managing Director of Wespine, Chair of the Softwood Manufacturing Chamber, and spokesperson for the Timber Framing Collective

 

Also, importantly timber framing is now one of the most significant sectors within the construction industry. It employs more than 45,000 Australians across the supply chain – from forestry and sawmill workers to treatment suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, carpenters and tradies – and contributes $24 billion to our economy each year. 

A sector-wide focus on research and development is giving this age-old building material the edge in today’s competitive market. ‘We’re in an exciting new era of timber framing technology,’ Patrick says. ‘Decades of experience and innovation have developed a building material that is trusted, safe and strong. Today’s lightweight timber framing offers durability, termite resistance and fire predictability. Streamlined production methods are increasing the yield from every log, and new dry kiln technology means less energy is used in the manufacturing process.’ 

Advances in engineering wood have also led to the development of high-tensile products such as load-bearing structural beams and columns, meaning timber framing offers unprecedented architectural scope and design versatility, and can be used across a wider range of residential applications, including in multi-storey developments. 

Timber framing is durable, reliable, workable and is kind to our planet
Timber is in the DNA of Australian homes

The kinder choice

While we can build bigger and better with timber than ever before, we can also use it to build a brighter world for future generations, because sustainably grown timber has unbeatable eco-credentials. 

‘People often think cutting down trees is a bad thing. However, when timber comes from a sustainably managed source, it’s one of the most eco-friendly and sustainable building materials available, as at least one tree is replanted for each tree that is harvested,’ Patrick explains.

‘In Australia, our softwood plantations grow the volume of timber framing needed to build the average home in two-and-a-half minutes, and we replant over 70 million trees every year. This same approach is happening across the globe: in Sweden, for example, for every one tree that is harvested another three are replanted.’ 

The Australian Government Department of Agriculture says that well-managed, purpose grown timber plantations deliver a broad range of environmental benefits, from supporting biodiversity to improving soil and water quality and mitigating salinity. But where softwood plantations have the biggest impact on the future health of our planet is in carbon sequestration. 

‘Using timber framing is a natural way to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere,’ Patrick says. ‘Trees grow for around 30 years before they are harvested, allowing them to capture large amounts of carbon dioxide. This is then stored for the life of the timber. Younger trees collect carbon dioxide at a faster rate, so replacing older trees maintains that peak level of greenhouse-gas removal.’

Thanks to the trees’ appetite for carbon dioxide, timber framing has the lowest carbon footprint of any building material. ‘The production process, from planting and harvesting, to manufacture, transportation and installation is carbon positive. The timber industry actually removes more carbon dioxide from the earth’s atmosphere than it emits.’ 

A new forest creates a brighter future for the next generation
The Timber Framing Collective provides a focal point for timber framing

The collective voice

Positioning timber framing as ‘The Ultimate Renewable’, the Collective has created a set of resources that housing professionals can share with their clients to educate them about timber framing’s green credentials, and support them in their decision-making. Available online for free, the resources include videos, brochures, fact sheets, social assets, posters, email banners, installation certificates and more. 

‘The resources make it easy for you to promote timber framing and reassure your clients that it is a sustainable, renewable, environmentally smart choice for their home,’ Patrick says. 

‘The fact is that every timber-framed home we build is helping to build a better future for our planet. So if we can work together to create a greater demand for timber framing, more trees will be planted, and more carbon will be removed from the atmosphere.’ 

Check out the videos

Let’s Build a Better World | Timber Framing – The Ultimate Renewable™

Download Video | 2 Minute

Download Video | 1 Minute

Download Video | 30 Second

A Natural Product | Timber Framing – The Ultimate Renewable™ resources

Download Video

Carbon Storage | Timber Framing – The Ultimate Renewable™

Download Video

Innovation in Our Industry | Timber Framing – The Ultimate Renewable™

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The People in Our Supply Chain | Timber Framing – The Ultimate Renewable™

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Versions With Captions

Download CC Version

Download SRT Files 

Brand promotion: This article was compiled with contributions from the Timber Framing Collective.

Published on 11 November 2022

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