Wood builds deliver climate change positives

Wednesday 12 Jun 2019

Navigating the climate emergency: using timber in commercial buildings – OPINION: There is a significant opportunity to slash our carbon emissions that we may be missing. It's an opportunity that does not involve extra cost, just by thinking a bit differently about how we build our buildings. Currently we are most likely to build our commercial buildings by using highly energy intensive materials such as steel and concrete. These materials come at a high carbon cost that we currently all but ignore, but more than that, they come at an opportunity cost of missing out on using other materials that store sequestered carbon.

By using timber in our buildings, not only do we side-step emissions from carbon intensive materials, we also lock up carbon in the timber fabric of the building - a double whammy for attacking global warming.

We need to see our buildings as carbon banks where we can store the carbon absorbed by trees for decades into the future, if not in perpetuity. We need to have a "wood first" approach to building where you have to have a very good reason for not using timber beams, columns, floors, claddings and linings in our commercial buildings as well as our houses.

Weight for weight engineered timber is about as strong as steel, and while we need bulkier timber members for equivalent functions, we can design for that. Perhaps surprisingly, heavy timber columns and beams can perform well in fires, thanks to the charring process on the outside which protects the interior structural timber.

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