A New Home? Benefits Building With Timber
Buildings consume great quantities of materials, energy and other resources. This generates significant environmental impacts during construction and operation. The aim of environmentally sustainable and responsible building is to consume less resources, particularly less energy, and to minimise adverse environmental impacts.
Every building material comes with an environmental cost of some sort. However, some principles can help guide your choice of sustainable materials and construction systems. Careful analysis and selection of materials and the way they are combined can yield significant improvements in the comfort and cost effectiveness of your home, and greatly reduce its life cycle environmental impact.
Using timber throughout a building is a good choice as timber is:
Timber is one of the few natural building materials. This has a lot of advantages. Generally, timber is not toxic, does not leak chemical vapour into the building and is safe to handle and touch. It also means that as timber ages, it does so naturally and doesn’t break down into environmentally damaging materials.
People have been building with timber for thousands of years. Timber is continually being grown in our forests and plantations. As long as new trees are planted to replace those harvested, timber will continue to be available.
Low in production energy
It takes very little energy to convert the wood in trees to the timber used in building. This means that the embodied energy in timber is very low, the lowest of almost all common building materials.
Producing timber generates very few pollutants to air, water and land compared to other building products.
- it takes eight times less energy to produce a tonne of timber than it does a tonne of steel and a staggering 46 times less energy than a tonne of aluminium?
- a wood beam requires 10 times less energy to make than the equivalent steel beam.
- wood window frames use 50 times less energy to make than aluminum window frames.
- one study has indicated that timber can store up to 15 times the amount of carbon that is released during its manufacture.
A store for carbon
Timber is made from carbon drawn from the atmosphere. This carbon would otherwise be adding to the greenhouse effect. Using timber in buildings stores the carbon for as long as the building stands or the timber is used.The average timber house frame stores around 10 tonnes of carbon. In Queensland we build around 45,000 houses each year. If all of those houses were timber framed we could reduce our annual carbon footprint plus store an additional 450,000 tonnes of carbon.
A very good insulator
In reducing the amount of energy used to cool and operate a building, insulation is very important. Timber is a natural insulator and can reduce energy needs especially when it is used in a multi layered external wall system.
I hope I have shown you enough of the advantages of building with timber, to give it some thought as an option when planning your next project. From our side, along with Timber Queensland, there is a continuous drive to increase awareness of the benefits and to promote timber frame as a building method. From a consumers point of view I think we should view building materials the same way we view our food – instead of extracting and manufacturing – lets think about growing it!
Nature has, after all, provided us with an option we seem to have forgotten about, a perfect building material that we can grow, harvest, re-grow and use in perpetuity.