Wood encouragement policy good for the community and planet*

Article image - Wood encouragement policy good for the community and planet* Library at the Dock

Local, state and national governments around the world are working hard to find ways to help tackle climate change. Local governments in particular are often leading the way with energy saving and green building. Building with responsibly sourced wood can help meet climate change targets as well as bringing other benefits like increased speed of construction and exceptional thermal insulation properties, meaning buildings consume less energy.

Trees remove carbon from the atmosphere through the process of photosynthesis and store it as biomass, mostly wood. Planting more trees will therefore absorb more carbon and help reduce the impact of emissions. Additionally, when responsibly sourced wood is used as a building material or to create long-lasting products, those items become a carbon store – they lock carbon out of the atmosphere.
Using wood as a building material also means that the use of much more carbon-intensive and non-renewable materials like concrete and steel can be reduced.

For example, one study identified that the total energy consumption in the manufacturing of steel beams is two to three times higher, and the use of fossil fuels is six to 12 times higher, than manufacturing timber beams.

The Library at the Dock in Melbourne is Australia’s first six star Green Star council-owned building constructed from modern engineered mass timber. One thousand cubic metres of European spruce significantly reduce the building’s carbon footprint.  Amazingly, the building stores 250 tonnes of carbon in its wood helping tackle climate change by keeping it out of the atmosphere.

Two councils in Australia – Latrobe City Council and Wellington Shire Council – have realised these benefits and recently implemented Wood Encouragement Policies for public buildings. However, the adoption of Wood Encouragement Policies is occurring all over the world and some examples include Rotorua District Council in New Zealand, Hackney Council in London, British Columbia in Canada, plus councils in Finland, France and the Netherlands.  

A Wood Encouragement Policy requires responsibly sourced wood to be considered, where feasible, as the primary construction material in all new-build and refurbishment projects. This is usually limited to public sector buildings but could be applied across residential and commercial projects.  

At the National General Assembly of Local Government in June this year the following motion was approved: “That this National Assembly support the use and promotion of timber products by Local Government across Australia, using a policy similar to the Wood Encouragement Policy developed by Latrobe City Council.”

Councils have an opportunity to lead in the use of wood, which is the only renewable building material we have available which also stores carbon. In fact 50 percent of the dry weight of wood is carbon and its use substitutes for more carbon intensive materials like steel and concrete. Wood has proven health and wellbeing benefits when used in workplaces, aged care facilities and educational settings.  It is also cost effective and quick to construct.

There is a growing understanding in many countries that using wood for local government offices and public buildings such as schools, hospitals, libraries, and police stations has considerable environmental outcomes.  Have you considered a wood encouragement policy? For more information visit MakeItWood.org

*Copy supplied by Planet Ark