Timber the ultimate renewable*

Article image - Timber  the ultimate renewable* Bunjil Place, Narre Warren, Victoria, designed by Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp. Photography courtesy John Gollings.

Bunjil Place in Victoria – an award winning example of the ultimate renewable in action.

Responsibly sourced wood is the only major building material that helps tackle climate change. 

It’s renewable – ‘the ultimate renewable’ – it stores carbon for the life of the building and has much lower embodied energy – ‘upfront carbon emissions’ – than conventional, more carbon-intensive building materials.

When people think of renewables, they tend to think of wind farms or solar panels, but they don’t think of forests or building with wood. 

Wood is the only major renewable building material currently available anywhere in the world.

At Planet Ark we often talk about a concept called ‘Ecological Footprinting’ – living on nature’s interest, not its capital. 

In a Yale University study completed in 2014, the researchers concluded that the world’s forests contain a total volume of wood of 385 billion cubic metres. 

They also found that an additional 17 billion cubic metres is grown every year, of which we consume 3.4 billion cubic metres, about 20 percent of the additional growth. 

Hence using wood we are building using nature’s interest, not its capital. No other building material can make that claim.

By way of an example the tallest timber building in the world was, until recently, a university residence building in Vancouver, Canada, known as Brock Commons. 

It is 18 storeys or 53 metres tall, and incorporates 2233 cubic metres of Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) and Glued Laminated Timber (Glulam) in its structure.

Calculations have shown that the volume of timber used in the building will be regrown in United States and Canadian forests in a mere six minutes. 

Similarly, an average sized Australian frame and truss house will contain about 12 cubic metres of pine, which will be regrown in Australian pine plantations in less than a minute. 

When wood is harvested today, it’s replanted for tomorrow. That’s why wood is called ‘the ultimate renewable’.

In many parts of the world, including Australia, the renaissance of timber construction is developing rapidly. 

There are many fine examples of this, including Bunjil Place in Narre Warren, Victoria, winner of the Grand Prix in the 2018 Australian Timber Design Awards.

Bunjil Place is a community and civic building used as a library, performance theatre, a public gathering space, and place of exhibition, gallery and display. 

The entrance foyer contains an impressive timber grid shell that dominates and defines the atrium. 

The central theme was the interpretation of land by the traditional owners and inhabitants of the land. 

The foyer’s design reflects the ‘eagle’, with its wings spread and forming a protective shelter to the community the building serves. 

As the architects intended, the timber grid shell appears to be weightless as it lightly touches the ground at two points. 

The use of wood provides a warm and innovative design which emphasises the lightness of the roof through a fluid, organic geometry while reinforcing the welcoming
nature of the complex.

The built environment is the primary source of carbon dioxide emissions in Australia and around the world. 

Following the lead taken by Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp on Bunjil Place, the use of more responsibly sourced wood in construction undoubtedly has the potential to significantly reduce the impact of climate change.

For more information please contact David Rowlinson, Make It Wood Campaign Manager, at [email protected] or 0400 474 412 or visit makeitwood.org.

*Copy supplied by Planet Ark