Have you been paying attention to Australian buildings lately? If you haven’t, then perhaps you’ve forgotten to see some of the skyscrapers and structures are not of steel or brick. Instead, they used wood.
The Reemerging Popularity of Wood
Wood has always been part and parcel in Australia’s architecture and design, but its popularity increased only after having been overshadowed by steel. Many factors are contributing to it:
1. Changes in Construction Regulations
First on the list is the significant change to the regulations in the national building code. Before, builders could make use of timber to create residential and commercial properties up to three stories.
Beginning 1 May 2016, the code alteration now allowed wood construction up to eight stories. This would make the country’s regulations in line with those of Europe and North America. In 2018, there were about 50 towers that had been completed or were under construction that used mostly wood.
2. Accessibility of Materials
Another possible reason is the accessibility of materials. Wood is abundant in Australia, and industry organizations and the governments are working hand in hand to ensure the forests can provide the needed supply for the market.
In turn, builders can save as much as 15% of their costs, which can translate to more competitive pricing. It can also offset the possible higher labor costs, partly due to the shortage of construction workers in the country.
Builders can also now work with screw and bolt suppliers online, streamlining the acquisition of raw materials and construction supplies. They can place enough orders for their needs, as well as compare prices according to products and brands quickly.
Steel is a remarkable building material, and it’s possible to combine it with wood for a more eclectic and even durable finish. It is also recyclable, and there’s no limit to the number of times you can reuse it.
But the production of steel also contributes to global warming and climate change. To produce iron, manufacturers have to use boiling-hot cauldrons and exposing the raw material to carbon. The by-product is carbon dioxide, which is one of the primary components for greenhouse emissions.
Industry statistics suggest steel production produces two tonnes of carbon dioxide and contributes about 5% of the total carbon emissions in the world. Although there are significant innovations in steel production, which can significantly reduce carbon emission, wood seems to be the next best alternative for those demanding sustainability.
Australia also practices sustainability in forest management. Besides replacing trees that have been cut, it is also ensuring the harvesting and growing of wood do not affect the surrounding flora and fauna. In other words, ecological preservation remains the goal.
Using wood in construction does have its challenges. It is prone to moisture and termites. It can lack thermal mass, which means it might have issues controlling temperatures inside the space.
But recent developments in timber technology can potentially address these problems. The idea of sustainability, more affordable costs, and more favorable regulations also make the material worth using.