Eco-friendly homes are becoming more and more popular in the modern world, which is terrific. But a big part of building a home is acquiring and using timber, whichis the preferred option for sustainable housing. However, you need to know where your timber comes from.
Here’s what you need to know about building homes with sustainable timber.
What is sustainable timber?
Sustainable timber refers to forest and wood products that are sourced from ethically managed forests. Forest certification identifies that forest owners are managing the forest sustainably . That means taking into consideration the environmental, social and ecological factors such as cultural significance, protecting local wildlife and ensuring that biodiversity is maintained.
Sustainable timber certification also goes beyond the management of forests. It also refers to the chain of custody – so, what happens to the timber once it is harvested. Essentially, all steps in the chain of custody should be operating with sustainability in mind.
Why using timber is good for the environment
When we talk about sustainable timber and protecting our natural resources, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use timber. There’s actually a great environmental reason to use timber – as long as it is used responsibly.
Trees store about 40% of the world’s carbon. As we fight to lower carbon emissions, just imagine if there were no trees. 40% of the world’s carbon would be back in the atmosphere, causing unknown damage to the ozone layer and environment.
When trees are harvested and dried, about 50% of their weight is the carbon they store. If trees are left to decompose or burned, the carbon is released back into the atmosphere. However, if the timber is used for things like building homes and furniture, it continues to hold that carbon. It’s estimated that the average house frame holds around 7.5 tonnes of carbon. On the flip side, using steel frames emits around 2.9 tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere.
Essentially, using timber for homes is a way to continue storing carbon, keeping it out of our atmosphere and buying time for global efforts to reduce carbon emissions.
Choosing timber for your home
So, how do you go about building a home with sustainable timber? The biggest problem we have is that imported timber may come from illegal harvesting operations, even harvesting of areas owned by indigenous communities. Figures from Interpol suggest that around $800 million worth of timber that comes into Australia is classified as ‘high-risk’ of being sourced through illegal harvesting.
The better option is to look for timber with the Responsible Wood logo. Responsible Wood sets the Australian standard for sustainable forest management and the timber chain of custody. The guidelines are based on international benchmarks from PEFC International.
So, what is the right type of timber to buy?
Types of timber sourcing options
It’s important to remember that choosing sustainable timber isn’t about a particular species. It’s about where the wood comes from, and how the originating forest is managed. It should also be noted that just because timber is sourced from Australia rather than overseas, Australian timber isn’t completely immune from dodgy harvesting practices, which is why you should always look for Responsible Wood certification (PEFC representative in Australia) when purchasing.
Here are some of the recommended options for sourcing your new home’s timber.
Recycled or reclaimed timber
The recycling of timber is becoming more common these days. Remember, recycled timber still stores about half of its weight in carbon. So, by repurposing timber, you’re preventing it from ending up in landfill where it will decompose and release carbon back into the environment. Always look for Responsible Wood certification, even on recycled timber.
Regardless of the type of timber you use, whether it be pine which grows faster but holds less carbon, or hardwood which takes longer to grow but holds more carbon, you should always look for sustainable timber certification.
Plantations are essentially man-made forests grown for the purpose of harvesting. This help to keep harvesting activities away from natural forests where the practice is a lot more damaging. As long as plantations are ethically managed and the chain of custody complies with guidelines, most should be able to obtain Responsible Wood certification and give you some peace of mind.
To protect our natural environment, always ensure that you have a say in where your new home’s timber comes from. Look for certification, and make the right choice.