Author: Chris Philpot
Michael Kennedy, CEO and Founder of Kennedy's Timbers.
Imagine a building product which provides clean oxygen for the atmosphere, removes carbon dioxide and increases in value each time it is re-used. Imagine a product which can store carbon forever. Imagine a building product which has been in use for thousands of years. Yep that's right it's wood. It's recycled wood.
Throughout Australia there are over 100 buildings demolished each week 1 and many contain a rich source of recycled timber. Much of this timber is of a high grade and contains characteristics which enable it to be used again in a higher dollar value application such a s furniture or joinery applications.
There are more than 35,000 timber bridges in Australia 2. Many of these have either passed or are approaching the end of their design life. But rather than having this timber crunched and dumped these bridges contain Class 1 durability "royal species" of Australian hardwood well suited to being recycled into a host of applications.
The ultimate in beneficial use and re-use for the world's most carbon friendly building product is the humble power pole. Not only is the whole of the tree harvested from forests used, excluding bark and branches but once the pole reaches the end of its in-situ design life the wood can be re-used and recycled. Most poles have a 20-30 year life span but some high quality Australian hardwood poles have seen up to 80 years services and are still in good enough condition to find beneficial re-use applications. Across Australia there are more than 6,000,000 timber power poles in service with approx. 200,000 replaced each year 3. The 2009 Lachlan Macquarie Architectural award was given to a structure which featured 100% of the timber recut from recycled power poles. The iconic Tree of Knowledge at Barcaldine, designed by M3 architects and in conjunction with Brian Hooper is a showcase of what is possible using recycled timber.
With the development of the interim industry standards for recycled timber Australia leads the world. These standards, the first in the world for recycled timber, set clear guidelines and examples of grading, strength and re-use applications. The high durability recycled Australian hardwoods will last longer than most other modern building materials.
There are a large number of timber recycling companies throughout Australia providing customers with a good variety of choice. Some recent work by the Junk Map 4 identified more than 15 established timber recycling business in Victoria in addition to the more than 50 established and boutique furniture makers using recycled and sustainable sourced wood. Over recent years there has also been a significant increase in a range of recycled timbers imported into Australia to supplement the wide local palette of indigenous species.
The product range of recycled timbers available on the market includes large feature posts/beams, flooring, residential and commercial decking, internal and external cladding, laminated and engineered beams, engineered flooring, bench/bar tops, furniture and joinery items.
Planet Ark's National Recycling Week leads the way in recognizing the strong positive carbon benefits of recycled timber use. So make a positive environmental choice for a lower carbon future and seek out and use more recycled wood.
References:1 Trevor Lyons President Demolishers Association Queensland
2 Professor Keith Crews University of technology Sydney
3 Michael Powell 2010 Robert Gottstein Fellowship