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Is Mass Timber Sustainable?

4 minutes
August 6th, 2019

To some, mass timber is a fairly new concept. To others, it is a well-known term in construction. Whatever it means to you, the important factor is to know how it can be used and how it is sustainable.

What is mass timber?

As defined within the National Construction Code, Mass timber is “mostly engineered timber elements that are generally 75mm or greater in thickness”. They can be solid, glue laminated, dowel laminated or nail laminated to achieve a thickness of 75mm or greater. In other words, a ‘massive’ piece of engineered timber suitable for construction.

For example, mass timber products include:

  • Glue-laminated timber (Glulam or GLT)
  • Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL)
  • Cross-laminated timber (CLT)
  • Nail Laminated Timber (NLT)
  • Dowel Laminated Timber (CLT)

What makes mass timber sustainable?

To start with, timber itself is a renewable resource. When sustainable and responsibly harvested timber is used, it reduces our dependence on materials from non-renewable sources, such as concrete and steel, which have very high levels of embodied energy.

Timber is the ultimate building material of the 21st century because:

But, what about mass timber?
Mass timber combines all of the benefits wood offers but makes them bigger and better.

The building industry currently accounts for up to 18% of Australia’s greenhouse gases. The building sector can reduce this percentage through mass timber construction by:

  • Its ability to lower embodied energy through transport (with timber weighing 20% of concrete, deliveries can be reduced by up to 5 times)
  • The increase in off-site fabrication (reducing material waste and increasing productivity)
  • Reducing the dependence on finite materials such as concrete and steel

Take a look at this table which outlines the embodied energy of building materials. Kiln-dried sawn hardwood beats almost all other materials like cement, galvanised steel, plastics, etc.

What are the advantages of mass timber?

So now you know that it is sustainable, what else does mass timber have to offer?

  • It has incredible fire resistance… yes, fire resistance. Read our Mass Timber page to learn more information.
  • It has unbeatable strength.
  • It has a beautiful, stunning appearance.
  • It is affordable – mid-rise construction in timber is said to save between 5% and 25% of building costs due to increases in construction speed.
  • Tenants can move in earlier.
  • And so many more reasons.

What it all boils down to

Wood is the only building material available that grows naturally and is renewable. It is the best possible option for builders, architects and developers to build using a sustainable resource that will help the environment by storing carbon for life. By choosing Australian grown and certified timber, you can rest assured that every tree harvested is regrown – guaranteeing sustainability, now and into the future.

‘Mass timber’ simply adds scale to the sustainability of wood.

Learn more about sustainable timber