Buildings are collectively one of the largest consumers of world energy resources. In present times of global warming and changing weather patterns, sustainability, and more specifically, sustainable building, is fast progressing from a buzzword to a necessity and we are increasingly called upon to make carefully considered environmentally friendly choices in terms of what we consume and what carbon footprint we leave behind. Of the various raw materials to choose from for building, timber has by far the lowest embodied energy, and if grown in a sustainably managed plantation, is a truly renewable building resource. Global debate over sustainable management of forests and the dangers of deforestation, has led to the development of forest management certification, ensuring that timber from plantations is harvested sustainably.
Energy Efficiency can be achieved by solar-passive design, which maximises natural heating, cooling and ventilation, as well as using sufficient insulation. In areas of high diurnal temperature fluctuation (warm days & cold nights) passive design uses elements of high mass to store heat gained from direct sunlight during the day to release at night, in combination with highly insulated walls. In coastal areas with lower diurnal fluctuation and higher humidity, the use of shading and natural ventilation keeps the building cool, while highly insulated walls and ceilings reduce the energy utilised by artificial heating in the winter months. Active solar interventions such as the utilisation of a solar water heating system further reduce energy consumption, and result in financial savings in the long run. While it can be quite costly initially (in financial terms, not ecological terms) to do every thing as energy efficient as possible, we can guide you through the process of selecting materials and options which best suit your pocket and the environment as well as look at long term expenses/cost benefits (life cycle feasibility) of using sustainable options such as solar water heating.
Timber as a building material serves to reduce carbon in the atmosphere. The carbon cycle in the life cycle of a tree is such that during the growth and life of a tree carbon is absorbed out of the atmosphere, and when a tree burnt as fuel or left to decay the same amount of carbon is again released into the atmosphere. In this cycle a tree can be said to be carbon neutral, or a temporary store of carbon. If, however, the tree is harvested for use as a building material, the timber utilised remains a store of carbon for the duration of the life of the building, therefore reducing the amount returned to the atmosphere. Timber harvested from well-managed plantations are also the only truly renewable building material, and have the lowest embodied energy (total energy used in the production of the building material) when compared to more conventional materials such as clay bricks and concrete.