Back to a woody future

17 November 2016

Australia's forestry sector is again on fire, while a new National Centre for Timber Durability and Design Life, launched at the University of the Sunshine Coast, will support the sustainable use of timber in buildings.

According to a new report by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES), Australia's forest industry had three consecutive years of growth on the back of a booming domestic construction industry.

The volume of logs harvested increased by around 8% in 2015–16, to more than 29 million cubic metres.

While in Australia timber is increasingly recognised as a renewable, carbon-positive and versatile construction material, the domestic housing industry is not the only driver of its resurgence.

Exports of wood products were also stronger than ever, helped by lower shipping costs and a weaker Australian dollar. The value of exports exceeded $3 billion for the first time, driven by strong demand from China, which accounted for 43% of Australia's wood product exports.

Forestry exports to China were worth over $1.3 billion in 2015-16.

But the report also shows that the future of the industry heavily depends on these key markets.

Opening of the National Centre for Timber Durability and Design Life

Meanwhile the new National Centre for Timber Durability and Design Life will develop an automated evidence-based tool to accurately predict the structural performance and design life of timber depending where and how it is being used in construction projects. The five-year project will be a world first of its kind.

The new centre is a strategic initiative of industry group Forest & Wood Products Australia (FWPA). It will be based at the University of the Sunshine Coast, with the University of Queensland (UQ) and the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) partnering in the project.

The FWPA has received a total $8.4 million from the Australian Government, matched by contributions from the FWPA, the State Government and the universities.