An Architect’s 30-Year Journey with Timber in Sustainable Design

It all started with innovatively used local marine plywood, which has now taken him all over the world.

Thu 16 Feb 23


In the latest Wood Central Podcast, Brisbane architect Mark Thomson spoke of his relationship with timber which saw him co-author ‘The Environmental Brief – Pathways to Green Design’ and most recently travel to Lisbon, Portugal to judge the World Architectural Festival (WAF).

The World Architecture Festival is the largest live awards event for architects and designers with Mark appointed as a leading judge for the Best Use of Certified Timber Prize supported by PEFC International.

The Best Use of Certified Timber Prize is the only timber category on the WAF programme and in December 2022 was awarded to the Spanish Paseo Mallorca 15 Apartments.

A beautiful project where timber is used innovatively to improve the liveability and sustainability of medium density units.

In 2021, the New Zealand based Scion Innovation Hub was recognised for its unique diagonal grid (diagrid) system manufactured by USA-based TimerLab. Diagrids are an efficient way to provide strength and stiffness and require less material than traditional structures.

Mark, who was also judge of the 2018 and 2019 awards – won by the Australian-based International House, Sydney and Pingelly Recreation & Cultural Centre – is an experienced hand when it comes to design competitions having gained multiple awards for architecture over the years including the Courier Mail People’s Choice award.

In 2005 Mark co-founded the Centre for Sub Tropical Design – a collaboration between the Brisbane City Council and the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) – promoting design that is appropriate for the subtropical climate and lifestyle of Southeast Queensland. As a past QUT Adjunct Professor, he has lectured and tutored many young designers, believing competitions are an important form of recognition, or ‘Industry’ certification.

There a growing awareness of the importance of connecting buildings with the natural world, and how the use of biophilic design and using natural elements like wood and indoor plants can bring the benefits of nature indoors.

Mark, who in 2017 became the first architect to be appointed as board member of a PEFC Scheme (Responsible Wood), is a strong supporter of third-party certification – stressing the importance looking beyond marketing fluff and instead understanding the product specifications.

And finally, Mark emphasises that timber is the ultimate building material. Where recycled steel is a high embodied carbon product, reusing a piece of timber makes a lot more sense!

And with planning for the 2032 Olympics underway in earnest – billed as the first carbon positive Olympic Games – timber is the natural fit!

Download and subscribe to the latest Wood Central Podcast today.

Read more from Mark Thomson on the Wood Central website.

  • Mark Thomson is the founder of Eco Effective Solutions, a research, education, and design practice; he strives to deliver healthy and regenerative work environments.


  • Wood Central

    Wood Central is Australia’s first and only dedicated platform covering wood-based media across all digital platforms. Our vision is to develop an integrated platform for media, events, education, and products that connect, inform, and inspire the people and organisations who work in and promote forestry, timber, and fibre.

  • Mark Thomson

    Mark Thomson, eco-architect, is a regular judge at the World Architecture Festival, the Australian Banksia Sustainability Awards and is a director of Responsible Wood and Micah Projects. He is co-author of The Environmental Brief: Pathways to Green Design.


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