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Why Timber is the Only Positive Solution to Housing Crisis!

Wood Central was live at the Advance Timber Hub Launch last week


Mon 12 Feb 24

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The seeds of the ARC Advance Timber Hub, planted in July two years ago, reached a significant new stage of growth at the official launch in Brisbane on January 31 when more than 150 key stakeholders gathered at the University of Queensland to celebrate the unveiling of a plaque championing wood’s manufacturing transformation and its sustainability in construction.

Last Wednesday’s celebration members at the UQ Advanced Engineering Building were Senator Anthony Chisholm, Assistant Minister for Education and Regional Development, Dr Richard Johnson, deputy CEO of the Australian Research Council, and Professor Rachel Parker, UQ Pro Vice-Chancellor (research).

Welcoming guests, ARC Hub director Professor Keith Crews said the hub’s vision was to stimulate timber innovation and encourage the uptake of sustainable timber use in buildings.

“Our mission includes a strategic plan that unlocks significant industrial and societal value,” Professor Crews said.

“This transformation is expected to stimulate regional development and resource diversification opportunities, assisting Australia’s timber and construction sectors in transitioning towards a circular and net-zero economy.”

The hub has received $3 million in grant funding from the ARC, alongside significant support from industry with a further $4.4 million cash and nearly $9.1 million in-kind, committed by 44 national and international participant organisations, including the Queensland government.

Professor Crews noted the ARC Timber Hub’s thrust aligned with the Australian government’s COP 28 agreement on timber in the built environment.

The new housing accord sets an initial aspirational target of one million new, well-located homes over five years from 2024.

“The Greens have upped this need to 1.32 million houses,” Professor Crews said. “The best we have done so far is 167,000 homes, including public service buildings such as hospitals and jails,” he said.

The residential construction industry faces capacity constraints and increased building costs, exacerbating supply and affordability pressures.

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Gary Hwang, senior trade and investment officer, Queensland Department of Trade and Investment; Antonia Belperio, Aurecon; Coralie Crews, director, State of Heart; and Pat Thornton, managing director, Loggo IP Pty Ltd.

Professor Crews said institutions such as the ARC Advance Timber Hub were hammering home the obvious… that timber is the only positive solution to affordable housing.

“It requires a re-think on how we sustainably process our timber, down the supply chain from the forest to the building product,” he said.

“And we’ve got to plant many more trees … now.”

Professor Crews said the research would encourage growth in the timber industry and identify new ways the material could be used in construction.

“We all benefit from more timber in construction – by delivering a boost for the industry and supporting sustainability targets because timber removes carbon from the environment and stores it,” he said.

“While timber is commonly used in smaller dwellings such as housing, we are working with the Queensland government and industry to look at ways it can be incorporated into larger projects such as athlete accommodation for the 2032 Brisbane Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“Making more timber available will also help support the federal government’s National Housing Accord to deliver 10,000 affordable homes over the next five years.”

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Jacqui Bates is the technical services lead, Xlam, Ringo Thomas is the CLT Toolbox co-founder, and Lisa Ottenhaus is a senior lecturer at the University of Queensland.

Senator Chisholm said the Advance Timber Hub demonstrated the benefits of investing in publicly funded research.

“Australians want our country to be a nation that makes things through sustainable practices, but this can only be done when we back initiatives such as the ARC’s Linkage Program, which promotes innovative national and international research collaboration and partnerships with global suppliers,” he said.

“The Advance Timber Hub will enable an advanced manufacturing transformation of Australia’s timber and construction industries, supporting resource diversification and creating new opportunities for regional development and employment.”

Australians want our country to be a nation that makes things through sustainable practices, but this can only be done when we back initiatives like the ARC’s Linkage Program, which promotes innovative national and international research collaboration and partnerships with global suppliers,” Senator Chisholm said.

Acting ARC CEO Dr Richard Johnson said the linkage program was all about bringing together researchers and industry partners to drive innovation and translation.

“The ARC is pleased to support this research hub, which involves strong collaboration among national and international universities and industry partners to stimulate rapid growth in innovation in the timber industry,” he said.

Partners included researchers from 12 Australian and five international universities and research institutes collaborating with 28 industry partners.

UQ Associate Professor Joe Gattas, who co-leads two research areas at the Arc Hub, said supply chain efficiencies could result in more affordable and sustainable housing options for Australians.

“Early consultation with our industry partners has shown where efficiencies can be made across all forest stages to building supply chain,” Dr Gattas said.

“Our research will investigate how to deliver these improvements using new technologies such as computer vision and artificial intelligence to get more usable material out of each tree and augmented reality and robotics to enhance productivity for time-consuming and repetitive tasks.

“Every gain in the supply chain allows more houses to be built, and we hope this will increase the use of Australian-grown timber as a more sustainable choice for construction.”

Professor Crews added: “The research will encourage growth in the timber industry and identify new ways the material could be used in construction.”

“We all benefit from more timber in construction – by delivering a boost for the industry and supporting sustainability targets because timber removes carbon from the environment and stores it,” Professor Crews said.

“Timber has a crucial role in helping Australia transition to a circular and net-zero economy.”

“While timber is commonly used in smaller dwellings such as housing, we are working with the Queensland government and industry to look at ways it can be incorporated into larger projects such as athlete accommodation for the 2032 Brisbane Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

“Making more timber available will also help support the federal government’s National Housing Accord to deliver 10,000 affordable homes over the next five years.”

Author

  • Jim Bowden

    Jim Bowden, senior editor and co-publisher of Wood Central. Jim brings 50-plus years’ experience in agriculture and timber journalism. Since he founded Australian Timberman in 1977, he has been devoted to the forest industry – with a passion.

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