Will Brisbane be the tree-change Olympics? Wood is right stuff for emissions-free Games

Public pressure for lower emissions to intensify on builders and architects.

Mon 28 Nov 22


Stakeholders in the Queensland construction industry are grappling with how to offset carbon emissions amid the frenzy to build new venues for the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Timber Queensland CEO Mick Stephens, a significant voice in the sector, believes it has the answer – construct more buildings using timber.

The state’s leading advocate for the resource, Timber Queensland, put the question and its solution to the test at a special meeting in Brisbane in November.

Central to the discussion was how the industry plans to offset the appreciable emissions expended in the construction of six new major venues, the upgrading of eight venues and the preparation of 23 existing or temporary venues customised for the Games.

Assuming the climate emergency becomes more urgent over the next 10 years, in concert with public pressure to lower emissions even faster than current targets, expectations, maybe even mandates, can also expect to intensify on planners, architects and builders to comply.

The gathering storm is why Mick Stephens wants to have the conversation now in the relative calm of 2022.

As Mr Stephens explained to industry figures recently, the building and construction sector accounts for 39% of global emissions.

Embodied carbon in the production of building materials was responsible for 28% of these.

The science, he suggested, poses a challenge for Brisbane Games organisers who are committed to delivering a climate positive Olympic and Paralympic Games if timber is not considered part of the building material mix to minimise direct and indirect carbon emissions.

“Using timber in construction can be an extremely effective option to reduce embodied carbon,” Mr Stephens said.

“For example, embodied carbon emissions of an engineered timber building can be 60-75% less compared to its conventional concrete-steel counterpart on a per square metre basis.

“The solution is to maximise the use of timber and engineered wood products when building these venues.”

In Australia, local, state and national governments are legislating to increase the use of timber.

Western Australia and Tasmania have already adopted a state-wide Wood Encouragement Policy (WEP). In addition, two local government authorities and 18 local councils have adopted a WEP.

In France, a new sustainability law will ensure that all buildings for the 2024 Paris Olympics complex are built from at least 50% timber or other natural materials. Buildings higher than eight storeys must be made entirely of timber.


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