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Countries around the world are aiming for net zero carbon emissions by 2050 as a response to the Paris Agreement to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius. The global construction sector has a key role to play in achieving net zero, and PEFC believes that building with low carbon certified timber is a key part of the solution.

Join our PEFC Webinar: Building a better future with certified timber to learn how timber construction supports climate mitigation and other global sustainability targets, and the important role that PEFC certification plays. The webinar is free to attend and takes place 16 December at 11:00-12:00 CET. Register now.

We will be joined by three experts in the field of sustainable construction and strong advocates of timber as a building material:

Mark Thomson, architect and Director of Eco-Effective Solutions, will focus in on why architects should be specifying certified timber. He’ll explain the inherent properties of timber in building, from their role in climate change mitigation, to their aesthetics.

Mark Wayne Probert from Binderholz will take us through the manufacturing journey, from sustainably managed forests to innovative mass engineered timber (MET) technology. Highlighting why the use of PEFC-certified timber is so important to the company, and showcasing MET projects.

Paul Jarquin, President and founder of REI Habitat, the first property developer in France to become PEFC certified, will focus in on the situation and opportunities in France. With the French government mandating that all new public buildings will be built from at least 50% timber or other natural materials, France is leading the world.

Why should you attend?

This webinar will provide you with a solid background on the sustainability wins for timber construction. You’ll come away with a better understanding of the social, environmental and economic benefits of designing and building with certified timber.

Our expert speakers will share with you a range of innovative projects, illustrating the numerous and varied advantages that building with certified timber brings.

Finally, the webinar will demonstrate why sourcing and building with certified timber is so critical, and how PEFC certification provides assurances of responsible sourcing.

Who should attend?

While everyone is welcome, the webinar will be of particular interest to those working in the construction sector – whether you are already using timber, or are interested in finding out more about the sustainability advantages of timber construction.

From architects, specifiers and developers, to structural engineers, contractors, house builders and the timber supply chain, join us to learn how together we can build a better future with responsibly-sourced timber.

Register now.

At the start of the year, along with over 500 architects around the country, we shared our commitment to going carbon neutral in 2020.

We acknowledge that a lot has happened since then, however it’s important to remain committed to getting our own houses in order.

in January, the first step was to switch to 100% accredited GreenPower. The next step is to start a carbon audit by June 30.

Switching to 100% accredited GreenPower is a great way to support new investment of renewable energy, however a carbon audit will go one step further and measure your carbon footprint so you can reduce your emissions. You can self-certify or engage an external auditor.

Now is the time to cut our carb(on emissions). Now is the time to be accountable for our carbon footprint.

Thank you to Jeremy and Tahlia at Breathe Architecture for driving this campaign and to the Architects Declare Australia team for pulling together the great Guide to Going Carbon Neutral.

International House In Sydney… Certified Timber Winner At The World Architecture Festival

International House In Sydney… Certified Timber Winner At The World Architecture Festival

Originally published in

RESPONSIBLE WOOD went global with the Australian PEFC-endorsed forest certification scheme, a major feature in the highly prestigious World Architecture Festival and Awards.

Hosted in Amsterdam in December, the festival brought together the best of the best – the world’s largest, live, inclusive and interactive architectural awards program and festival.

Indeed, Australia was heavily represented in the panel of judges, the short list of project entrants and in the honour roll of winning entrants.
Returning from Amsterdam, Responsible Wood director Mark Thomson, chief judge of the PEFC-supported Best Use of Certified Timber category, was impressed with the calibre of the global entrants.


The demand for radical change by the United Nations in October this year to limit global warming to a 1.5 degree global temperature increase, requires fundamental change.

A three week visit of five countries which included judging at the 2018 World Architecture Festival in Amsterdam and presentations in Geneva to the PEFC General Assembly, have convinced me that fundamental change is well underway. 

The issue now is the speed and uptake of such change. Two key issues stand out from observations and learnings from my recent travels.

The first is that it is no longer palatable or responsible, to use materials that are unlikely to be locally recycled, reused, or that don’t address life cycle issues, resulting in waste in landfill, anywhere in the world.

The second issue is that implemented “design and construction quality” offers fundamental change to our living and working environments. It provides realistic hope for our sustained future on this planet.  

It is well documented that the design, development and construction sectors, play a significant role in global greenhouse emissions. Such emissions are now a scientifically proven contributor to changing climatic conditions. Timber, a building material used by humanity throughout our documented history, can play an increased role in the fundamental change necessary for a sustainable future. 

Certified timber is now necessary to satisfy the design development and construction sectors, to ensure its sourcing, is not contributing to global temperature increases. The planet has two globally recognised certification systems: FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council) and PEFC (Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification), known as Responsible Wood in Australia. 

Strict adherence to the use of certified timber is the only certain way to ensure timber comes from legal and sustainably managed forests.

We face big issues, timber in particular

Australia has many challenges as an island nation. Our consumption of materials and products that are unable to be economically reused or recycled, has resulted in huge issues for our governing authorities and our community. 

Our local timber industry has many challenges, some which include but are not limited to resource security, 80 year harvest cycles, tax rebates provided to other industries, the green movements’ perception of locking up forests, proportionally low timber credits in building rating tools, durability and suitability of common timber finishes, notwithstanding that interior designers often choose timber for colour alone, not for its multiple material advantages. 

Engineered timber products such as cross laminated timber (CLT), Glue Laminated timber (GLT) and Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) offer great hope for a (needed) transformation within the Australian environment. 

The Australian Timber industries are addressing such challenges and providing new solutions for our future. New businesses are emerging to support this predicted timber uptake which will inevitably result in reduced costs and flow on effects in time and quality outcomes. International House at Barangaroo, Sydney by Tzannes Architects provides a great example of how recycled timber and CLT can deliver functional change to our industry.

Winner of the Certified Timber Prize at the 2018 World Architecture Festival, International House was never a certainty to incorporate certified timber and CLT. The architects were required to compare the resultant timber construction with conventional materials and building methods until a clear cost saving solution was documented and proven. 

Their ongoing innovation and development of CLT in following projects, has resulted in increased structural spans and continuing efficiencies in adjacent new projects. Clearly design and construction quality has proven itself again.

The World Architecture Festival is a great opportunity to observe and understand “the state of the art” of global architecture. I was honoured and humbled to be the chairing judge for the Best Use of Certified Timber Prize, one of three prestigious prize awards at the 2018 WAF. In addition to judging on one day, I observed two days of other category presentations. 

Some notable outputs in presented schemes I witnessed, included: 

Australian architects were well represented at the World Festival. Conrad Gargett scooped the Culture –Completed Buildings, World Building of the Year prize for The Piano Mill, at Stanthorpe, Queensland and as previously reported.

Tzannes won the Best Use of Certified Timber Prize for International House at Bangaroo, Sydney. 

PEFC showcased CLT in their Exhibition stand construction, being one of approximately 50 exhibitors of important global organisations and product suppliers at the 2018 W.A.F.

There are ongoing changes in place around the world which are addressing the big issues facing our planet. The United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals are achievable with collective effort and a global response. Arguably for the first time on the planet, technology has enabled us to understand and measure our future challenges. 

We have sustainable materials and quality designers able to respond to the radical changes needed for a sustainable planet. Will we struggle to halt global temperature rises unless we activate fundamental change and understand that business as usual will not suffice programs such the World Architecture Festival and timber certification schemes provide us with the drive and the means to deliver the required radical change. The question is “are we changing fast enough and are we responding to the important issues?  

Mark Thomson is principal architect of Eco Effective Solutions, independent director Responsible Wood, judge and Queensland representative, Australian Banksia Awards and chair of Judging Panel: World Architectural Festival Best Certified Timber Prize.

Originally published 12 December 2018:

Originally published 4 December 2018:

Brisbane based architect Mark Thomson has just come back from judging a segment in the World Architecture Festival in Europe. While he was there he also gave two presentations to the UN General Assembly in Geneva and had a big look around at what countries on the far side of sustainability are doing on the ground. He’s feeling humbled.

On the one hand, the Aussies did very well with the awards, particularly in timber and prefabricated construction.

On the other hand, the Europeans are leaving us in a trail of carbon dust, in part due to the take up in some countries of specific rating tools for materials related to building and many other uses and in transport.

The awards, he told The Fifth Estate this week, were “inspirational…amazing, and very humbling. The best of the best.”

As a judge in the category of best use of certified timber, he was able to examine closely the nine finalists and struggle along with the other judges on the tough job of elimination.

One project was outstanding – a timber building created for the Milan Expo and now submitted in its new iteration as a refugee school in Lebanon. A fabulous example of flexible design and many other sustainability features to its credit, but in the end eliminated because perhaps it was more suited to the recycled category.

The winner of the Use of Certified Timber Prize, supported by the Programme for Endorsement for Forest Certification (PEFC), was International House in Sydney by Tzannes.

“It was fantastic to see it in the international context. You might have thought timber is pretty commonplace in Europe and at a smaller scale it is but not in the scale we’ve achieved in Australia.

“The buildings that are happening at Barangaroo and the larger ones proposed around the country and including 25 King Street in Brisbane [already constructed; see our article here] appear to be breaking new ground on spans and in engineering such as fire ratings – that’s my personal opinion.

“There are some amazing timber buildings in Canada and in Scandinavia in particular, but as you come down to more tropical and sub tropical areas it would appear that CLT (cross laminated timber) is getting real traction because it’s prefab and that’s a cost saving and a time saving.”

As with many other technologies, you could argue that using timber is not a new technology at all but it’s the way of doing timber construction is new and with its costs are coming down much the same as they have for photo voltaic solar power.

Travelling around Europe, particularly on a train, Thomson noticed “massive wind farms and massive solar farms and the whole renewable energy push we’re only just starting to see in Australia.”

It was a big change from his last trip 15 years ago.

Among the everyday sights especially in Amsterdam, Berlin and Vienna were micro cars, “like I’ve never seen before, most electric and a huge number of electric cars.”

Hyundai has a fully electric car, so do Mercedes and Porsche.

“What surprised me most was the sustainability entrenched in architecture. I know architects say sustainability is embedded in everything they do,” he says, but in Europe you see a particular “depth of sustainability fully integrated in major projects and minor.” It’s a stark contrast.

As an architect, what does he suspect is the difference?

In these European cities, he says, but in regional cities as well, he could see that sustainability seemed to be embedded simply as a way of life. So that “going to the supermarket and to the local shops and using local transport, it’s all there.”

This included certified and sustainably branded products from building materials to textiles.

“Labelling in supermarkets is particularly strong with sustainable branding.”

This, “in the same way that in Australia we label ‘fresh’ and ‘environmentally friendly’ products: what I call a fair degree of greenwash.”

Timber in buildings, cladding and clothing fabrics

Thomson noted in particular high use of timber products in garments particularly cellulose, viscose and lignum.

This kind of thinking, he says, provides a great opportunity for a low carbon reality.

“If we have timber structures, timber cladding and now timber fabrics, we’re starting to close the gaps in terms of carbon awareness of the environment generally and also an understanding of how carbon products are directly related to our world.”

Bio plastics are also starting to make a strong showing, Thomson says.

Certainly the car industry is “the one to watch” he says. “Not only is it transforming from petrol to electric but many of the components inside the car are renewable.”

The size of the cars is enough of a symbol: half the size of regular cars. He noticed two main brands: the Micro and the Canta, and in Amsterdam they are small enough to be allowed to share the cycleway; which then makes the cycleways a bit more of a challenge.

Thomson’s paper to the UN on the challenges of timber was timely for Australia given the recent voluntary receivership of Strongbuild in NSW but with supporters of the timber and prefab industry saying the industry is growing in leaps and bounds.

“Timber is probably the most sustainable material on the planet,” Thomson says, “especially if you compare the lead time to grow timber compared to growing coal or concrete.”

And timber too has longevity, he says. For instance, Perry House in Elizabeth Street at the corner of Albert Street in Brisbane is an eight storey timber-framed building built in the 40s but clad with brickwork so not many people are aware it’s got a hardwood frame that’s close to steel in strength and longevity.

“The thing that’s occurred with CLT and the work that Lendlease and others have done is to the technical solution to give timber its fire rating.”

And that makes a big difference, he says.

Another building that won a commendation at the World Architecture Awards was a building in north-east Tasmania known as krakani lumi (place of rest) at Wukalina by Taylor and Hinds Architects for the Aboriginal Land Council.

As a director of Australian Forestry Standards, also known as Responsible Wood, Thomson was considered by his fellow judges as adding greater than usual insight into the task at hand.

On the broader challenges of timber, he feels Australia is not growing enough and right now we’re importing timber that is cheaper partly because it’s not certified. It’s also not as durable and suitable as the quality from home grown product, he says.

The importation, he says, “is an economic issue, nothing else.” Australia could well grow enough timber for its needs.

The development of the industry has been slow. In 2000 he built his own largely timber home in the confidence that the material would skyrocket as a market segment, but it’s only just now starting to take off.

On May 22nd 2017, representatives from Be Collective and Eco Effective Solutions visited the Banyo facilities of Watkins Steel to witness a demonstration of local technological innovation. Des Watkins and Ben Yu from Watkins Steel proudly displayed their recently purchased Micro HoloLens “glasses” that allows you to view and interact with 3D models using mixed reality. The Hololens technology allows one to view and interact with 3D Tekla models off the office desktop.

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Mark Thomson believes that such new technology will transform our office workplaces in the future . “in the past we were focussed on space efficiency, investigating how to minimize floor areas to maximize working environments for chair based computer workstations. Now we will ideally be creating fluid spaces where people can move about casually and safely with Hololens and other wearable devices to optimize our work experiences “ With the Microsoft HoloLens you can alter the model, scale it down, or do a life-size walkthrough – improving accuracy, communication, and collaboration at every stage of the project.

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In addition to the BIM and Hololens demonstration, we were taken around the factory floor to witness the rollout of new robotized machinery being installed by an expert installation team from Holland. Watkins Steel has developed a Four step linked Process for steel fabrication and installation which includes a 3D scan of the site, Tekla 2d shop drawings and a 3D model, Voortman steel processing, and robotic total station site set outs. This end to end digitally linked process using multiple computer technologies is surely and insight into how future construction processes will rapidly develop.

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After just three months the team has experimented with the HoloLens in the factory – overlaying models to steelwork to see if it can be used for Quality Assurance.

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