Saturday, January 12, 2008

Timber Flooring - Sustainability

Author: Libe Chacos

It is hard to top a polished timber floor as a choice of floor covering for ease of cleaning and appearance. You can achieve the textures of old style country homes, or a high polish smooth finish which can set off the most contemporary home on the market.

Let's have a look at the sustainability issue of timber flooring in two areas:

1. Sustainability of the material 2. Greenhouse gas emissions

1. Sustainability In recent years there has been increased community pressure to preserve our rain forests, as wall as a timber industry for future generations. Of Australia's public forests, almost half are in designated conservation reserves and around 25% is available for harvesting. About 1% of this area is harvested in a year. Timber available in Australia for consumers however is not all Australian grown nor can it all be considered plantation or a sustainable resource. It is always best to ask your supplier where the timber was grown and is it from plantation timber. If they can't answer, then consider purchasing your timber from someone who can guarantee the source of your timber.

Plantations for Australia: The 2020 Vision, is a strategic partnership between the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments and the plantation timber industry. The vision of the Plantations 2020 strategy is to treble the area of commercial tree crops by 2020.

According to the National Forest Inventory 2005, Bureau of Rural Sciences, Canberra, there are about 1.7 million hectares of plantation forests in Australia of which around 715,000 hectares are hardwood plantation timber. Gunns Ltd has about 80,000 hectares of eucalyptus plantation under management.

It takes around 40 years for a hardwood tree to be ready for harvesting into building materials. Depending upon the species, this may be less. Therefore if only 1% of the available resource is harvested every year, in theory a well maintained timber industry is sustainable. 2. Greenhouse Gas Emissions >From those 80,000 hectares, Gunns Ltd achieved a growth volume of approximately 785,000 tonnes. One of the advantages of a well managed timber industry is that trees take Carbon Dioxide out of the atmosphere as they grow - storing the carbon. For every cubic metre of wood, 250kg of CO2 is taken out of the atmosphere

Oak has a mass of up to 800kg per cum. Therefore 785,000 tonnes of wood equals approximately 980,000 cum of wood. This volume of wood will have removed around 245,000 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere - The equivalent embodied energy of 2500 standard homes 200m2 in size. On an average 200m2 house, 98 tonnes of CO2 is produced during construction as a result of embodied energy in the materials of the house. Comparison of embodied energy in flooring covers: Kiln dried sawn hardwood 2.0 MJ/KG Plywood 10.4 MJ/KG Synthetic rubber (carpet underlay) 110.0 MJ/KG The key to maintaining timber flooring, and timber in general, as a truely sustainable product and industry is to manage the forrests using best practice. So ensure the timber for your flooring is from such a source.

As long as your hardwood timber floor is from a well managed plantation forest, it is a sustainable and eco-friendly product - So you will feel graet knowing you are walking on a timber floor that is good for you and the planet!

About the author: Libe Chacos is a licensed builder and Director of Sunrise Homes Tasmania. Libe's passion is to build energy efficient and healthy homes and let people know how to make their home a better place to live in. Visit for more info

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