Image for The wooden skyscrapers that could help to cool the planet ...

First published May 20

Recently the Climate Tasmania group ( http://www.climatetasmania.org/ ) was asked to comment on the massively high carbon footprint of recently built UTAS building in Melville Street, being mostly built out of concrete and steel.

With regard to climate footprint it is true that wood comes in way below those imported, high-energy commodities.

So the question is quite relevant in Tasmania where most wood grown in the state has traditionally been chipped up and exported. Forestry here is soaked in a legacy of heated controversy and this tends to sully any wood-related debate.

Talking with local engineers they generally endorse the use of wood construction for both carbon footprint reasons as well as aesthetics, but their view is that corporate entities that get large buildings constructed (such as UTAS) make their primary decision on the basis of cost and don’t look beyond that factor.

Most corporations don’t have a guiding climate policy, so climate changes do not come into their reckoning.

Another major barrier is the fact that using wood in very large buildings is cutting edge stuff so most designers and engineers just go along with what everyone else does.

Here’s an article explaining the virtues of ‘wood first’ design principles in large building design …

http://www.nature.com/news/the-wooden-skyscrapers-that-could-help-to-cool-the-planet-1.21992

I offer this on the off chance that there may be a reasonable discussion and would like to hear what others think.

*Chris Harries is an environmental educator specialising in energy supply & demand issues. He is a member of the Climate Tasmania advisory body and drafted the original Tasmanian Environmental Law Handbook. He has been writing on social advocacy issues since the mid 1970s.

• Andrew Denman in Comments: Thanks for the article Chris. The construction material embodied energy argument alone should win the day but the added advantage of lower energy use throughout the life of the building is a real winner with timber construction …