We caught up with Robert Mansell, Business Development Manager from HYNE Timber.  

Can you please tell me a little bit about yourself? Including your background and role at Hyne Timber? 

I’ve only ever worked for timber companies for 40 years in the industry. I have worked in New Zealand and Australia in an array of roles, everything from simple admin, to export and estimating in timber – From there, I went into manufacturing and assisted with the start up  of one of the first truss plants  on the Gold Coast with the company I was working for at the time. I moved onto other businesses assisting with start up of another truss plant and the growth of another where I also took on a leadership role and held a senior position. 

I’ve been at HYNE for 15 years and I’m currently on the business development side. Mass Timber has been a big focus for the HYNE Timber business because it takes available resources and combines them with technology and advanced manufacturing processes to deliver products that excel in the field of construction. That’s been a huge driver for the last 8 years. 

In the time that you’ve been working at Hyne Timber, in your opinion, how have timber processing and manufacturing solutions evolved? 

The Hyne Family have been in the timber business for 137 years now from Queensland and across Australia. HYNE is very concentrated on sustainability, and they focus heavily on the certified plantation resource near each of their two sawmills. As far as I am aware, we have two of Australia’s largest sawmills being in Queensland and New South Wales. Having that presence of HYNE Timber in the marketplace and sustainability sphere is quite interesting. 

With those resources, how do we then maximise return for our investors and minimise waste? We focus heavily on using all the stems we receive. We also need consider other products such as CLT – and the HYNE family is amongst the first CLT producers in Australia. The current investment is in a brand new glue laminated timber plant designed to grow the capacity in Australia significantly. We are very invested in making sure that we improve technology to get better products, and we put a lot of research and development in to the drying and grading of those timbers to minimise the cost of production 

We’ve changed quite a lot in the last few years, but towards an exciting path I would say. 

In an age where climate change and environmental credentials are of high importance, can you tell me the different ways that Hyne Timber contributes to sustainability? 

We see a real growth opportunity in reducing carbon emissions through Australian Softwood plantation growth. As they grow, they generate oxygen by absorbing carbon and as the trees reach their maturity, this process slows down and new trees are planted to replace those taken for timber production at harvesting. We take those logs into the yard and de-bark them and the bark is used to generate potting mixer and other substances for the plantation growers for their next crop. As the logs go through the sawmill, they generate shavings and sawdust that is sold off to companies that make paper products and particle-board products. The other residuals are the sawdust itself and that is sold off to companies that make MDF boards and any remaining residuals are used for biofuels in either our own operations or sold to a renewable companies. This essentially means that there’s nothing left, and we’ve successfully eliminated waste.

Our market is slowly reaching maturity as becoming accustomed to offsite prefabrication of components and systems and this very evident in the  timber industry. It has played a large role in eliminating onsite waste and now we’re starting to see products prefabricated or preassemble prior to going to site, further reducing onsite waste. Businesses like ours can take many of those products that we trim onsite or prefabrication plants (pre-nailed wall frames, prefabricated roof trusses etc.)  and we can potentially take these back to be finger jointed in to longer lengths or used for particleboard and biofuel products.

Are there set goals and missions towards sustainability within the company?

The company is foreseeing the growth of timber construction and in the early history of the HYNE family; they drove an initiative to support the introduction of plantations in Queensland. The family has been very heavily involved in the critical timber arena for more than a hundred years. It’s heavily embedded in the HYNE philosophy and how we operate on a daily basis.  

In reference to Planet Ark’s report, ‘Wood: Nature Inspired Design,’ what are your thoughts on the role of timber in architecture and design?

In the industry, we’ve always worked on the premise of saving the planet by reducing running costs and the emissions created in operating our buildings. The talk now is about the reduction of embodied energy within the building. Everyone is focused on renewable energy and as an industry; we believe that timber is the ultimate renewable. Timber stores the product of carbon for life until it’s released by decay or fire at the end of its life. Timber is something that’s grown and planted continuously and once its cut sequesters carbon equal to around 50% of the weight of the timber product. Once harvested new trees are planted at a rate greater than the number taken for timber production. Although not all of those will reach maturity, it’s still a sound business and sustainable way to invest in our building future. Timber is the Ultimate Renewable. 

Another case is biophilia and people understand, through Planet Ark, the mental and emotional wellbeing benefits of timber-based buildings. Through the building’s air-control qualities, the timber material release moisture on a dry day and on a humid day they will absorb moisture and maintain a better balance within the building. Timber also affects the sound quality of the building, wherein people are immersed in a more calming and sound-controlled space within the timber structure. 

Aesthetically, timber material has always been a popular choice. It has always been used in a cladding material, but now people understand that it can be used as a structural material even more so and delivers in aesthetics and functionality as well. Technology procedures such as CLT and glue-laminated timber have been prominent in the evolution of timber material within the architecture and design industry. 

What do you see as the drive for timber structured buildings throughout Australia? 

Well, there’s a presence of expansive and significant timber structures within Australia and they constantly keep growing. The largest engineered timber structure completed in Australia is 25 King Street in Brisbane by Bates Smart, and it demonstrates a greener way and more exciting way of architecture and design and where it’s headed towards with materiality. Then there’s talk of building 3 new timber structures here, and one of them will definitely the largest in Australia when it’s decided to go ahead. There are immense opportunities to tender elsewhere, in other countries and other parts of the world also. The trend for timber buildings just keeps growing. 

Technology is a huge driving factor in the environmental benefits for this industry. Taking a renewable product, which sequesters carbon rather than other materials such as concrete or steel (definitely not disregarding these materials) – the level of carbon generated into our atmosphere from our products is at a large level and the only way to negate that is carbon-absorbing timber. If you look at the procedures of carbon offsetting around the world, the planting of trees is certainly a classic example of why we want more trees. 

The ability to do off site construction in timber is very high and it is a very workable machine material. It’s lightweight, therefore transport is not such a great challenge and to put that into context, it’s 1/5 CLT panel compared to a concrete panel, which is approximately 1/5 of the weight. In those terms, where you would get 2 or 3 concrete panels on the track, you would get 15 CLT panels on another track. This reduces your transports costs and thus reduces your carbon impact. Particularly in the city where traffic management is a bit more problematic, it also reduces the amount of trucks that have to go into the site and the amount of power that it requires to transport the material from street level and into the site. There is also low impact on the neighbouring areas and buildings, as you are only using power tools rather than heavy machinery that create a lot of disruption within the area. The noise reduction is significant within the city environment. 

The building process is much quicker as well, which is really important and makes it a high contender for building materials. 

On the topic of renewable energy, what is HYNE Timber doing in practice to achieve this? 

Well we’re using timber and residuals as a biofuel rather than relying on fossil fuels heavily. Although we haven’t completely replaced it yet, we’re working on ways to minimise the amount of fossil fuels that are used in our processes. We’ve got furnaces that we use for our waste 

Where do you see the growth of timber materiality in the industry and companies that you work alongside and support throughout Australia? 

Working alongside with the people at Planet Ark is very important to us because they believe in the material and what we are doing and are trying to achieve here at HYNE Timber. We get a lot of guidance and information on our materiality and ensure that it aligns with what we stand for at the company. On a generic level, we do presentations to the timber and design industry, as we aren’t only representing ourselves, but the timber industry as a whole. The future timber hub is one of the initiatives by the University of Queensland, another is the centre for durability at the Sunshine Coast University for example and we are all striving to create and deliver solutions that include timber. 

We work closely with a lot of the industry.  One of the principle sponsors for the mid-rise and biotechnology, which is a timber initiative on the FWPA to grow more timber buildings, both in lightweight and mass timber. We support organisations like the FTMA, which is in manufacturing and trying to encourage more people in those industries to use prefabricated materials. We’ve fairly progressed in all of that and certainly take interest in what’s around us and within the marketplace. 

What does the category of ‘Sustainability Leader’ mean to HYNE Timber? 

A winner in this category needs to recognise that sustainability isn’t just a simple matter of operating energies anymore. It’s all about going that step further, whether it is with new goals and strategies for building materials and driving the business’ focus on improving the outcome not only for the business, but for the greater context. It’s about people understanding the growth of sustainability and realising what actually helps drive it towards a greener and better future and taking that initiative.