Certification is at the heart of the Tasmanian timber industry. Every log is tracked, every plot of forest audited for sustainability and good management practice. It is intrinsic to the healthy function of the industry, but also serves as an instant stamp of assurance, a guarantee of quality for architecture and construction professionals that if it’s from Tasmania, it’s of the highest standard - both in quality of material and sound environmental management.
There are two main international forestry certification schemes: the Forest Stewardship Council and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). All Tasmanian timber providers must operate under a sustainable forest management system, certified under Responsible Wood, which is the domestic governing body for PEFC. Responsible Wood actually imposes an additional layer of certification requirement on top of the international standard to ensure the industry operates in line with Australian values, meaning that we have one of the most stringent standards in the world. And to add to that, Tasmania has the Forest Practices Authority which is an independent auditor of the Forest Practices Code.
“There’s set Australian Standards that the PEFC make sure you’ve covered off, so it’s not just an ethical or moral framework, there are mandated rules that have to be adhered to.” Says Michael Lee, Senior Technical Officer at the University of Tasmania’s Centre for Sustainable Architecture with Wood. “Then the Forest Practices Code is uniform across the state regardless of whether it’s public land or private land, and the rest of Australia doesn’t have that. So, our system is considered more robust than the rest of the country.”
In addition to these stringent international frameworks and standards, the Tasmanian timber industry operates a detailed chain of custody system for all timber products. “Chain of custody follows the log from forest to the end product.” says Michael, “So when they’re in the forest on the landing, there’s someone who measures the log, puts a docket on each log, hands a copy to the transport operator, and that docket is then handed over with the log at the door of the mill. Then when those logs leave the mill as wood products, they still carry that same docket number so that any piece of timber can be traced back to the exact forest it came from and checked to make sure it was managed sustainably. So, it’s very thorough.”
Mick is also involved with the auditing for quality assurance in Tasmania. “We operate random checks of all Tasmanian Timber processors’ on a quarterly basis. We also check grade, moisture content, packaging, labelling and a number of other things. I’ve been doing it for a while and I’ve never had anyone fail yet.”
The amount of timber produced in Tasmania has dropped drastically in line with sustainability concerns since the 1970s - from about a million cubic metres per year to just 127,000. But this has also coincided with the construction boom, with the net result that we have a significant trade deficit in timber - with an estimated additional 2bn cubic metres of building stock required between now and 2025 just for housing.
This means our timber imports will increase, which can pose problems for sustainable timber practices. “Unethical logging can be an issue with imported timbers from overseas markets, so our message is always: buy certified. But also - buy local. When you buy local certified timber, you know it meets Australian standards and values, but also the less distance the timber has to travel, the less carbon will be released into the atmosphere.” says Michael.
The stringent self-regulation within the industry, supported by laws, international certification schemes and standards is second to none and ensures that we are able to access the highest-quality of certified sustainable timber anywhere in the world. So, for designers and specifiers who want the luxurious, biophilic feel of real timbers with full peace of mind - or just want to be sure that their construction materials are of the highest standard, Tasmanian timber is a sure thing.
Tasmanian Timber is a sponsor of the 2020 Sustainability Awards. View more from Tasmanian Timber here.