Architecture & Design is thrilled to announce Weathertex as the official sponsor of the Single Dwelling (Alteration) category at the 2019 Sustainability Awards. Sustainably made products are at the heart of Weathertex – a proud supporter and active participant in sustainability practices and initiatives for future generations.

With less than a month to go until the Sustainability Awards, Architecture & Design spoke to Jason O’Hagan, the Managing Director at Weathertex and discuss company missions, goals, and the process of a great Australian product.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Including your background, position and role at Weathertex?

I’ve been in the building industry for over 30 years, with 7 of those years as Managing Director here at Weathertex. Our focus as a business is to continue to provide affordable sustainable cladding and building solutions to the Australian architecture and design industry.

During my time here, I have watched the business thrive with practices that we have implemented from the very beginning all the way to now, and we will always be dedicated to delivering the best, practical and most sustainable product possible.

Our product is 100% natural, made from Australian hardwood timber, the ultimate renewal building material.  Due to the uniqueness of our product, we also export a large selection of our products to various continents across the globe.  

What makes Weathertex a superior choice in timber manufacturing and cladding for building solutions?

Sustainable products can sometimes be seen as more expensive with the different sourcing and processes. Weathertex prides itself on our consistent ability to manufacture a product that is highly sustainable with no added costs throughout the whole process. We manage these costs through our local sourcing of renewable Australian timber hardwood, and that’s the way we’ve always done it - honest, local and sustainable products and production throughout.

Weathertex puts sustainability and durability at the forefront of all its products.  This ensures we deliver natural, affordable, eco-friendly timber cladding to our customers in Australia as well as globally.

Our cladding product is unique and the only one in the world not to contain silica, artificial glues, resins or formaldehydes. Weathertex uses only sustainable plantation grown timber and PEFC certified sources in order to provide high quality products that will stand the test of time without endangering the environment and with also added health benefits.  The logs are then chipped, pulped and pressed with 3% natural wax and shaped into a large selection of lightweight natural (unprimed) and pre-primed weatherboard and architectural wall panel ranges with various textures, formats and effective installation systems. 

Can you give us a brief history of the company’s growth and development to the business it is now? When did sustainability become part of the conversation?

Since 1939, the way we manufacture has never changed however for the last eight decades, our company has grown into a most trusted sustainable building brand within Australia and the world.  Even when the building industry wasn’t at the point of having sustainability as the main topic of conversation or really understood its need for future generations, our focus was already on crafting a sustainable product.

We get our products from local forests and plantations – controlled sources that are recognised by legislation. We dedicate ourselves to creating a clean process that has a better than zero manufacturing footprint and are supported by numerous third party accreditations.  At the beginning, we didn’t realise the positive implications of accreditations and the way they would credit us in future decades. Now, our company has grown to what it is with the help of these certifications as well as our transparency on production and manufacturing, which lets our customers see the process behind everything. These trustworthy reviews give us the opportunity to continue growing within the industry.

How does Weathertex practice sustainability in the company’s strategies, missions and goals?

Although sustainability has always been central to the Weathertex brand, it really came to the forefront when Kevin Rudd started talking about the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme from a manufacturing perspective. As social and political discussions began to turn to sustainability and the climate, Weathertex was able to join in and lead these conversations thanks to a long history of ethical, responsible and sustainable approaches to production and manufacturing.

We play a crucial part in improving the sustainability of building products and practices in Australia and we are committed in providing our customers the product transparency demanded in the market through third party accreditations.  

These accreditations together with our focus to providing high quality service and product, resulted in Weathertex been voted #1 MOST TRUSTED BRAND in the Architecture & Design Brand Survey both in 2016 and 2018.

Cost efficiencies in product wastage to our customer is something we take consideration in our production process. As our products are 97% timber hardwood, any wastage left on building projects and developments can be put through a chipper and be utilised as wood chip in landscape areas.

More builders are also now focusing on sustainable practices, giving us a bigger opportunity to keep innovating and producing affordable sustainable cladding solutions within the building industry.  Creating good, honest products have been our focus forever, and as sustainability becomes more prominent we’ll continue to refine our approach to meet the demands of our customers and the future.

What are the current problems the industry is facing towards sustainability in the building production and manufacturing sector? How does Weathertex overcome these challenges and contribute to a better future?

I think managing manufacturing waste is a big challenge for any company in the current context. We make sure that we deal with our waste efficiently in environmentally friendly methods. Looking at the current climate of the industry and towards the future, we have to deal with our waste more efficiently to sustain the industry.

At Weathertex, we approach waste management in a variety of ways. Firstly, under an EPA licence we recycle all the water we use in the production process back into the aquafer that we source it from.  The only other ‘’waste’’ from the production process is wood saw dust and boiler ash that, also under licence we sell to the landscaping sector for use in potting mix and garden mulch.  We keep a strong focus on preserving and using as much of our source ingredients as we can and minimising the waste that would be put back into the environment.

Importantly, our approach to waste management extends upstream beyond the factory waste we produce. Weathertex use only pulpwood hardwood logs rather than A grade sawlogs or extremely high value and rare girders or poles. For every tonne of saw log harvested in the forest there are 6 tonnes of pulpwood available.  There is only a commercial use for approximately 50% of this pulpwood, the rest is left on the forest floor or not harvested. 

We take this low grade pulpwood that would otherwise have been left on the forest floor, chip it, pulp it and transform it into a durable and sustainable cladding material… breathing new life from a waste grade timber.

Where do you see the architecture and design industry, specifically with sustainability in building products and solutions, headed towards in response to the changing climate of sustainability for the future?

I think the architecture, design and building industry is very aware of our need to change and refine what we’re doing and to continue the conversation on sustainability through the 21st century and beyond. This approach and perspective is prominent in everything that we do within the industry, with our missions, goals and initiatives continuing to improve so we can keep getting better to try and resolve what’s happening to the climate for future generations.

Many materials claim to be environmentally friendly and green, but more and more brands and trusted companies are now backing their claims through third-party certifications. These accreditation organisations go through an independent evaluation of the business life cycle assessment, environment and health impact over the life of the products as well as eco toxicity.  

We're proud to be in the forefront, especially with our Natural range obtaining many 'firsts' sustainable achievements: - the FIRST manufactured product globally to achieve Platinum GreenTag Certification and Gold on all our flat panels and weatherboards, FIRST to earn a GreenTag PhD (Product Health Declaration) as well as the FIRST Australian cladding company to join the Declare Label Program.

Looking towards the future, we have to look to the past – and it’s always been like this. Although we haven’t evolved from a manufacturing process perspective, we’ve evolved externally with constant growth with accreditations and looking after the local forests and putting support back into the cycle of the sustainable cladding product. We pride ourselves on our transparency to the clients and the industry, on our ingredients and on our manufacturing process from start to finish.

How do you see the Sustainability Awards inspiring emerging architects and designers in designing for the future?

The Sustainability Awards continues to promote the conversation and importance of sustainable practices and products within the industry. It highlights the significant need for an awareness of sustainability for years to come. Weathertex continues to believe in holistic sustainable businesses. This is seen through our cladding products, our commitment to our own role in the industry of sustainability and our continuous support of the Sustainability Awards.

It’s awards like this that also encourage us the to continue doing what we’re doing, because it highlights the great things that people that are happening and putting them on a global platform. Weathertex is uniquely Australian and we’re thrilled to be a part of something so much bigger, alongside people that are passionate about sustainable practices and goals.