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“A solar house should be made from solar materials such as wood” – Salvador Rueda, Director, Agency of Urban Ecology of Barcelona.

Wood is generally thought of as a sustainable building material but this really needs to be explored in specific contexts. The growing, extraction, drying, milling and transport of timber all have potentially damaging impacts on the environment.

Generally Accepted Approach

Timber acquired from a mainstream lumber yard. In Australia this timber will be from varied sources, some highly questionable, unless clearly specified otherwise. Australian Forestry Standard (AFS) certification is usually the best certification on offer, and is not nearly stringent enough.

Imported timber (e.g. Merbau) is suspected of having up to 80% illegal content. Rainforest destruction is devastating to irreplaceable ecosystems. Illegal, unregulated rainforest timber is catastrophic.

Other sources include non-verified recycled, reused and urban salvage.

Choices for Bull Street

  • Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified timber
  • Frame & truss: Timberlink Blue Framing Timber. FSC certified plantation timber but no COC available yet. (414km)
    Available locally at Beards Hardware Pty Ltd – Thrifty Link
  • Staircase & Cabinetry: Victorian Alpine ash (190km), salvaged after the ’06-’07 bush fires by Dwyers Mill (43.2km) contact Liam Wratten 0458 545 026
  • Decking: FSC Ironbark from Australian Sustainable Timbers (1084km)
  • or FSC Ironbark decking from Eco Timber Group (100km)
  • Cladding: Charred farm salvage cypress from Golden Cypress
  • Recycled timber graded, if necessary, using the Forestry and Wood Products guidelines
  • Windows: Milled from wind salvage cypress macrocarpa in Ballarat (78.8km)
  • or Victorian Alpine ash (190km), salvaged after the ’06-’07 bush fires by Dwyers Mill (43.2km) contact Liam Wratten 0458 545 026

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Summary of Reasons

It is impossible to guarantee tropical hardwoods are 100% legal so we have decided to find Australian alternatives which we can verify.

AFS certification alone is NOT adequate. About 35.5% of AFS certified timber is Australian Native Old Growth Forest timber, or plantation cleared from native forest after 1994 (ref: www.fwprdc.org.au ‘A Review of Forest Certification in Australia’).

If AFS certified timber is used, the responsibility is on the consumer to verify its source and the Forest Management Practices of those involved in its production. 

To obtain FSC certification biological control is strictly controlled and the use of Genetically Modified Organisms is prohibited. The AFS does not prohibit the use of genetically modified organisms and does not require minimising the use of biological control agents. 

In regards to the comparison of PEFC and FSC, the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) has some very interesting research (WWF statement on the PEFC international standards launched in November 2010) where they conclude to promote FSC, not PEFC.

In the Greenpeace Good Wood Guide, AFS standards are NOT enough to qualify timber as even ‘Amber’ level wood. FSC accreditation satisfies that it is a ‘Good Wood’ product.

No Plywood, MDF or other composite wood products are produced in Australia at present without added formaldehyde in their glues. It could happen with market pressure, and it is possible, as manufacturers are producing very high quality such products in America and Europe.

As formaldehyde (added) is on the Living Building Challenge Red List, and materials must be sourced within 5,000km (preferably closer), we have chosen alternatives to composite wood products.

Read the detailed research here.