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November : Treated timber: greener than you think

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20 November, 2019

Treated timber: greener than you think

Treated timber: greener than you think

Treated timber is greener than you think.

It is the most environmentally friendly material available for construction and infrastructure, as well as the best performer for utility poles. 

"Every aspect of sustainable forestry and timber treatment, from planting a tree to proper timber preservation - and finally the usage of timber - is environmentally friendly. This is one of the reasons we're so proud to work in our industry," said Bertus. 

For utility poles, wood is the best available product. Concrete and steel have been used for electrification projects in some African countries but have not performed as well as timber. In one example, the Kenyan authorities turned back to wooden utility poles after experiencing limited service life with concrete and steel.

Young trees sequester carbon while they grow, converting it to oxygen. Tropical tree plantations of pine and eucalyptus, for example, are known to sequester an average of 10 tons of carbon per hectare per year. After a certain age this efficiency is reduced, which is why harvesting mature trees and planting younger, carbon-guzzling saplings makes sense.

The cellular structure of wood gives it thermal insulation that has been measured at 15 times better than concrete, 400 times better than steel and 1 770 times better than aluminium.

"There's a place for all products - including concrete and steel - but wood is easier to work with and has the most economic benefit, as it adds the most value to communities, through its value chain. Homes built from timber are warmer and better insulated - which means you're using less electricity to heat your home," said Bertus.

"When you buy wood, you're buying character."

A wooden house can have a lifetime of up to 150 years with a proper approach to building according to ArchiLine Ltd, an industry-leading European company which has been building wooden houses internationally for many years

Timber needs to be treated because it is used in infrastructure projects and needs to last. The value of wood is increased by CCA treatment.

"Some people have criticised CCA as environmentally unfriendly. What they miss is that the preservative prolongs the life of the timber, tying up carbon for the duration of the timber's service life. This is one of the functions that make it environmentally friendly."

CCA is fixated to the timber, so its chemicals do not leach into the environment. Instead of killing insects, it repels them and deters them from using the timber as a food source.

"The concentrations of the chemicals in CCA are very low. You could see it as providing the timber with a new immune system, similar to the one it had when it was still growing. Trees have natural defence mechanisms to repel insects, and diseases; when preserved using CCA, timber has a static immune system, performing a similar function."

Forestry is one of the rare industries that creates a material and renewable source of wealth, rather than extracting and using up resources in the way mining does. As a tree grows, it becomes more and more valuable, and people are willing to pay more for it.

"It's an asset that sustainably grows the economy. Trees create wealth where none previously existed, so money really does grow on trees.

"As many generations could tell you, wood is a proven product," concluded Bertus.

Source: Dolphin Bay Chemicals

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