After eight years of research and testing, Georgia-based timber company Gilman Building Products has devised a way to transform sawdust and other wood manufacturing waste into value-added products like architectural trim. Pine remnants like immature trees and brush that are too small to be milled conventionally, which would normally go to waste or be used as fuel, can also be salvaged using the new process.
Aiming to use as much of their product as possible, cutting back the 25-40% yield loss that’s typical during the conventional milling process, the company developed a proprietary patent-pending kiln system that can bring the moisture content of this leftover material to commercial standards and turn it into engineered wood products. This reportedly reduces yield loss by 50% or more.
The scraps of wood typically produced as a byproduct of the lumber industry doesn’t go completely to waste when it’s not used in a high-tech new process like this one, however. Industry waste wood goes to sustainable biomass plants that burn it to produce clean, renewable energy.
Photo by Horia Varlan
Timber frame construction is in the news in a big way this week with reports of skyrocketing demand in the UK. Last year, a report by MTW Research predicted that timber frame architecture would see a 60% increase in sales volume and an 80% increase in value. Now, so many home builders are inquiring about the building style in Britain that a timber association is offering a free RIBA-acredited seminar and factory tour.
Stewart Milne Timber Systems reports a “surge in demand for timber frame and a rising interest in the benefits of offsite construction”, with group managing director Alex Goodfelow saying, “We’ve seen a significant increase in enquiries from housebuilders looking to capitalize on the current market upturn through improved cost efficiencies and speed of build.”
Meanwhile, timber frame architecture will form the backbone of the UK’s first carbon zero eco town, called North West Bicester. The same firm offering the seminar has been awarded the design order to build an initial phase of 393 homes, with the timber systems prefabricated off-site for better environmental performance and a faster build.
“Timber frame is the most energy-efficient building material available and therefore is a perfect fit for NW Bicester’s design as the UK’s first eco town,” says Goodfellow.
Nanomaterials – which can be 100,000 times thinner than a strand of hair – are increasingly the basis of innovative products producing amazing advancements in fields like technology and medicine. But these materials are so tiny, there are concerns about the effects they could have on human health and the environment. They can be found in everything from sunscreen to lumber, and they’re set to make a big impact on the construction industry for applications like ultra-durable concrete and self-cleaning windows.
The U.S. Forest Service is working on a project that could be a major step forward for greener, more sustainable nanomaterials. For the past three years, researchers at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) have been developing cellulose nano-crystals made from wood fibers.
These fibers offer incredible strength equivalent to that of Kevlar, and they’re also surprisingly clear so they can be used for applications like composite windshields and other forms of reinforced glass.
“There are ways to engineer materials in advance to make them environmentally benign,” says Pedro Alvarez, the co-author of a study on the potential risks of nanomaterials. “There are also methods that allow us to consider the entire lifecycle of a product and to ensure that it can be recycled or reused rather than thrown away. The key is to understand the specific risks and implications of the product before it it is widely used.”
The United States has joined Norway and the United Kingdom to pledge a combined $280 million toward sustainable forestry in an effort to slow the effects of climate change. The initiative, managed by the BioCarbon Fund, will establish environmentally friendly tracts of forest in a wide variety of regions around the world, and expand forest protection technologies and climate-smart agriculture.
Announced during an event at the United Nations climate summit in Warsaw, the new initiative comes just after a report revealed that our planet has lost an area the size of Western Europe to deforestation over the last decade. That’s not just a problem for wildlife and the communities in which the forests are lost; deforestation speeds up climate change.
One of the crucial components of a climate-friendly sustainable forestry system is establishing new markets for timber. That’s part of the effort that will take place in Oromia, a region that contains 60 percent of Ethiopia’s forests. As demand for sustainable forest products increases, incentives to manage forests responsibly do, too.
“The fate of the climate, forests, and agriculture are bound together. If agriculture and land-use change continue to produce up to 30 percent of global greenhouse gases, it will mean further disaster and disruption from climate change”, said Rachel Kyte, the World Bank’s vice president of sustainable development. “That’s why the new BioCarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes it so important. Its grants and results-based financing aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the land sector, through REDD+, climate-smart agriculture practices and land-use planning.”
Image: Geoff Gallice