23 Oct 2017

Forestry calls for wooden public buildings

9:26 am on 23 October 2017

The new government could help revive forestry by favouring wooden buildings, the Wood Council of New Zealand says.

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Photo: 123RF

Commercial forestry has been struggling and there are concerns about the environmental impact of cement and steel.

Wood Council chairman Brian Stanley said the new administration was well placed to help.

"Modern high rise buildings can be built of wood. They are doing it all over the world now - 16, 20, 30 storeys high," he said.

"There is no reason why when the government is building new schools or office blocks they can't use wood that is currently going offshore."

A 12-storey wooden building is planned for Wellington by property magnate Sir Bob Jones, but Mr Stanley said more could be done if the government set up a wood-first policy for public buildings.

"We've got a new drive from the top for more plantings, a greater thrust for forestry in regional development and a commitment to use trees for carbon sequestration," he said.

The missing link was the government specifying wooden construction as its first choice for new buildings.

New Zealand forests, which increased in size markedly after 1990, began shrinking in recent years, partly due to dairy conversions.

In addition, many logs are bought by overseas companies and exported unprocessed.

Mr Stanley said the government could help reverse these trends.

His comments accompanied renewed concern about the environmental impact of other construction materials, such as cement, which emits carbon dioxide as it is made.

There is also concern about steel, which uses coal when it is being converted from iron.

Three foreign thinktanks, Climate Analytics, Ecofys and NewClimate Institute, found the construction sector could not meet the climate goals agreed at the Paris climate accord using current technology for steel and cement.