Friday Offcuts – 11 March 2016

Often we see claims and counter claims – more often than not with their own particular bias or take on the research – from suppliers of building and construction materials. We cover an interesting story this week on research that’s going to compare wood and concrete buildings – the cost and duration of construction work, the carbon footprint, and the comfort of living. Together, two wooden and two concrete apartment blocks are being built alongside each other in Finland. This is meant to be the first research of its type but the buildings aren’t expected to be completed until late 2017. From previous research, it appears that wood comes out on top by most measures. Something to keep a watch on.

In our technology basket this week we have from Australia the announcement of AU$1.5 million that’s being set aside (finally) by the Australian and NSW Governments to fund three mechanical bushfire fuel reduction trials. The aim is to look at tools that can be used to mitigate the outbreak and severity of bushfires across the country. We also cover stories on the need to tighten up on recovering building and construction wastes, the announcement by one of Australia’s largest suppliers of forestry equipment of a record sales year and we’ve got a story about a team from the University of Adelaide that has been helping US officials with forest DNA forensics to help convict timber thieves in the US.

In New Zealand, the forestry research grouping Scion has just signed a research collaboration agreement with Finland’s VTT Technical Research Centre for joint research and commercialisation of products made from forest biomass. Research funding has also been secured by the University of Canterbury to continue on with the excellent work that’s already been done on post-tensioned timber technology which has been used in commercial and industrial timber structures as part of the Christchurch rebuild. The new research will be looking at hybrid timber-steel shear wall systems for mid-rise light timber frame buildings.

Finally, hats off this week to Landcorp, New Zealand’s largest farmer. Having cleared a significant area of forestry plantations in the central North Island to convert to dairy, they’ve pulled the plug on further dairying. Milk prices being paid to farmers have slumped markedly. Early economic assessments for the Wairakei estate were based on prices of around $7 per kilogram of milk solids. Wednesday this week saw a 9.3 per cent fall in the global dairy auction with Fonterra cutting its pay-out to farmers for 2015/16 to $3.90 per kilogram of milk solids. Environmental pressures on waterway run-off from the farming venture have also been mounting. As well as it being a brave decision, it shows perhaps that compared to forestry, under the current environment, the conversion just hasn’t stacked up either financially or environmentally for the State-owned Enterprise.

Src: Friday offcuts