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Govt adopts 'timber-first policy' for building industry in bid to combat climate change

The building industry is in for a shake-up as the Government adopts a timber-first policy to help combat climate change.

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Manufacturing steel and concrete sends massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, so there are calls for more timber frame building. Source: 1 NEWS

New research shows the building industry needs to halve its emissions in a decade if New Zealand wants to hit its 2050 carbon target.

Constructed with a timber frame, it’s hoped the University of Canterbury's Beatrice Tinsley Building — the tallest of its kind in the country — will inspire a change in construction, and therefore the climate.

"This building, for instance, has an embodied carbon of about 400 kilograms of carbon per metre squared of its 60-year life span. Typical buildings are about 1000," Jasmax architect Stephen Middleton explained.

Manufacturing steel and concrete sends massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.

"It can sequester carbon for long periods of time. For this building, I would say at least 50 years so we are delaying the release of carbon back to the atmosphere," Canterbury University associate professor of engineering, Minghao Li, explained.

Li says the building is structurally strong.

"It has great self-centring capacity and really a low-damage design. When a big earthquake comes, you expect very small amounts of damage and very quickly, we can repair this type of building," he said.

The minister in charge, Economic Development Minister Stuart Nash, is now keen to step in.

"There is nothing you can do with steel and concrete that can’t be done with timber," Nash said.

With 2.1 million hectares of forest plantation, a plan is now being rolled out to state agencies.

"What that will look like is if you are building a building for the state sector or the state sector is building a building itself, then it has to be built out of wood," Nash said.

The Government hopes to have a carbon-neutral state sector by 2025.