Friday Offcuts 22 September 2023
Focussed on growing mass timber for commercial construction, our second WoodWorks conference for 2023 ran this week, WoodWorks 2023 North. Delegates were treated to an expo, conference, a series of practical workshops and site visits to mass timber building projects that are under construction, in (windy) Wellington. Over 200 architects, engineers and specifiers learnt more about mass timber technology developments, including LVL and CLT, along with prefabrication and connection systems continuing to transform commercial buildings.
In Australia, WoodSolutions this week provides an update on the recent appointment of Kevin Peachey to head the Built Environment & WoodSolutions Programmes and the appointment of Karl-Heinz Weiss, Director of Weiss Insights, a respected industry consultant known for his pioneering work in engineered timber design and construction in the UK, Europe, and Australia to a six month 6-month advisory role.
The NZ Government yesterday announced that a new (and unpopular) annual charge and fees for services in the forestry ETS to come into effect on 19 October 2023. In short, an annual $30.25 per hectare charge on forestry projects with exotic trees in the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) will be levied. The Forest Owners Association have labelled the NZ$14m administration charge as neither reasonable nor equitable. The Farm Forestry Association says that small scale woodlot owners will be facing huge increases, with new charges for 22 different ETS services. Both agree though, it’s yet just another disincentive for land owners and foresters in NZ to plant trees.
In commercial transportation, as we’ve been highlighting in recent issues, the technology is evolving very rapidly. And, just as quickly, it’s being integrated into local heavy transport fleets. Cummins, this week suggests that commercial transportation’s future is being shaped by a shifting energy mix, innovations in software, and evolving use cases driven by autonomous driving and vehicle-as-a-service. Autonomous trucking, they're suggesting in the article is likely to have a more profound impact on transportation, as more vehicles start to communicate with each other and with infrastructure elements such as traffic signals and depots. And potentially, the technology's also likely to raise the competitiveness of trucking against other modes of transportation such as rail.
To finish the week, hydrogen is now making itself felt with hydrogen and dual fuel (hydrogen-diesel) trucks being rolled out onto local roads. For all of you keen petrol heads out there, one of our readers recently sent us in a video of the world’s first functional Hydrogen powered Chevrolet LS Swap. It sounds and drives exactly like a conventional gasoline powered hot rod but with the added bonus, it has zero C02 emissions! Enjoy.
This week we have for you:
AU$10 billion Housing Australia Future fund passed
The Albanese Government should encourage timber homes being built under the AU$10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund (HAFF) to fast track our net zero commitments and help Australia fight climate change, Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA), Natasa Sikman said.
As Australia’s population grows, to an estimated 31 million in 2030, even more buildings will be needed. Using timber under the HAFF can solve the housing crisis and reduce Australia’s emissions budget.
“We congratulate the Albanese Government securing Greens support on delivery of this landmark policy and with its AU$10 billion price tag the Government should be considering how to address numerous policy challenges through its delivery. Using Australian grown and manufactured timber in the construction of new homes under the scheme can boost local industry, help the country meet its net zero targets and refocus the need to plant and grow more timber trees to boost future supply,” Natasa Sikman said.
AFPA is also calling for specific policies to increase detached housing alongside ways to drive medium and high-density options. The Government should consider measures to help increase supply to help first home buyers and essential workers access the detached market, while the construction and supply materials industry, including timber, also needs confidence to grow a steady supply of new dwellings.
“The typical timber house frame absorbs 9.5 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere, or the equivalent of offsetting the emissions of four petrol powered cars off Australia’s roads for a whole year. When you include other timber and wood furnishings like floors and decks and furniture items, the figure can grow to 25 tonnes of CO2,” Natasa Sikman said.
The construction, operation and maintenance of buildings accounts for almost a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions in Australia. As Australia’s population grows, to an estimated 31 million in 2030, even more buildings will be needed. With the recent National Cabinet target to build 1.2 million new homes over five years under the National Housing Accord this could mean 30 million tonnes of stored carbon in the next five years.
“Timber is the ultimate renewable product and for such a large policy as the HAFF, the Albanese Government should be considering the carbon benefits of the materials being used to build new homes, not just the finished product, in terms of overall benefits to our society,” Natasa Sikman concluded.What is the Housing Australia Future Fund?
After more than half a year stuck in the Senate without enough support to become law, the Housing Australia Future Fund (HAFF) has finally passed parliament after Labor struck a deal with the Greens. While it's been touted by the government as the biggest-ever investment into affordable housing in Australian history, the policy is a little complicated, as it isn't a direct injection of funding into housing. This is how it will work.
Source: AFPA, 9News
Forestry veterans spearhead global coalitionIn a move to secure a place in the emerging carbon market, two Australian forestry sector veterans have launched the International Sustainable Forestry Coalition (ISFC). The coalition will tackle climate finance and market mechanisms, pushing for coherent and implementable solutions.
Comprising 10 founding companies, managing nine million hectares of forest across 27 countries, the coalition will lean on the United Nations and COP-related processes that are critical for transforming forestry into an investible asset class.
Set to lead the ISFC from its London office is Ross Hampton, a seasoned Australian forestry sector lobbyist. Hampton said, “We are facing a world at the moment which has been designed by accountants and extractive industries and others, who don’t understand many of the permutations, the complications, the interconnectedness of the way that forestry operates”.
“At the moment it’s a dog’s breakfast. Many of these processes are going to be impossible for the really big capital players to work with unless we can get some fungibility and consistency across the world.” Forests are slated to assume nearly one-third of the decarbonisation effort in the coming decades. This entails replacing plastics with wood in the circular economy, and it will become feedstock for biomass, while forests will serve as carbon offsets and credits.
During the shift to net-zero, forestry feedstock may need to double. But if half of that comes from new plantations – with the rest from productivity growth – then the industry still needs investment to plant two million hectares per year for the next two decades. The wood-based biomass sector will also have to triple in size.
David Brand, an industry executive who will chair the ISFC, emphasised the urgent need to scale up solutions. Yet despite actually having a solution that can be scaled, forestry has remained largely unrepresented in global discussions. As Hampton pointed out, "almost every commodity has global bodies for collective representation. We've lacked that”. Brand attributes this absence to the forestry sector's traditional fragmentation, which shifted when China emerged as a “vortex for wood products from around the world”.
The ISFC plans to present its case at upcoming UN meetings in New York and the COP summit in Dubai in November. Major global companies like Japan’s Oji and Finland’s Stora Enso are among the coalition's members, yet its leadership remains distinctly Australian. "Maybe there is something about Australians, often thinking that there is no door you can't unlock if you play with the lock long enough," said Hampton.
By championing a unified, global voice, the coalition seeks to harness an industry set to become a vital part of a market already worth US$100 billion. It aims to fulfil the industry's potential, not only as an asset class but as a crucial part of global decarbonisation efforts.
NZ biographite company secures US$18 million
CarbonScape, the first-to-market producer of biographite - a carbon-negative alternative to the critical material for lithium-ion batteries - has announced new investment of US$18 million led by Stora Enso, battery producer Amperex Technology Ltd (ATL) and other parties.
The investment will support the commercialisation of biographite, and further plans to establish production in Europe and the US.
Biographite provides a much-needed alternative for electric vehicles
(EV) and grid-scale battery supply chains, by sustainably creating a
critical raw material that currently depends on costly and high-emission
“CarbonScape’s biographite enables the establishment of localised battery supply chains from the ground up. If we are to truly move away from fossil carbon and power our economies through mass electrification, we urgently need sustainable alternatives like biographite to scale quickly,” said CarbonScape CEO Ivan Williams.
SnapSTAT - Carbon market prices since 2010For long-term investments like carbon forestry, investors seek a degree of certainty in policy settings while recognising that markets based on the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme are purely a government constructed tool to change behaviour.
See today's graph to understand why so many investors are upset by the current review of the NZETS as significant uncertainty has hit the market very quickly.
Source: ANZ Research Carbon Market NZU Auction Q3 2023 (6 Sept)
Forestry hit by NZ$14 m a year cost recovery billThe Forest Owners Association (FOA) says the just announced cost recovery scheme for the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme is another government disincentive to plant forests just when they are most needed. President Grant Dodson says the huge jump to a more than NZ$14 million a year cost recovery formula to be imposed by the government is neither reasonable nor equitable.
“It’s important to realise that this is a NZ$14m administration charge which sits over and above activity charges. They are also increasing such as registration, returns and simple basic form filling activities. The ETS is for a public benefit. It has no other basis for existing other than to store carbon from the atmosphere to combat climate change and that is of benefit to all New Zealanders.”
“A better description of something designed to advance the public good would be hard to find. Suggesting that those who have been encouraged to participate should now fund the lion’s share of this public good policy instrument does not recognise its sole purpose. New Zealand’s emitters are responsible for 77 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, or equivalent, per year. They aren’t charged anything for a scheme which would be unnecessary without their emissions. They should be contributing.”
“Imposing these new massive levels of charges for administration costs on foresters for the scheme is unreasonable. Most plantation forests are not in the ETS. The carbon locked in them provides a public good in sequestering more than 15 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, for which they receive no reward.” Grant Dodson says foresters had no say in setting up a needlessly complicated scheme.
“It’s open ended, there are cross subsidies. Bigger foresters have to pay more, not because they use more ETS services, but simply because a crude annual charge of $30.25 per hectare formula makes the MPI bookwork easier.” He says many foresters are a number of years away from harvest and will not be earning any income to pay the cost recovery until potentially decades in the future.
“I’ve just heard from one typical forester. He has a 600-ha block. He gets no services from the ETS administration – just an annual charge of NZ$18,000 a year. He’s wondering why he’s in the ETS.” Grand Dodson says foresters are also concerned that they will be paying to run a system which is currently being reviewed with the possibility that the scheme will effectively be abolished. “We are being forced to pay huge increases into a scheme which the current government has presented options to disconnect.”
Farm Forestry Association President, Neil Cullen says small scale woodlot owners are also facing huge increases, with new charges for 22 different ETS services. “If someone transfers their ETS participation to someone else, then they will be charged $990 just for entering a new name into the system. How much work does that take?”
“These charges will be just another disincentive to plant trees. Our woodlots provide the well-known benefits of carbon sequestration. But so often they are areas of exotics surrounded and intertwined with a range of indigenous trees. And that makes for a lot of biodiversity in our landscape.”
Source: Forest Owners Association
You can check out the Government announcement here.
The government announcement will be another nail in the coffin of sustainable forestry and climate action at scale according to Ekos. For further commentary by Ekos on the announcement, click here.
Funding for cyclone recovery and resilience welcomedEastland Wood Council – Te Kaunihera Pororakauo Te Tairāwhiti (EWC) welcomes additional support for cyclone-affected regions, announced by the NZ Prime Minister this week (read media release).
The industry group is among those in Tairāwhiti that has received funding for workforce and employment initiatives, to provide training and build the workforce for essential recovery and rebuild works. Funding received by EWC is focused on initiatives for women in forestry.
EWC Acting Chair, Warren Rance, is excited by “the acknowledgement by government of not only the importance of the forest industry to Tairāwhiti, but also of the women that provide critical service in recovery operations, management and the future of the industry.”
EWC CEO, Philip Hope, adds that the industry’s greatest asset is its people. “It’s always been about more than just trees or logs. It is about the people who live and work here with their families, and the local businesses that look after them too. People are at the heart of everything our industry does – and it’s great this announcement recognises this.
“In the months that have passed since Cyclones Hale and Gabrielle, our highly skilled workforce has been working hard to tidy up and find ways to improve how we are working to reduce the impact of woody debris on our community. We are also introducing initiatives that prioritise the wellbeing of our workforce, including the Te Kawa a Tāne alliance that uplifts the mana of our kaimahi. The alliance with iwi and government agencies has a vision to keep our people safe and enables whānau to prosper,” adds Philip Hope.
“But there’s more to do, and we look forward to working with our partners to ensure we are creating a more resilient environment for both our workforce and for what happens behind forest gates.”
Source: Eastland Wood Council
Tasmanian timber industry excellence celebratedThe biennial Tasmanian Timber Awards celebrated excellence in Tasmania’s world-class forestry sector at a gala dinner in Launceston last weekend.
Minister for Resources, Felix Ellis, said that the many finalists across the 12 award categories were a demonstration of the commitment, talent and innovative approach of those in our forest and forest products industry.
“Tasmania’s forestry sector is world class, supplying around AU$1.2 billion annually to the State’s economy, while providing 5700 direct and indirect jobs, many of these in regional communities,” Minister Ellis said.
“The 2023 Tasmanian Timber Awards gala dinner was hosted by the Tasmanian Forest and Forest Products Network, which continues to bring the industry together with a bright vision for the future.
2023 Tasmanian Timber Award winners:
• Outstanding Contribution to the Tasmanian Timber Industry – Bryan Hayes
• Excellence in Distribution and Logistics – Orana Enterprises
• Emerging Leader in the Tasmanian Timber Industry – Dr Nathan Kotlarewski (UTAS)
• Excellence in Design and/or use of Tasmanian Timber – Benjamin P Nitschke Architect
• Excellence in Environmental Management Practices – Dr Amy Koch (Forest Practices Authority)
• Forest Growing and Management Excellence – Hills Transplant Nursery
• Harvesting Excellence – MechLog – ‘Forestry with Care’
• Innovation Award – Indicium Dynamics
Source: Felix Ellis, Minister for Resources
Forestry's new recruits are 'fire ready'Forestry Corporation has put its new firefighting recruits through their paces at a Wauchope training camp in preparation for the bushfire season. More than 50 staff from across the North-West, Mid North Coast, Northern Rivers, Sydney, Hunter, Central West, South Coast and southern NSW were trained in essential firefighting skills.
This included training in fire behaviour, tactics and strategy, leadership, command, control and communications and how to operate the range of appliances and equipment used at hazard reduction burns and bushfires.
“The intensive training program is designed to get new recruits nationally qualified and ‘fire ready’ as forest firefighters,” Fire Training and Operations Officer Adrien Thompson said. Forestry Corporation’s bushfire training camps are essential in developing a skilled and capable workforce for the bushfire season.
The training program is comprehensive, and recruits get the opportunity to learn skills like the use of four-wheel-drive-mounted hoses and reels, operation of fire tankers and pumping equipment, while also being taught lifesaving skills such as fire-front first-aid, communication, how to monitor weather patterns and gauge the impact of relative humidity and changing wind gusts on forest fires.
“Safety is always at the top of this list though – our firefighters’ wellbeing is our biggest concern, and it all comes back to correct training and procedures,” Mr Thompson said. “We take our firefighting responsibilities incredibly seriously – our training ensures everyone from our most experienced firefighter through to our newest recruits are fit and ready to be deployed to the fire front.
“We also send crews to assist on large bushfires across all tenures within their local areas, interstate and even internationally, so we need to ensure we are at the top of our game,” he said. Forestry Corporation is responsible for preventing and managing fires across two million hectares of State forests across NSW.
Source: Forestry Corporation
New leadership & new horizons for WoodSolutionsExciting ventures are on the horizon for WoodSolutions. Starting with introducing the newly appointed Head of Built Environment Programs & WoodSolutions Program lead, Kevin Peachey.
Kevin was previously the Statistics and Economics Manager at Forest & Wood Products Australia and formerly worked with Australian Forest Products Association, Timber Towns Victoria, and the National Timber Councils Association. He has a great passion and understanding of wood products and is enthusiastic to lead the WoodSolutions Team. He will also continue in his role as Chair of the Resilient Timber Housing Program.
Hitting the ground running, Kevin is excited to announce the 6-month advisory role of Karl-Heinz Weiss, director of Weiss Insights, a respected industry consultant known for his pioneering work in engineered timber for the design and construction sectors in the UK, Europe, and Australia.
Kevin and Karl-Heinz will work closely together to evaluate and further develop the WoodSolutions strategy and objectives. They will move straight to consultation and collaboration with the design and build industry, and stakeholders.
“I am excited to support the WoodSolutions team as we develop the strategic framework to build on their significant existing achievements, developing the plan and pathway for further success … at a time when timber is experiencing a renewed focus as a low carbon solution across the sector,” said Karl-Heinz.
“WoodSolutions connects design and build specifiers with invaluable practical information to successfully utilise timber in their projects and we are excited to see what this new collaboration will bring for the program.”
WoodSolutions has been active for over 12 years and during this time has been a consistently growing source of information and resources for the Australian design and build industry. The program is known for its ability to pivot and deliver for the needs of its users. During COVID, the team worked to bring their popular Continuing Professional Development presentations to an online, accessible format with remarkable success.
Recently, WoodSolutions brought back its popular international study tour attended by building professionals from across Australia. Touring timber buildings and innovative building material plants across Norway and Sweden, Kevin experienced firsthand how the WoodSolutions team works to promote timber innovation and how it is reshaping the future of construction.
“Our goal is to work with industry to determine the activities to address their needs. We aim to further advance the WoodSolutions mission to provide reliable and comprehensive information to facilitate informed decision-making about using wood and wood products in the built environment.” Kevin concluded.
The commercial transport revolution - it's underwayAdvanced technology will pave the way to exceed what was previously thought possible.
The commercial transportation industry faces rapidly changing regulations and evolving customer needs. Cummins examines the future of commercial transportation, and indicates that it will be shaped by three perspectives: a shifting energy mix, innovations in software, and evolving use cases driven by autonomous driving and vehicle-as-a-service (VaaS).
The commercial transportation sector has already begun a rapid period of software development, helping fleets avoid accidents, optimize their fuel usage, and identify the best routes. Going forward, safety will continue to be paramount; meanwhile, connectivity and software development will revolutionize condition monitoring and performance optimization. This revolution will take place at three levels: asset-level, system-level, and intermodal.
In the near future, asset-level connectivity will continue to be under a spotlight. For example, Cummins is already testing prognostic algorithms that leverage massive amounts of data to move customers away from reactive service models to predictive, planned maintenance. The idea is this: sensors in the vehicle monitor the way equipment is performing and report abnormalities. This allows potential issues to be detected early enough that the necessary action can be taken, either through over-the-air updates or at the next scheduled maintenance, so unplanned downtime is reduced, increasing the availability and reliability of the equipment.
Soon, we will see an increased focus on system-level connectivity, where emphasis will expand to managing the complete fleet and system elements such as distribution centres and refuelling stations. With this, we will see the sector continue to drive automated decision making through an increased reliance on harnessing real time data and computing capabilities.
Finally, intermodal connectivity will connect different modes of transportation. This will create a commercial transportation eco-system where individual assets among different modes of transportation such as road, rail, sea, and air are connected and operate in harmony. One of the things common between autonomous trucking and VaaS (Vehicle as a service) is they may both drive an evolution among commercial transportation use-cases, but at different scales.
Autonomous trucking may have more profound impact on transportation, as more vehicles start to communicate with each other and with infrastructure elements such as traffic signals and depots. A key outcome of the rise of autonomous trucking could be the competitiveness of trucking against other modes of transportation such as rail. Autonomous trucking could also impact the financials of the industry; as these vehicles will be highly utilized, which could lead to shorter replenishment cycles and lower volumes of vehicles to own. As the safety considerations are getting addressed, this and the increasing focus on system-level connectivity will also continue to shape the role of the drivers in autonomous vehicles.
Vehicle-as-a-service, on the other hand, may have a limited impact in commercial transportation. VaaS, which mirrors the efficiency model used by Uber and Airbnb, primarily relies on under-utilized assets. Meanwhile, commercial transportation is inherently different from privately-owned cars and homes, where a wealth of these under-utilized assets exists. In commercial transportation, there is not a large reserve of under-utilized assets. There may be use-cases where a combination of VaaS and advanced autonomy (without a driver) could address chronic driver shortage issues. Meanwhile, for fleets where utilization rates are already very high and access to finances is not an issue, the impact of VaaS will be limited.
Commercial transportation is certainly in a period of rapid change, but the sector has always pushed hard to ensure it would meet the needs of society. Today, those needs are increasingly demanding, and technology will once again rise to the challenge.
Hydrogen powered muscle truck: The future's HERE!For all of you petrol heads out there. Hydrogen is already making itself felt with hydrogen and dual fuel (hydrogen-diesel) trucks being rolled out onto NZ roads. Check this video out supplied by one of our readers.
Mike Copeland of Arrington Performance has been around the auto industry a long time. 25 years at General Motors doing special projects Mike has gathered the connections to create the world’s first functional Hydrogen powered Chevrolet LS Swap that has passed the EPA testing!
This truck sounds and drives exactly like a conventional gasoline powered hot rod but with zero C02 emissions!
While naysayers have given hydrogen bad press, that did not deter Mike and his friends at Bosch from doing the R&D to figure out this package. Someday in the near future you will be able to convert your existing vehicle to renewable Hydrogen power! Mike explains to us how that will be possible in this video!
Wood set to help reduce concrete emissionsNew Zealand’s concrete industry wants to lower greenhouse gas emissions by 44% by 2030 as part of a roadmap toward becoming net zero carbon by the middle of the century.
The target, which is a reduction from 2020 levels, comprises curbing direct emissions from the chemical reaction when making cement and altering the fuel burned in the process, Concrete NZ said.
The industry is trying to balance demand for concrete for building and infrastructure development against the need to reduce emissions as New Zealand makes progress toward its legislated 2050 net zero goal. The challenge for cement companies globally is that they contribute 7% of all carbon emissions because the manufacturing process requires intense energy and the chemical reaction produces so much carbon.
“To reach our ambitions, the industry needs significant regulatory, technological, structural, and behavioural changes across the cement and concrete value chain,” said Concrete NZ Chief Executive Rob Gaimster. “The imperative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is a global one.”
Concrete use has grown steadily in New Zealand the past decade, driven by economic expansion and commercial construction, including roading and the rebuild after the Canterbury earthquake in 2011. Production was 4.4 million tons in the year through June, Statistics New Zealand said Thursday, down from 4.6 million tons a year earlier.
New Zealand has one cement plant, operated by Fletcher Building Ltd. at Whangarei, north of largest city Auckland. The plant has already taken steps to reduce its dependence on fossil fuel by using waste tires and wood to replace 50% of its coal consumption, and has also developed technology to use different products in the manufacturing process.
According to Concrete NZ, Fletcher will increase the use of mineral additions and “supplementary cementitious materials” which have lower embodied carbon and can be either added to cement or used directly to make concrete.
Beyond 2030, the broader industry will use carbon capture to further advance its emissions reduction, while it expects improved building and infrastructure design and other technological advances will also occur, Concrete NZ said.
Source: Bloomberg News
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