Friday Offcuts 15 September 2023
Across the Tasman, Adam Jones, CLT Toolbox founder, was awarded the Engineers Australia "Emerging Professional of the Year Award", for contributions to the advancement of sustainable construction practices. His team has developed easy-to-understand templates to make mass timber a more available choice for engineers across the country. In frame and truss prefabricated construction, Bunnings have recognised the potential for the company in the frame and truss market. Production is now underway at a new 31,000sqm manufacturing plant in Melbourne. In July, a similar plant was opened up in Sydney and another has been scheduled to open early next year in Brisbane. AU$75m has already been committed to the expansion over the last couple of years.
In forest technology this week, we’ve provided details of a new student’s competition that has been set up for the NZ leg of the annual ForestTECH 2023 series running in November. It builds on the level of interest being shown by the forest industry for using UAV’s for collecting detailed data for tree crop management and for operational planning. Students from the University of Canterbury and Toi Ohomai will be undertaking their own research (and presenting their results live in Rotorua to delegates) on different methods for conducting tree survival surveys using UAVs. The research efforts are being coordinated by Scion and Tools for Foresters and the competition prize, it's a new $7,000 DJI Mavic 3 Enterprise, the very latest generation in portable drones being donated by Ferntech. We’ve also got a story for you; and a link to FGR's report investigating if AI is able to match human seedling grading in nursery at speed and with accuracy?
Finally, on transport issues, China leads the race in electric truck production, selling 91% of the global market last year. To assist in the switch from diesel to electric, incentives have been helpful but one of the keys to encouraging uptake in China has been providing the necessary infrastructure to transport fleets enabling robotic battery swapping. In 2022, half of the electric trucks sold in China were swap-capable. This allows truck drivers to swap batteries over in a matter of just 3-6 minutes. There's little difference here to pulling into a gas station and filling up with diesel from a pump. And Volvo Trucks, right now are also putting their own HCT 74 tonne electric truck through its paces in Sweden. Globally, Volvo Trucks have set themselves an ambitious target of half of all trucks being sold by the company to be electric by 2030. That’s it for this week.
This week we have for you:
Engineers Australia awards CLT Toolbox FounderThe Engineers Australia Excellence Awards celebrates innovation in engineering with an increasing focus on more sustainable building solutions.
Adam Jones, the founder of CLT Toolbox, has just been awarded the Engineers Australia Emerging Professional of the Year Award, for contributions to the advancement of sustainable construction practices. The top engineers of Victoria their accolades at the 2023 Engineers Australia Excellence Awards held in Melbourne last Wednesday.
The CLT Toolbox overcomes a key bottleneck preventing the important transition from high carbon emission materials like concrete to low emission timber by providing education and design infrastructure in an agnostic software platform. The honor serves as a humbling recognition of his ongoing efforts to promote environmentally friendly building methods.
His team is leading the growth of a network of contributors working to make mass timber a more available choice for engineers across the country. Despite a heightened national interest in a timber transition, Adam identified that a lack of education and access to easy-to-understand templates was preventing engineers from choosing sustainable building materials over concrete and steel.
"We're on a mission to bring sustainable building materials into the mainstream. CLT Toolbox aims to make mass timber the path of least resistance, making it easier than concrete or steel. I'm deeply grateful for the acknowledgment and excited for the path ahead,” Adam said, who shared the launch of the software wouldn't be possible without the CLT Toolbox Team's support.
The Emerging Professional of the Year Award celebrating innovation in projects delivering low-carbon solutions comes at a time when the Australian government is doubling down on decarbonising the construction industry and reduce the country’s embodied carbon footprint.
The award also recognises Adam’s extensive career and contributions to structural engineering and sustainability. including his role in the "Rethinking Cement Report" with Beyond Zero Emissions and his educational contributions through interviewing leading timber global experts on the Timber Talks Podcast.
Adam was also previously recognised as Future Green Leader of the Year by the Green Building Council of Australia in 2019. He’s deeply passionate about making timber a mainstream option for the emerging markets in construction. "Adam has been dedicated to helping engineers find a visible route to contributing to a more sustainable construction industry, helping engineers become champions of the decarbonization movement at a critical time,” shared Ringo Thomas, Co-founder of CLT Toolbox.
Beyond his professional pursuits, Adam has also made educational contributions through his popular podcast, "What You Will Learn," with over 9 million downloads and is a bestselling author of the book "The Sh*t They Never Taught You," further illustrating his commitment to broad-based education and personal growth. "It's a collective effort, and the award is a reflection of the hard work put in by our team, and the openness of the industry to new, sustainable solutions," Adam added.
Source: CLT Toolbox
Bunnings commits to frame & truss expansionFrame and truss prefabricated building solutions set to become an integral part of Bunnings expansion strategy.
Like the line art that Bunnings deploys in their catalogues to convey minimalism and budget prices, everything the uber-dominant hardware chain does is carefully calculated to capture market opportunities and invariably, is the harbinger of sweeping change that can realign an entire industry.
With builders and developers increasingly recognising the dividends of embracing modular construction and prefabricated building solutions, Bunnings’ latest announcement is particularly timely. They have commenced production at a 31,000sqm frame and truss prefabricated manufacturing plant in Truganina, located in Melbourne’s west. Once operating at full capacity, this plant will produce wall frames and roof trusses for up to 2800 homes annually.
This follows the opening of a similar plant in outer Sydney’s Minto in July and precedes another set to open in south-western Brisbane’s Wacol early next year. Bunnings have committed AU$75 million to the venture over the past 24 months.
According to the Frame & Truss Manufacturers Association of Australia (FTMA) there are 287 frame and truss businesses of varying capacity nationally, and a significant proportion of these are small businesses. Bunnings strategy behind selling prefabricated frames and trusses – which make up about 15 percent of the cost of a home – is that it establishes a supplier’s relationship with a builder at the start of construction and makes it easier to sell other products throughout the typical nine-month construction process.
Ben McIntosh, Bunnings Chief Operating Officer – Commercial, said, “We’ve been really open about the potential we see in the frame and truss market, and we’ve made some deliberate investments over the past few years with a focus on our team, systems and equipment. “Builders are time-poor, they need efficiency… Anything you can do to help builders get things up faster, more efficiently…[it’s] what the customer is demanding.”
According to a company statement, their strategic expansion isn’t just about business growth; it’s a timely response to the current market demands. “The Australian residential construction industry is undergoing a period of significant change, with systemic labour shortages and a desire for better efficiency resulting in a growing demand for prefabrication [frame and truss solutions] delivered direct to site.”
For more information visit: bunnings.com.au
Exploring AI's potential in forest nurseriesCan AI match human seedling grading in nursery at speed and accuracy? Under Forest Grower’s Research work programme, the Precision Silviculture Programme's prototype says its looking possible!
Developed in collaboration with Dr. Brian Russell at Contempo Lab, they’ve successfully detected seedlings, identified parts, and applied pass/fail rules. Challenges like needle visibility and trunk measurements were overcome with a hybrid machine learning AI approach.
Read the technical report here if you want more details.
The next step is implementing the prototype in a working nursery, expand the data set, and refine the model. Designing an in-shed system with cameras, data processing, and a dashboard interface is also on the roadmap.
Source: Forest Growers Research
ForestTECH 2023 student’s competition set upThis year for the first time, a student’s competition has been set up for the NZ leg of the ForestTECH 2023 series by Tools for Foresters, the Forest Industry Engineering Association and Forest Growers Research. It builds on the level of interest being shown by the forest industry in using UAV’s for collecting detailed data for tree crop management and for operational planning.
A selected number of students from the University of Canterbury and Toi Ohomai will be undertaking their own research projects on different methods for conducting tree survival surveys using UAVs. The research efforts are being coordinated by Scion and Tools for Foresters.
The reports from each of the students will each be assessed by an industry panel before ForestTECH 2023 runs with a final presentation and grading, live, given by Rotorua conference delegates on Tuesday 14 November. All three students will also be expanding on their data capture methodology in a post-conference industry workshop planned on day two of the event.
The prize for the best project is an amazing DJI Mavic 3 Enterprise, the very latest generation in portable drones for land and resource management valued at NZ$7,000 kindly donated by Ferntech, local drone specialists. Full details on the conference and workshop programme, both for NZ and the Australian leg of the November forest technology series, can be found on the event website
Battery swapping boosts Chinese electric truck marketChina is widely known as the world’s largest market for electric cars and buses, but did you know that it’s also leading in the race to electric trucks?
Indeed, based on data from EV-volumes.com, in 2022, China sold 36,000 electric trucks, 91% of the global total. And no country except China has ever sold more than 1,000 new electric trucks in a single year.
In recent years, China gradually shifted its vehicle electrification policy efforts to trucks, which are responsible for a disproportionate share of nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter (PM), and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the nation’s vehicle fleet. Besides various fiscal and non-fiscal incentives offered to electric trucks, support for battery swapping is playing a key role.
The Chinese national government and several local governments have encouraged battery–swapping technology since 2020 and the share of swap-capable vehicles in China’s electric truck sales has been increasing. In 2022, 49.5% of the electric trucks sold in China were swap-capable. These swap-capable electric trucks are mainly used for short-haul applications at ports, mining sites, and in urban logistics. They are typically equipped with a 141 kWh or 282 kWh battery and have a typical one-way trip length of less than 100 km.
Compared with today’s plug-in charging technologies, the key advantage of battery swapping is the short time required to recharge. With plug-in charging, it usually takes 40 minutes with DC fast charging or several hours via regular charging to recharge an electric truck. In contrast, battery swapping only takes 3–6 minutes. This speed can be appealing for truck owners because trucks are used for commercial purposes; faster charging leaves more time to deliver goods and generate profits.
To collect firsthand information, we visited several battery–swapping stations for electric trucks in China this summer. We saw that electric trucks usually pulled into the battery–swapping station with a battery state of charge (SOC) of 20%–30%.
A robotic arm reaches down from above, takes out the depleted batteries—these weigh approximately 3 tons and are stored behind the driver’s cab—and puts them into storage for recharging. Then the robotic arm takes out fully charged batteries stored by the station and inserts them into the vehicle. After that, the vehicle can drive away and return to operation.
China’s troubles may well get worseChina hoped its economy would rebound quickly after the lifting of its draconian zero-Covid policies late last year. But ten months on, China’s economic recovery is sputtering. Growth has slumped, crucial parts of the economy are in bad shape, youth unemployment is rising, and consumer and producer prices have been falling.
Lowy Institute research published last year in March already argued that China was likely headed for a sharp growth slowdown as a result of accelerating demographic decline, the limits of its over-investment model, and slowing productivity growth. Those issues relate to the supply side of China’s economy. China’s problems today however primarily reflect weak demand and the financial risks emanating from its ongoing real estate bust.
While China’s economy was previously expected to see a sharp and sustained growth slowdown by later this decade, its current economic turmoil may end up bringing this much closer.
China’s multiple economic challenges are deeply intertwined. Concerns about financial risks led China’s policymakers to trigger what has become a spiralling property market crisis, creating a large demand hole while simultaneously nullifying a key tool Beijing had previously used to stimulate itself back to growth.
At the same time, China’s weak immediate and longer-term growth outlook has made high debt more difficult to manage and the country’s demand problems more entrenched as households and businesses lack confidence to spend and invest. Moreover, the longer China’s economy remains demand depressed, the more damage this will do to China’s future growth prospects, especially as skilled young people remain out of work in their crucial early years.
Boosting consumption is the right strategy. But its ability to pull China out of its current doldrums has limits.
China’s troubles may well get worse before they get better. Growth in consumer spending is weak while China’s exports – which boomed during the pandemic – are now slowing considerably. China is also struggling to put a floor under its flailing housing market. Troubled property developer China Evergrande has filed for bankruptcy in the United States. Country Garden – a much larger developer and one until recently considered “healthy” by the government – now sits on the cusp of default. Construction activity is currently being held up by policy-supported efforts to complete existing housing projects. New housing starts by contrast are weak, suggesting a much larger contraction lies ahead unless the sector is stabilised soon.
China’s policymakers have been reluctant to return to their traditional stimulus tools of debt-fuelled property and infrastructure investment. Many argue that China’s central government should instead deliver large-scale consumption stimulus – essentially financing cash transfers to households and complementing this with other social spending measures aimed at boosting household spending and kick starting the transition to a more consumption-driven economy. Boosting consumption is the right strategy. But its ability to pull China out of its current doldrums has limits.
Fire - and the role of Australia's eucalyptus tree?Portugal, Greece, Spain, Chile, California and now Hawaii have all battled wildfires this year as high temperatures and strong winds have whipped small sparks into violent infernos. But fire needs fuel, and what these places also have in common is an invasive species — Australia's eucalyptus tree.
It comes from the oldest continent in the world and it can grow in even the driest of places. For more than 200 years, seeds of the eucalyptus tree have been planted beyond the bounds of Australia's coastline. It has been cultivated around the world, making a new home in southern Europe, South America, parts of Africa, the west coast of the United States, and even parts of South-East Asia.
But there is now a debate over whether this tree has been worth the industry and habitat it provides. Eucalyptus trees mature fast. And in Portugal, as they grew, so too did a lucrative paper industry. In Chile, rapidly expanding plantations of introduced eucalyptus and pine species feed a $9 billion forestry industry.
In California, the Tasmanian blue gum has become a shady home to birdlife, treasured by some communities, but feared by others. Because the eucalyptus tree loves fire and fire loves it. And now, as temperatures across the globe increase and the Earth's relationship with fire continues to distort, there are places where Australia's eucalyptus tree has become a problem.
FWPA's Carbon Guides producedIn 2022, Australia's Government set emissions reduction targets aiming for a 43% emission cut by 2030 (from 2005 levels) and net-zero emissions by 2050. Forest & Wood Products Australia (FWPA) has just released three new carbon guides that serve as a source of knowledge, deftly extending the understanding of the role forest and wood products can play in the carbon economy.
Success in hitting emissions reduction targets hinges on collaboration. The forest and wood products industry must align with the growing carbon-consciousness of the construction sector, understanding concepts and frameworks, engaging with initiatives and advocacy opportunities, and exploring incentives that highlight why timber stands out as a low-carbon alternative that can effectively contribute to Australia's sustainable built environment.
FWPA’s Carbon Guides have been created in collaboration with Thinkstep ANZ and Senior Research Scientist, Dr Fabiano Ximines. The guides shed light on the multifaceted impact of plantations, commercial forests, and the resulting wood products on Australia's carbon balance. Notably, the guides illustrate not only the widely acknowledged carbon sequestration capabilities of forests but also the often-underestimated role that wood, both during its service life and after disposal, plays in carbon storage.
These new FWPA-funded Carbon Guides provide industry stakeholders with the knowledge necessary to steer towards a sustainable future, playing a pivotal role in the carbon dialogue and positioning the industry to shape a future where timber assumes a vital role in curbing carbon emissions and driving sustainable growth.
Access the first two guides in the series here.
The final guide is coming soon. Subscribe to the WoodSolutions newsletter to be notified when this guide is published.
Mobile robots to outpace drones in supply chainSmart mobile robot adoption in supply chains will far outpace drones over the next three years, according to Gartner, Inc.
In the Gartner report, Hype Cycle for Mobile Robots and Drones, 2023, Gartner experts said that many organizations already deploying mobile robots will expand their fleet in the next three years. It’s likely companies will have hundreds, if not thousands, of mobile robots in use, while drones will be deployed in more targeted ways, such as for inspection at a location or delivery of critical goods like medicines to remote areas.
“By 2027, over 75% of companies will have adopted some form of cyber-physical automation within their warehouse operations,” said Dwight Klappich, vice president and Fellow in Gartner's Supply Chain practice, in a statement. “Labour shortages and challenges retaining talent, coupled with technology advances such as machine learning and AI, will continue to drive adoption of smart robots.”
This year’s Hype Cycle includes several technologies that have been rated “transformational,” including machine learning, which is expected to hit mainstream adoption within the next five years. Additionally, many technologies with “high” impact will also mature within the next few years, creating an accelerated market for increasingly capable smart, autonomous and mobile robots and drones.
Advanced Technologies Accelerate Adoption of Smart Robots
Smart robots are nearing the “Peak of Inflated Expectations” where early publicity produces success stories, but expectations rise above the current reality of what can be achieved. These AI-powered, often-mobile machines help supply chains automate multiple physical tasks. Smart robots can rely on advanced technologies such as machine learning to incorporate tasks into future activities or support unprecedented conditions.
As companies expand their use of robotics, most will eventually have heterogeneous fleets of robots from different vendors performing various tasks, which will require standardized software that can easily integrate to a variety of agents and robot platforms. As such, multiagent orchestration (MAO) platforms, which help orchestrate work are “on the rise” in this year’s Hype Cycle. MAO platforms will reduce the time, effort and cost to onboard new robots and will lower support costs, ultimately making organizations more efficient.
“In the past year, we’ve seen increased interest in smart robots and MAO platforms as companies are looking to further improve logistic operations, support automation and augment humans in various jobs,” Klappich noted. “Rapidly emerging and evolving technologies, like MAO, will enable organizations to leverage heterogeneous fleets of mobile robots to assist with more complex activities, delivering cost savings and productivity benefits.”
Two-day national bushfire preparedness summitThe National Emergency Management Agency will be convening a two-day National Preparedness Summit in Canberra from 25 to 26 September 2023. This meeting is a valuable opportunity, as there are many key concerns and opportunity areas in regards to fire management across south east Australia and it would be beneficial for the summit to consider these matters. A number of concern and opportunity areas are raised below.
There are key concern areas in regards to prescribed burning, adaptive management and resilient landscapes across south east Australia. There is inadequate prescribed burning and minimum standards (up to 8 % of forests per year as used in WA) and consequent high fuel loads will not protect SE Australia/ states (For example, NSW is currently sitting on 3.3 % of forested areas prescribed burnt over 5 years, of the order of 0.7 % per year).
There is limited low intensity burning across SE Australia, eucalypt decline in our forests is rapidly increasing, increasing bushfire risk greatly with dense forest understories (combined with dense regrowth resulting from intense bushfires). There are also extremely long fire intervals for prescribed burning, up to 30 years, delaying prescribed burning programs and increasing prescribed burning intensity and bushfire intensity.
Other concern areas relate to State agencies not using the time they have for prescribed burning well; are not using drone prescribed burning technology effectively, not utilising resources to increase prescribed burning; not adequately developing prescribed burning alliances; not using innovation that well; there are major bureaucracies and rules in place that restricts prescribed burning and in many cases are not working cooperatively with landholders. Hence what you get is miniscule prescribed burning of forested areas, inadequate for any sort of effective protection.
There are key concern areas in regards to bushfire management across south east Australia. There is a focus on bushfire suppression and big plane fleets at the expense of fire mitigation, there are large economic costs of this approach, this issue has been well identified by the Productivity Commission a number of times. There is inadequate fire mitigation funding and inadequate fire fighter safety, with most forests very dangerous for fire fighters, poor access, not maintained access, high fuel loads, ridges not prescribed burnt nor access tracks, breaks not burnt nor adequate water supplies available.
There are large ongoing risks and potential impact of bushfires on communities, critical infrastructure, properties and fire fighters across SE Australia. There is also inadequate understanding all the contributory factors to the 2019/ 20 bushfires. Bushfire risk management plans mostly cover very large areas and are often generic, not focussed on individual towns/ cities and often with low community participation.
Opinion piece by John O’Donnell
Volvo delivers 74 tonne electric truckMore haulage companies are now starting to invest in electric trucks, including for heavy transport.
Volvo Trucks has delivered an electric truck for heavy transport to a haulier in Gothenburg, Sweden. The truck can handle a total weight of 74 tonnes. Testing has been ongoing on one of the trucks in container traffic in the port area of Arendal in Gothenburg. The test is a so-called HCT (High-Capacity Transport) project. The truck with two trailers is 32 m long and can handle a gross combination weight of 74 tonnes.
Volvo wants to show that all-electric solutions also work in applications with high total weights and a high utilization rate. Together with Mattson Åkeri, the Swedish Transport Administration and several other partners, Volvo are now looking at how we can optimize the operation of the electric truck, including how charging should take place in the most efficient way.
The electric truck being tested is a Volvo FH Electric 6X4 and is charged with green electricity at the two fast 180 kW chargers that Mattsson Åkeri has installed in the company's depot in Arendal. In the long term, the truck will also run between Gothenburg and the city of Borås, 70 km from Gothenburg.
Results show that driving long and heavy loads using electricity works very well so far, and can carry as much cargo as a diesel truck. The truck runs 12 hours a day, with a stop for charging when the driver takes a break. They charge with green electricity and thus get no CO2 emissions. Silent, electric operation also means a better working environment for the driver.
Since Volvo Trucks started production of all-electric trucks in 2019, the company has sold nearly 5,000 electric trucks in 40 countries around the world. Globally, Volvo Trucks has set the target that half of all trucks sold are electric by 2030.
High-Capacity Transports (HCT) means that the vehicle's length and/or gross weight is allowed to increase, which allows for a larger load to be transported per vehicle. HCT can be applied on all types of drivelines. The idea is that HCT will contribute to lower transport costs, reduced environmental impact, higher traffic safety, reduced road wear and lower maintenance costs.
In Europe there are a number of ongoing and planned HCT projects. One example is Finland, where it is permitted to drive with 76 tonnes of total weight and 34,5m truck combinations on most roads. Another is Sweden, where it is allowed to drive 74 tonnes (BK4 road network) and test, with permission from authorities, truck combinations of up to 34,5m and 100 tonnes on a defined road network.
Wood-fired hospital boilers replace coalSouth Invercargill residents can breathe a little easier, with Southland Hospital’s massive boilers now fired by wood pellets instead of coal. The conversion took effect in September. The hospital’s two 4.5 megawatt boilers run 24 hours and 365 days a year, providing steam which circulates around the hospital site, providing heating and sterilisation of equipment.
EECA [Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority] said the replacement of a coal-fired boiler with a wood pellet-fired boiler would reduce its overall emissions by up to 99 per cent.“The combined emissions reduction of the Southland Hospital project is expected to be 5217 tonnes of CO2 each year, which is the equivalent to removing about 2146 cars off the road.”
Great South strategic projects manager Steve Canny welcomed the burning of wood pellets instead of coal to fire the hospital’s boilers, both from a decarbonisation and community health perspective. Coal emissions generated from the hospital boilers had an impact on community health, Canny said.
“Any form of particulates from coal-fired combustion into a residential community has an effect on air quality, which in turn has an effect on people’s health. Having coal out of the system, and wood biomass used, will improve air quality in the south Invercargill area,” he said.
Great South has been advocating for decarbonisation in the region, with Canny saying about 90 boilers in Southland had been converted to low emission alternatives. The owners of the remaining 100 boilers were planning to do likewise, he said.
Buy and Sell
... and one to end the week on ... the search
The boss wondered why one of his most valued employees was absent but had not phoned in sick. So, he dialled the employee's home phone number and was greeted with a child's whisper.
And on that note, enjoy your weekend. Cheers.
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