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Meghan McBain

Friendly Dinner at Parliament House

Enjoying the Parliamentary Friends of Forestry and Forest Products annual dinner in Canberra recently are Dave Gover, CEO, Engineered Wood Products Association of Australasia, John Simon, chair, Forest and Wood Products Australia, Clinton Skeoch, market development manager, Boral Timber, and Stephen Dadd, executive general manager, Boral Timber. The dinner at Parliament House, a collaboration by AFPA and FWPA, was a ‘sell-out’.

EWPAA calls for action on non-conforming building product legislation in light of Grenfell fire tragedy

The Engineered Wood Products Association of Australasia (EWPAA) was deeply saddened to hear of the Grenfell Tower fire in London recently and our thoughts are with everyone affected by this heartbreaking tragedy.

The cause of the Grenfell Tower tragedy has not yet been formally reported, but commentary strongly suggests that the type of cladding material used in recent renovations and its installation method may have contributed to the spread of the fire.

The EWPAA joins the Building Products Innovation Council (BPIC) in urging governments across Australia to implement and enforce stronger regulations to combat non-conforming building products (NCBP).

BPIC released a statement last week urging Australian governments to prioritise non-conforming building product legislation and follow the lead of the Queensland government in its recent introduction of a bill intended to control the spread of such products.

Dave Gover, CEO of the EWPAA and a member of the BPIC board, said that the issue of non-conforming building products is real and significant to the built environment.

“Non conforming building products represent a safety risk to occupants, to neighbours, a financial risk for owners, to insurers and financiers,” Dave said.

“Since the Grenfell fire tragedy, it has been reported that Australian politicians will push for investigations into cladding materials, but the NCBP issue is a much broader problem than just a particular brand of cladding or type of material,” Dave said.

“Building products manufacturers have been campaigning for government awareness of NCBP issues in Australia for several years and it is time for more effective regulation, and for meaningful enforcement,” Dave said.

The EWPAA is encouraged that the Queensland government is taking steps to combat the NCBP issue through the introduction of a new bill.

“Debate on this Bill needs to be a bi-partisan effort to pass a robust and meaningful Act which will inspire other State Governments to follow Queensland’s lead,” Dave said.

“In the absence of stronger legislation on the issue, we will continue to see non-conforming building products entering the country, with the potential to cause tragedies similar to the Grenfell fire here in Australia,” Dave said.

The Engineered Wood Products Association of Australasia (EWPAA) is a member association for manufacturers of engineered and solid timber products across Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Fiji. The EWPAA coordinates a market development program which includes product testing, product certification, standards and codes development, technical promotion, research and development, market maintenance; as well as education and training.

Media Contact:

Clair Hammond
Communications Officer
Engineered Wood Products Association of Australasia Ltd (EWPAA)
Ph: +61 7 3250 3700
Email: clair.hammond@ewpaa.sdhosting.com.au 

EWPAA lecture a school of thought for young architects

More than 40 UQ architectural students turned up for one of many lectures the EWPAA has scheduled for both masters and second-year classes at universities in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne this year.

Mr Gover was introduced by Dr Paola Leardini, senior lecturer and technology stream leader at the UQ School of Architecture. The students were asked what they knew about engineered wood, and their knowledge was surprisingly deep considering their early introduction to wood’s capabilities in modern architecture. Durability, versatility, whole life analysis of timber, codes and standards, product availability, construction time, variety of products available, cost comparisons, emissions, design applications – were among points brought up by the students.

“You’re likely already familiar with engineered wood without even realising it,” Dave Gover told the students. “Materials such as plywood, laminated veneer lumber, wood paneling, oriented strandboard and MDF are commonly found in kitchen cabinets or shelves.”

He produced samples of engineered wood including I-beams and mass timber products such as CLT, which were readily inspected by students. Another message for the young audience: “The good news is, if you’ve got a good contractor who knows how to properly use the engineered wood you have designed for a building, you can actually save some money. EWPs take less material time and labour to install, making it able to offset that extra cost.”

Dave said young architects would deal with many of the critical future issues in today’s society. “They will be the ones to push the boundaries when it comes to the living environment, investigating new technologies and materials, and helping ensure that what we build is environmentally sustainable,” he said. “Importantly, they design not just for today, but for future generations.”

The UQ’s School of Architecture is a national leader in architectural education and research. It is a research-intensive university and aspires to share its expertise and design intelligence with colleagues in other disciplines, strongly contributing to UQ’s international profile and research standing. Paola Leardini said what was clear from university projects was that many schools of architecture, technical teaching and learning needed a strong advocate – particularly for Australia’s undergraduate architecture students who faced unprecedented competition and rivalling concerns both within and outside the profession. “Students thirsty for knowledge about new, green building products that meet Australian standards for safety and freedom from emissions have such an advocate in the EWPAA’s Dave Gover,” she said.

Dave also presented to Masters of Architecture students after an inspection of the School of Architecture’s workshop co-lab.

Join an ETIA Timber Design Workshop in Brisbane!

Are you interested in designing and specifing with timber? The Engineering Training Institute of Australia (ETIA) is hosting a Timber Design Workshop in Brisbane Monday 22 May and Tuesday 23 May 2017.

This comprehensive two-day workshop, sponsored by the EWPAA, addresses the engineering behind timber design as well as the requirements of AS1720 – Timber Structures.

For more information on course content and how to register, please view the brochure below or visit www.etia.net.au 

Benefits and shortcomings: China plywood industry tour

A recent tour of Chinese plywood mills provided participants with an understanding of the wood resource used in plywood production, manufacturing capabilities, as well as typical plywood products available in the Chinese market.

The tour included time in Linyi, known as the ‘wood panel capital’ of China, as well as Shandong Province, north of Shanghai, and Guangxi Province, near the Vietnam border.

Photo: Small diameter logs in China ready for processing through spindle-less lathes.

“While there are some positive developments in plywood manufacturing technologies in China, the level playing field Australian manufacturers seek is far from realisation,” said EWPAA CEO Dave Gover who took part in the mission. “China has a huge appetite for wood, with logs imported from around the world. There is also increasing interest in growing wood in China,” he said. “Much of what is being used in plywood is sourced from locally-grown eucalyptus hybrids with mean annual increments of 27 cub m/ha – a wood fibre growth rate comparable with some of the best in the world. “Some plantation rotations are as short as five years. “

Chinese veneer mills operating spindle-less lathes consume logs which are considerably smaller than the core that is typically dropped out of an Australian lathe. “Given there is close to 1 million ha of hardwood plantation in Australia, there may well be opportunities to adapt this spindle-less peeling technology for Australian-grown wood and markets,” Mr Gover said. “Fast growth rates, a much shorter rotation, faster return on investment, and technology which can add value to small logs, need to be part of the discussion around forestry investment and processing capability in Australia.”

Of the various plywood mills visited on the tour, the majority were producing an overlaid visual plywood product for furniture, with few mills making a legitimate attempt at producing a formwork product. Pre-priming to reduce the amount of colour variation in the substrate showing through overlays as thin as 0.3 mm was common-place. It appeared that much of the product being manufactured would not comply with AS/NZS 2270, 2271, or 2272 – the Australian and New Zealand standards for interior, exterior and marine plywoods.  Australasian plywood producers typically focus intently on issues of veneer moisture and assembly times to ensure a high quality bond, and their manufacturing lines are configured to afford a high level of control of these important variables.

It appeared that the Chinese industry relies heavily on air-dried veneer, and factory layouts are considerably more disjointed, Dave Gover observed. These arrangements make it very difficult to control moisture variability which is so critical to reliable bonds. The disjointed manufacturing layouts, significant amounts of manual handling and small log resource result in veneers that are shorter and narrower than the finished plywood sheet. The result is a substrate beneath the overlay that is a patchwork of pieces of veneer. Discontinuous layers create a weakness in the final product, particularly when they align through the thickness of the product.

Of greatest concern, was the willingness of some of these manufacturers to put a phenolic paper overlay on this product and misrepresent it as F17 formwork plywood.  Formwork plywood is subject to significant structural demands and requires products to stringently meet their claims. “This sort of product misrepresentation has the potential to cause loss of life in the Australian form working industry,” Mr Gover said. “Film-faced patchwork plywood is not formwork plywood.”

It was clear that workplace health, safety, and environmental regulations are not as rigorous as those governing the Australian industry. Personal protective equipment was rarely worn and there appeared to be a distinct lack of higher order safety strategies, as evidenced by one worker pulling veneer through a guillotine controlled by another – a major amputation risk which would not be accepted in Australian manufacturing.

“A level playing field for Australian manufacturers requires policies which recognise fitness for purpose, compliance with product standards, consistent standards for ensuring the safety and welfare of people, and consistent environmental risk management,” Mr Gover said. “Lack of regulation which should prevent furniture grade plywood being represented as formwork plywood, acceptance of material produced in unregulated or unpoliced work environments, and acceptance of material transported on poorly maintained freight fleets does not constitute a level playing field; regardless of where that material is being produced.

Poor working conditions in emerging economies undermines manufacturing in more regulated environments, and makes the consumer complicit in condoning work practices that would not be accepted here. “Unfortunately, acceptance of these practices results in legitimate producers everywhere being tarred with the same brush as those who lag far behind in terms of acceptable product and manufacturing practices,” Mr Gover said. “Poor manufacturing creates risk of non-conforming building products being used in applications which demand high reliability, thereby creating serious issues for Australian manufacturers and users.

The tour provided great insight into the Chinese plywood industry, including some manufacturing technologies which could benefit Australian industry and major shortcomings in Chinese manufacturers’ ability to meet Australian standards. “The continuous development of competitive forests and technologies, coupled with strong regulatory support for fit-for-purpose products, and recognition of legitimate manufacturing practices, is essential to the ongoing success and competitiveness of forest products and timber construction,” Mr Gover said.

EWPAA says substandard imports and non-conforming products risk Australian lives

The Engineered Wood Products Association of Australasia (EWPAA) has made a detailed submission to the Senate Inquiry on Non-Conforming Building Products, highlighting the inherent safety concerns and risks involved with the use and importation of these products.

The high costs involved with producing compliant products has resulted in a shortening of the supply chain, with an increasing number of developers and building companies importing products directly from overseas manufacturers.

Direct importation has provided greater opportunity for non-compliant products, such as asbestos riddled Chinese fibre cement products, to enter the domestic market and put the safety of Australian citizens at risk.

The EWPAA submission draws on evidence from over 25,000 tests performed on both certified and non-certified engineered wood products sourced from across Australasia, over a two year period up to August 2015.

These tests demonstrated that 28 percent of imported non-certified panels products were found to be non-compliant with Australian standards, in comparison with the low 1.5 percent failure rate of certified products from Australia and New Zealand.

EWPAA CEO, Dave Gover, expressed his concern over the testing results and the current lack of regulations relating to the importation and use of non-conforming building products.

“Australia has stronger legislation in place to protect trees in foreign countries being illegally logged than legislation to protect the health and safety of its citizens from wilful or reckless importation of dangerous or mislabelled building products,” said Dave.

“The EWPAA strongly recommends that legislation be enacted to protect the health and safety of Australian citizens in such a way that responsibility for compliance rests with all parties in the supply chain,” said Dave.

The EWPAA submission noted the success of the Illegal Logging Prohibition Act 2012 in deterring the importation of timber products derived from illegally logged forests, and suggested its use as a template for future legislation relating to non-conforming building products.

The Inquiry has been commissioned by the Senate Economics Reference Committee to consider the effects of non-conforming building products on the Australian construction and building industries, as well as the effects of the illegal importation of products containing asbestos.

EWPAA officials will be attending a public hearing of the Inquiry, to be held Monday 30 January in Brisbane, Queensland.

The Engineered Wood Products Association of Australasia (EWPAA) is a member association for manufacturers of engineered and solid timber products across Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Fiji. The EWPAA coordinates a market development program which includes product testing, product certification, standards and codes development, technical promotion, research and development, market maintenance; as well as education and training.

Media Contact:

Clair Hammond
Communications Officer
Engineered Wood Products Association of Australasia Ltd (EWPAA)
Ph: +61 7 3250 3700
Email: clair.hammond@ewpaa.sdhosting.com.au

EWPAA officials at launch of National Centre for Timber Durability and Design Life

The National Centre for Timber Durability and Design Life, a new group designed to put Australia at the forefront of international best practice, was launched at the University of the Sunshine Coast, November 16. A strategic initiative of Forest and Wood Products Australia, the centre, based at the university, will ensure Australian design guides and standards remain world class in light of climate change, new engineered wood products and changes in building design.

EWPAA senior staff Dave Gover, CEO (second from left) and Andy McNaught, technical manager (right), are pictured at the launch with Dr Chris Lafferty, research and development manager, FWPA, Melbourne, and Jack Norton, national secretary, Timber Preservers Association of Australia.

The centre was launched by federal Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Senator Anne Ruston. Partners in the centre include the University of Queensland and the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. State and federal government will contribute funding along with the FWPA and universities.

FWPA managing director Ric Sinclair said the centre would create a world-leading predictive model to enable architects and building specifiers to more easily choose the right timber for the right task. “It will be an automated evidence-based tool to accurately predict the structural performance and design life of timber depending where and how it is being used,” he said. “It’s an exciting prospect and it’s one that will be a world’ first’,” he said, putting a five-year time frame on the project.

Engineered wood in right environment for TDA awards

Engineered wood products were on show at the 2016 Timber Design Awards at Luna Park in Sydney in September. The 17th awards organised by the Timber Development Association showcased the use of timber and engineered wood products in designs ranging from community centres, commercial buildings and restaurants to houses and furniture. EWPAA CEO Dave Gover commended the use of engineered wood products in many of the winning designs.

“We saw a whole range of products being used in the nominated and winning designs – from plywood and LVL, to glulam and CLT,” Mr Gover said. “The designs really highlighted the versatility of engineered wood products, which is one of the many benefits in choosing these products as a primary construction material,” he said.

Mr Gover said it was evident that an increasing number of architects and specifiers are driving the specification and design of buildings using engineered wood products.

Dave Gover, CEO, Engineered Wood Products Association of Australasia (left), presents the EWPAA Timer Panels Award to Colin Odbert and Ross Styles of Architectus for the The Gipson Commons, St Michael’s Grammar School, St Kilda, Melbourne, at the 2016 Timber Design Awards in Sydney.

“It’s fantastic to see that there is continuing growth in the use of timber and engineered wood products in the design and construction industries,” he said. “These products have significant benefits to the environment and are fast becoming the preferred choice for sustainable design and construction.”

He said that due to a heightened awareness of climate change and carbon emissions, wood stood apart as a renewable construction material with a better-than-zero carbon footprint. As the seventh most forested nation on earth, it makes good sense, both economically and environmentally, for Australian buildings to be constructed from wood.

“The vast majority of Australian forests carry independent sustainability certification; a testament to our forestry industry’s commitment to sustainability,” Mr Gover said. “Occupants of timber buildings also report positively on their environment, finding them to be conducive to quieter, calmer and more productive living.”

The EWPAA was the proud sponsor of the Timber Panels Award, which was won this year by Architectus Group for its design of The Gipson Commons at St Michael’s Grammar School in St Kilda, Melbourne. The award was accepted by Ross Styles and Colin Odbert, director and principal at the Sydney studio of Architectus, on behalf of their Melbourne office. The Timber Design Awards judges noted that the Gipson Commons project used plywood wall paneling to promote a calm building environment for the school, through its warmth and sound attenuation. In attendance at the Timber Design Awards were architects, builders, designers and engineers, as well as delegates from various forestry and wood products organisations and industry bodies.

EWPAA Plywood & LVL Production Course a great introduction to industry

The 2016 Plywood and LVL Production Course run by the EWPAA in Rotorua, NZ, last week was deemed a ‘must attend’ event for new recruits in the sector. The five-day course, held at the Waipa Campus of Waiariki Institute of Technology, was attended by 30 delegates from across Australia, New Zealand and Fiji and covered all facets of the production processes for both plywood and LVL, including peeling, drying, veneer grading and adhesives.

EWPAA plywood and LVL production course attendees with EWPAA staff at the Waipa Campus of Waiariki Institute of Technology in Rotorua, New Zealand

Sessions also included basic structural mechanics, bond evaluation and trouble-shooting, product certification, standards, management systems, quality control and costs, as well as the structural properties of both plywood and LVL.

EWPAA CEO Dave Gover said course participants had provided decidedly positive feedback on the course, highlighting its importance to those new to the industry, as a comprehensive overview of plywood and LVL production.

“Attendees found the course to be highly relevant to their roles in the industry, and would be applying what they had learnt to their jobs upon their return,” Mr Gover said. “The continuous reinforcement of sound manufacturing practices and operator-based quality control is fundamental to high reliability engineered wood products,” he said. “The attendees also commented that the course was a fantastic networking opportunity, and they enjoyed meeting people from different roles within the industry.”

The course also included tours to mills and resin development facilities, as well as practical demonstrations and exercises, including chiselling, bond evaluation workshops and strength testing.

FCJA gains traction with ‘Australian brand’ image

Australian furniture and joinery makers and designers are collaborating to build a globally-recognised ‘Aussie brand’ image. The catalyst is the current apartment and renovations boom and rising interest in bespoke design.

The Furniture Cabinets Joinery Alliance (FCJA) has gained new traction since it was established in 2011, developing a strategic plan supported by multiple industry sectors and recognised by government.

FCJA represents a $33 billion industry employing 130,000 people in the manufacture of furniture, in-built cabinets, kitchens, bathrooms, windows, doors and shop and office fittings.

Founding members are the Furnishings Industry Association of Australia, the Cabinet Manufacturers and Designers Association, the Australian Window Association, the Australian Shop and Office Fitting Industry Association, and the Australian Woodworking Industry Suppliers Association.

FCJA chair Ron Scott (right) and policy adviser Peter Kreitals (centre) visited the Brisbane office and laboratory of the Engineered Wood Products Association of Australasia recently to update EWPAA CEO Dave Gover on the alliance’s progress as a strong self-advocacy group.

The strategic plan aims to ensure the future viability of locally manufactured products, embrace design and innovation as a core characteristic for future growth, maximise share of the domestic market, adopt latest technological developments and attract more highly skilled, highly trained workers.

Ron Scott said through a single, united voice, the FCJA has fostered strong engagement with federal and state governments, sturdily advocating its principles through a round of meetings with federal ministers, parliamentary secretaries, ministerial advisers and government officials.

“Collaboration across industries also simplifies the fit-out process for customers,” he said.

“In this sector of the market there is a lot of activity in home renovation, but less of a desire by consumers to have multiple individual sub-trades to manage.

“To meet the needs of an intelligent market place, our suppliers are better placed to service the clients if they collaborate with others using the combined and different skills to better meet a holistic need.”

Mr Scott said FCJA was also keen to contribute in a united way to standards and certification processes, drawing on the knowledge, experience and requirements of members.