Sustainability has become a major focus for South Africa, and property developers and architects are placing credence on the materials they choose for their construction projects.

This interest in creating a “green” economy is expected to gain significant traction with or without the introduction of a carbon tax in 2016, considering the state of electricity generation capacity in South Africa – a scenario that encourages the more efficient use of scarce power resources – as well as its commitment to international carbon-reduction strategies.

Timber remains one of the “greenest” forms of construction materials, and the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) is actively promoting the sustainability characteristics of its hardwoods.

According to Rod Wiles, regional director of AHEC, between 1953 and 2012, the volume of United States hardwood standing timber more than doubled, while the area of forest increased by 18%.

About 90% of the hardwood producing land in the United States is in the hands of more than 4-million private and mostly non-industrial landowners. According to Wiles, it is usual for a sale of hardwood logs to occur only twice in an owner’s lifetime.

At present, the ratio of United States hardwood growth to removal is 2,4 to 1.

He says 304-million m3 is grown, 128-million m3 removed and 109-million m3 lost due to mortality.

This is complemented by the material’s ability to offset carbon emissions. In 2014, for example, more than 1 500 metric tonnes of carbon was emitted by saw hardwood at the point of delivery to export markets outside of North America, but more than 2 500 metric tonnes were stored by the material.


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