A market assessment and evaluation of structural roundwood products from hardwood pulp plantations

Dickson, M., Hopewell, G., MacKenzie, C., Bailleres, H., Switala, J. and Thomas, C. (2011) A market assessment and evaluation of structural roundwood products from hardwood pulp plantations Melbourne, Vic, Australia: Forest and Wood Products Australia

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Author Dickson, M.
Hopewell, G.
MacKenzie, C.
Bailleres, H.
Switala, J.
Thomas, C.
Title of report A market assessment and evaluation of structural roundwood products from hardwood pulp plantations
Publication date 2011-04
ISBN 9781921763229
Year available 2011
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Publisher Forest and Wood Products Australia
Place of publication Melbourne, Vic, Australia
Total pages 62
Language eng
Subjects 090502 Construction Engineering
120101 Architectural Design
120202 Building Science and Techniques
820101 Hardwood Plantations
Abstract/Summary Hardwood plantations comprised of Eucalyptus species have been established on a range of sites around Australia for pulp and paper fibre on short rotation management systems. Simultaneously with the increased area planted under pulp regimes, access to natural hardwood forest stands has been reduced, a trend that will continue in most Australian states in the foreseeable future. Plantation owners are interested to know if pulp plantation material has the potential to produce a higher value crop than the original wood chip product and meet the shortfall developing from reduced availability of natural forest resources. Roundwood structures have always been used for temporary and low cost shelters and other fleeting structures. Novel concepts for the use of plantation hardwoods in roundwood form in construction were developed and circulated along with an electronic questionnaire to stakeholders representing growers, designers and users of hardwood. Responses indicate that there is a high level of interest in developing products from the emerging small roundwood resource and a detailed program of research was supported and recommended by the majority of participants in the survey. It generally isn’t feasible to process pulp logs through traditional sawmilling equipment due to the low recoveries obtained; however this material has the potential to provide high value products in roundwood form. Roundwood products have a range of advantages over sawn boards such as: improved strength attributes for equivalent cross-sectional area; reduced processing costs, lower embodied energy and reduced wastage due to minimal processing activities. Simple steaming technologies can be used to prepare roundwood stems for bending around a form to produce arched structural members providing a wider range of design options to users. Examples of potential markets include: noise barriers and wind barriers, niche architectural buildings, national park and local authority shelters, ablution facilities and viewing platforms, rural buildings, light footbridges for walking trails, golf course and suburban parklands’ infrastructure. Although roundwood products are widely used in fencing and landscaping applications, their usage in applications such as the concepts listed above represents the introduction of novel and therefore untried systems. The goal of this project was to investigate potential market interest for innovative applications using small diameter roundwood such as pulp logs and thinnings from sawlog plantations. Senior architecture students from the University of Queensland were presented background information on hardwood plantations, principles of wood science and elements of timber design. Using this information and with support from their lecturer they worked individually and in teams to produce designs and models for roundwood structures. Illustrations of a selection of these concepts representing small scale (shelters), medium scale (remote housing), large scale (industrial buildings and infrastructure (sound barriers) were included in an electronic survey which was emailed to over 1,200 stakeholders representing a broad cross section of forest growers, designers, specifiers, engineers, timber industry representatives and users. The results from the survey provided an optimistic view for the potential of small, roundwood, structures with 87% of respondents indicating that they liked the overall impression of the designs and concepts, versus 13% who were neutral. Encouragingly, no respondents disliked the overall impression based on the concepts supplied. When considering each of the four size class concepts separately, the majority of respondents ranked the general appeal in each case as appealing to very appealing. The best potential for market uptake was considered to be small shelters and infrastructure, with 80 % of respondents considering the potential for commercialisation of these two construction types to be medium or high. When asked whether they considered that more detailed research and development is warranted or justified 97% of respondents support or fully support further exploration, with 3% neutral. An economic assessment was undertaken in relation to the benefit of further R&D and showed that the net present value of R&D investment is high, increasing the viability of hardwood plantations through commercial use of sawlog thinnings and higher value products from pulp plantations. Using a 5% discount rate, the internal rate of return was estimated as 492%, the benefit cost ratio 223:1 and the net present value $100M. These results indicate a high level of support for further investigation into the use of plantation hardwood for roundwood components. Respondents representing a wide range of stakeholders have indicated that to gain benefit from a detailed project they would require solutions for connection systems and protection from pests and weathering, indications of cost and assurance of ongoing supply for niche applications, data for strength, acoustic dampening and thermal insulation properties, acceptance by regulatory authorities and training for on-site construction.
Keyword Roundwood Construction
Timber Thinnings
Q-Index Code AX
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes A pilot research project undertaken in collaboration between The University of Queensland, The Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation - Primary Industries and Fisheries, Timber Queensland and Outdoor Structures Australia.

Document type: Research Report
Collection: School of Architecture Publications
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Created: Thu, 10 Feb 2011, 18:05:41 EST by Mr Michael Dickson on behalf of School of Architecture