Throughout history human settlement has relied on and been highly influence by the availability of all the favorable elements that make for the occupation of a specific geographic area. In Australia for instance, very early Aboriginal settlements were influenced by the availability of the resources that are imperative for basic human sustenance and in most cases our current understanding of Aboriginal culture tells us that most of the natives were nomads, moving from one place to another across the land as dictated by the prevailing weather patterns and availability of food. The arrival of the Europeans nearly 200 years ago brought a new dimension to this picture; Commerce, strategic defense posts, lifestyle and development and expansion opportunities were all factors considered in the location of early European settlements. Today the healthy economy, lifestyle and relative security, are now the elements to us that basic food and shelter were to the early Aboriginal people. Development, growth and the expanding populations beg the question of sustainability, especially in the face of the currently declining state of the global natural environment. As the gap between science and our effects on the environment closes, it is becoming more and more important that we rethink many of the practices and actions that have got us this far as a civilization; energy production and consumption, water use and natural resource management are but a few of the many elements of modern civilization that need to be re-examined, even those that have hitherto proudly flown the green banner of ecological sustainability.
For as long as man has built and lived in houses, timber has consistently been a material of choice for building production. Today timber is still highly sought-after for domestic building production due to its availability, flexibility and low embodied energy ranking among building materials. Timber is also a renewable material that has wide applications that range from building products to tissue paper.
Besides all the employment opportunities it creates, timber, due to the above-mentioned qualities is, and has remained a highly demanded commodity and sadly this has in many cases translated into indiscriminate logging and the mismanagement of forests in many places around the world. These practices, unchecked, invariably lead to desertification, the destruction of biodiversity and possibly contribute to climate change.
This dissertation is a re-examination of the longstanding Australian tradition of domestic building with timber to understand if it is still a viable option for building and construction today, particularly with the growing environmental concerns for the preservation of biodiversity and the restoration of severely degraded eco-systems.
Within this dissertation three buildings in Queensland will be examined to understand the building methods adopted in their production and the selection of the timber components. This will be done to establish an understanding and appreciation of the far reaching consequences of timber choice for building. Based on the findings, a possible template in the form of a checklist will be developed for domestic timber building that ultimately seeks to encourage the use of timber in a way and manner that fosters and contributes to the gross minimization of negative impacts on the environment.