The University of the Sunshine Coast will host a new timber centre that aims to develop a predictive model for specifying the right timber for any construction application.
The National Centre for Timber Durability and Design Life also aims to ensure Australian design guides and standards remain world class in light of climate change, new engineered timbers and changes in building design, managing director of Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA) Ric Sinclair said.
“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. It’s an exciting prospect and it’s one that will be a world first,” he said.
Mr Sinclair said Queensland was the ideal location for the centre, having both people with relevant high-level expertise and “diverse and often challenging climatic conditions perfect for putting timber to the test”.
The centre has been funded jointly by FWPA and the federal government, and partners include the University of Queensland and the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. The Queensland government will also contribute to the funding pool.
The project has a five-year timeframe, and the centre will be appointing a “world-class, industry-engaged” professor, supporting research associates and students in the immediate future, USC deputy vice-chancellor (research and innovation) Professor Roland De Marco said.
He said the centre will establish a “critical mass of world-class expertise”.
“This, in turn, will enable the Australian industry to position itself at the leading edge of international research and development in this critical field of endeavour.”
The centre was launched by federal assistant minister for agriculture and water resources Senator Anne Ruston.
She said the federal government had contributed $3.8 million in matched funding in 2015-16 to establish the centre, and a further $4.6 million has been committed to match voluntary contributions from industry.
“Innovation and research are essential to the future of the Australian timber industry,” Ms Ruston said.
“It is even more essential now with timber’s resurgence as a renewable, carbon-positive and increasingly versatile construction material.”