Pinelock Systems –

The Fabricator Demonstrating Timber Has the Answers

This article was written by FTMA’s Kat Welsh

The UN’s World Environment Day (WED) was on June 5th. The annual event was created by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and has been occurring since 1973. It exists to raise awareness for environmental matters, promote global actions taken by governments, businesses, and individuals, to fight climate change, reduce pollution, save endangered species, and much more.

Whether you believe in climate change or not, one thing is very clear – governments globally are moving to circular economies, including Australia, which means that construction materials that fit that impending demand, are renewables. Timber, bamboo, etc. are the only materials that regrow, assist in their basic lifecycles to reduce atmospheric carbon, and do not release toxic chemicals in their production.

As society becomes more aware of environmental responsibility, people want their home and urban community to be sustainable, green, and conscious. Promoting Carbon Warrior, and what it means within the built environment, will only lead to people making more ethical choices, and if the industry collaborates with the benefits of timber, we all win.

Timber fits the bill of circulatory. Steel does not, it’s finite. Concrete does not, it’s finite. Aside from the chemicals that get released by producing steel and concrete, they both are mined from sources that have limits. Why use our limited materials, when renewables can be used in their place – doing the job as well as, if not better?

Pinelock Systems, a Western Australian frame and truss fabricator, have embraced the Carbon Warrior identity, and are spreading the message to make sure timber is utilised to the maximum. Kenny McGonnell and Kristin Small, have taken on Carbon Warrior merch for their team at Pinelock, and make the most of the positive interactions that stem from the t-shirts or hoodies that they wear.

Sometimes it just starts with a conversation. Someone sees the hoodie you’re wearing and dares to come and ask ‘what’s Carbon Warrior?’. It’s followed with some basic scientific facts – half the weight of dried timber is stored carbon; trees draw carbon out of the atmosphere; if we plant more than we harvest this will increase the stored carbon; in Australia the timber used in one house stores approx. 8 tonnes of carbon. Following this, there is an opportunity to mention that timber engineering can meet our construction requirements.

“I think some industries have forgotton what timber can actually achieve and do… offering what it can actually do and how much better and efficient it is in the building industry, and doing bigger commercial builds with it, a lot of people go ‘you’ve got to go with steel’ with bigger builds, but you don’t have to. We can design in timber,” said Kenny. For thousands of years, humanity has built with renewables. Timber was the construction material most available, and the engineering of it evolved. Post industrial revolution, steel has been pumped out. Sure, it may have its place for certain things, but it should never replace something so versatile and capable as timber. We need to return to our wooden roots.

Kenny and Kristin, are located in an interesting demographic in Australia. Albany, Denmark, Esperance, Witchcliffe and Margaret River have a substantial alternative scene – people dedicated to environment and making green lifestyle choices. As a business, it means that Kenny and Kristin are promoting Carbon Warrior because it’s important, not because it’s necessarily essential for trade. They are passionate about showing the potential that timber has to offer, in ways that many people don’t realise. “They’re affordable, and they’re all wanting to have these eco-friendly homes,” said Kristin. Often people think to build bigger homes you need steel – showcasing that timber is a better option is important. “We work with the engineers and builders to help integrate more timber to make it work,” Kenny said.

Kenny and Kristin talked about their own house they are in the process of designing, highlighting how renewable materials can be used, rather than steel or concrete – not just for themselves, but to promote prefabrication modular builds. This component of housing is the pathway Western Australia generally hasn’t gone too far down yet, and something Carbon Warrior is keen to help members promote. When talking about the benefits of prefab, Kenny said “Where it’s efficient, while they’re doing earth works and all the planning, you’re doing the other work. That’s where you’re time saving… you’re overlapping trades.” Pinelock have done one modular prefab so far, in Denmark. Due to costs at the time, it did have a concrete base. But by the time it all got to site, having a timber floor versus the cost of getting concrete from Perth, would have made timber a more cost-effective solution. This is something that Kenny and Kristin, being regional, want to use to the Carbon Warrior advantage. “Concrete’s expensive in regional areas, like Albany. I think they pay $180 m2 in Perth, but down here you’re probably paying $300 to $350m2. It’s a benefit if we can promote timber, as long we can get our energy efficiencies right. The other challenge is finding the right person that can help you.”

Kenny talked about the lack of knowledge/ education for people, to understand the capabilities of timber and renewables in regional WA. They usually seek guidance from other businesses on the eastern side of Australia. “You need to work with someone who’s keen in that area, to go ‘yes this will work’. Timber was huge back in the day, for hundreds of years. I don’t know how all of a sudden it can’t comply when it does. It should,” said Kenny.

There are some incredible builds in Australia (and more so globally), made out of timber and engineered wood products, but en masse it’s a solution that still needs driving, exposure, and marketing. Any plans that Pinelock design list the carbon footprint on the paperwork. It’s a subtle way of suggesting to clients, to think about the impact of the build. If others aren’t including that on their designs (i.e. steel framers) why not? It’s a great way to promote, but not to force. It gives enough of an indication to start consciously determining their choices.

Kristin talked about other frame and truss fabricators in Perth and Albany, also pushing the benefits of timber and its capabilities. Even though the businesses are competitors, they collaborate where they can, and in the messaging around timber – there is more than enough work for everyone. The housing needs won’t be disappearing anytime fast.

Newer generations of builders seem to be more open to the change of reverting back to timber, and engineered wood, and being aware of environmental responsibilities. Using Carbon Warrior as a marketing tool, is something that fabricators can make the most of to support their business and sector. It provides a source of verified information, and a single identity to unite communications.

“Everyone always asks about it when you’re wearing one of the shirts or the jumpers, it definitely is that conversation starter,” said Kristin.

For them both personally, and Pinelock, their vision is to show how great timber is. To support change, it’s great to evidence the data – actions, not just words. “We have to push timber more to show what we can do with it,’ said Kenny, “I’ve always been leading by example, have it for someone to say ‘here, look, this is the better solution. Look it’s there.’”

Incorporating Carbon Warrior as an identity, is helping to market the industry. It’s a part of the picture when it comes to timber, not something to be silent about. Why leave the environmental benefits off the marketing campaign when trying to sell sustainable wood?  “It’s not just FTMA pushing it, it’s actually the fabricators as well,” said Kristin, talking about the response they’ve had from taking on Carbon Warrior, wearing hoodies, and promoting the messaging.

“It’s working for all of us,” said Kenny, “every frame and truss manufacturer should be going ‘oh yes, this is a part of it, helping our businesses’.”

Carbon Warrior is providing the tools to promote timber, rather than individual members having to come up with the information in silos. At a time where many products are being greenwashed (claiming to be environmentally friendly when they’re not), let’s promote the scientific facts for our bread and butter. Facts that are researched, proven, and in collaboration with agencies like FWPA, WoodSolutions, and the Ultimate Renewable. And Pinelock are all over it. “Use it to your advantage, I say,” said Kristin. It’s the future with government targets, it’s the future of the market, it’s the future for our kids.

Kenny and Kristin, thank you so much for your time and the opportunity to catch up, hear about your plans for Pinelock, and everything you have achieved for your business in such a short space of time. It’s fantastic to know that you guys are truly making a difference with your choices, and the positive ripples that will come from everything you do. Best of luck for the future!!

For more information, please reach out to Kersten Gentle on 0418 226 242. Follow Carbon Warrior on socials to keep up to date on our increasing resources for members.

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