Foresters of the Southern University of Chile of San Pablo de Tregua. Chile is one of the world’s major timber manufacturers with around 15 million ha of forest.

AUSTRALIAN speakers contributed significantly on research and science at the four-day virtual World Conference on Timber Engineering which concluded today (Thursday) in Santiago, Chile.

With the framework based on Chile País Forestal – Chile Forestry Country – this was the first WCTE held in Latin America. It was put off last year due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Chile is not only one of the major timber manufacturers in the world with around 15 million ha of forest, it is also a natural laboratory for the exploration of diverse technologies of timber engineering.

The WCTE is the main event for the dissemination of the latest developments, technologies, and innovations in timber construction and design, globally.

From its beginning, the conference attracted a broad international representation and participation, aiming to disseminate new findings, generate debate around the most appropriate public policies that help a green agenda, both for the country and for the region, as well as reaching out to young people, to generate awareness and encourage and strengthen their investigations and projects on wood.

The novelty of this year’s WCTE program was, for the first time, the topic of ‘Sustainable Forest for Lumber Production’. The topic dealt with stock management, predictive growth models, planning and product development, forestry products manufacturing, sustainable forest management towards timber production, innovative certified forestry products, and the particularity of native, tropical and fast-growth forests.

A number of Australians were involved in the conference, including Professor Keith Crews, honorary professor, School of Civil Engineering, University of Queensland, who serves on the international advisory committee which underpins the WCTE conference series. Australian presenters were South American-born Mateo Guitierre, technical development manager at CLTP in Tasmania, Marcus Strang, UQ PhD candidate, and Dr Paola Leardini, senior lecturer in architecture at UQ.

Dr Leardini and Marcus Strang have designed a durable multi-storey CLT passive house for hot and humid climates. In their presentation to the conference, the study showed high occupant comfort and energy performance as defined by the PH standard can be achieved in Australian subtropical and tropical climates, and that sufficient drying capacity can avoid moisture risks by adapting mechanical systems and envelope assemblies.  

The hygrothermal study evaluated the performance of external and internal insulation solutions, with three off-the-shelf water resistive barriers.

The north and south orientation was simulated with driving rain penetration to represent any imperfections during construction.

Results show how mass timber buildings located in hot and humid climates should consider interior insulation solutions with WRB’s of Class 2 vapour permeance in conjunction with good storm-water practices during construction and thorough taping of the WRB to limit imperfections.

The transfer of moisture over the CLT adhesive glue-line in hot and humid climates will also be further evaluated.

The Passive House standard was originally developed in Germany and has since spread throughout Europe. In recent years it has been implemented in diverse climatic regions.

To date, more than 40,000 houses, schools, offices and other building types have been built to the PH standard around the world, but only a few in Australia.

The research project aims to verify if and to what extent this standard can be applied in Australia under its specific climatic and socio-economic conditions.

 MAIN PIC: A passive house design considers the climate and site conditions of a house to make it more energy efficient. In Tasmania passive heating and appropriate levels of insulation have drastically reduce winter heating costs.