Businesses in Malaysia’s building and construction industries looking to be further invested into green buildings would do well to incorporate sustainable timber and timber products into their plans. Malaysia is an important international supplier for tropical wood and wood products, being one of the major exporters of wooden furniture globally. The wood-based industry has been one of the major revenue contributors to Malaysia’s economic growth over the past 2 decades.
Governments worldwide – especially those in developed nations – are driving the ‘climate change’ agenda and implementing legislation and regulations via-a-vis environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues. This has significant commercial and trade implications for businesses of all sizes across myriad industries. Especially for those in the construction and real estate sectors, the current trend of (and interest towards) the ‘green building’ concept in pursuit of sustainability goals holds much potential.
In Malaysia, the Green Building Index (GBI) defines ‘green buildings’ as “… increasing the efficiency of resource use – energy, water, and materials – while reducing building impact on human health and the environment during the building’s lifecycle, through better siting, design, construction, operation, maintenance, and removal. Green Buildings should be designed and operated to reduce the overall impact of the built environment on its surroundings.”
There are many aspects to how buildings can be made greener or even net-zero carbon; e.g. solar panels, rainwater collectors, using more natural lighting and ventilation. However, one of the major considerations when it comes to green buildings is the materials used in their construction. According to the World Green Building Council, buildings account for 50% of global materials use, or 42.4 billion tonnes annually. Hence, the use of more sustainable building materials can go a long way towards making green buildings.
This is where the use of sustainable timber and timber products comes in. Aside from being a natural insulator, which can help lower cooling costs, timber is a low-carbon building material, being nature’s way of doing carbon storage. Every tonne of dry wood produced sequesters up to 1.8 tonnes of carbon dioxide (), and can either be recycled or used as biomass upon the end of its lifespan. Contrast this with steel or concrete, which is both less sustainable and the production of which emits . The production of a single wood door, for instance, could save up to 725.4kg of equivalent in emissions when compared to non-timber alternatives.
Timber is also very versatile and hardy, with virtually every part of the tree being usable in manufacturing timber products; even the sawdust, offcuts, and tree bark can be turned into engineered wood products and other products such as mulch, as well as biomass. Timber can be used throughout a building, from the foundation and frame to the walls, flooring and decking, doors and door frames, interior furnishings, and even decorations. Engineered timber products can be as structurally strong as steel and innately more fire-resistant, being structurally stable when subject to high temperatures.
In Malaysia, the downstream timber ecosystem is represented by the Malaysian Wood Moulding and Joinery Council (MWMJC), which is working on (amongst other things) supporting Malaysia’s timber-related industries to make them amongst the major sustainable economic areas in the nation. The sustainability of Malaysia’s timber-related industries is at the forefront of MWMJC’s priorities; as such, it has been promoting the use of lesser-known Malaysian timber species.
MWMJC encourages its members to certify the sustainability of their products, as this ties into the sustainability of Malaysia’s forests and provides them with a competitive advantage, especially in markets that have ESG directives in place. This includes bringing in consultants to explain the benefits of ensuring their products are made from sustainable timber, as well as hosting industry workshops to discuss and disseminate the latest trends in this and other areas. One such workshop, the Timber Construction Workshop, was held on 28 February 2023 at the PAM Building. Jointly organised with the Malaysian Institute of Architects (PAM), GBI, and the Austrian Embassy Commercial Section/Advantage Austria, amongst others, the workshop discussed the use of cross laminated timber and glued laminated timber in the construction of large buildings and structures in Malaysia.
As a result of MWMJC’s efforts, more and more of its members have either been certified or are actively seeking certification, including from the Malaysian Certification Timber Council. This makes MWMJC the place that the government and industry players turn to when they need solutions, whether it is for tree plantations, furniture, or moulding products.
For more information on MWMJC and how membership can benefit businesses in Malaysia’s downstream timber as well as building and construction industries, visit its website at https://www.mwmjc.my/ or call the Secretariat at +603 9283 7893.