Stephen takes on a new venture
AFTER NINE years as Sustainability Manager with the Timber Development Association in New South Wales Stephen Mitchell has moved on and started his own business – Stephen Mitchell Associates.
He started out with very little knowledge of timber, however, after a lot reading and talking with of timber people who know a lot more than I did I learnt something new every day, enough to be fairly useful anyway.
“Looking back at my time with Association I am proud of the projects I completed for the timber industry.
“I was originally employed to handle timber waste reduction and recycling projects and help manage industry response to CCA treated timber listing as a waste of concern by a number of Governments. The industry responded and we have seen a huge increase in the amount of waste timber recycled into fuel, animal bedding and mulch materials around Australia. Governments have also developed a much better appreciation of the diversity of wood treatments and the large amount research and market development projects we did, all available on www. timberstewardship.org.au. These have underpinned a much more supportive approach by Governments in working with industry rather than applying a big stick.
“I also undertook a whole heap more diverse projects as industry needs developed. I’m particularly pleased with my final project – co-developing the Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for Australian sawn softwood, sawn hardwood, particleboard, MDF and plywood. These declaration documents. With these EPDs the Australian timber industry finally has some credible and verified claims about the environmental impacts of their products – particularly their ‘better than carbon neutral’ footprint. The EPDs can be used by every Australian producer of timber in their own marketing. They can also be used by Forest and Wood Products Australia members to assist buyers of their timber to claim credits under the Green Star building rating system,” he says. “I’m also proud of the tools I developed with the timber industry to assist timber importers and domestic processors comply with the anti-illegal logging legislation. A Gottstein Fellowship in 2013 and research in US and Europe greatly informed this work and helped make the freely available tools (via www. timberduediligence.com.au) really useful to over 550 companies to date. These tools are also the basis for the Australian Timber Importers Federation’s (ATIF) legality compliance toolkit. I will continue working with ATIF on this to help wood product importers undertake the due diligence steps needed to comply with the anti-illegal logging laws. Seeing the need for adapting the tools and templates people’s particular circumstances is one of the reasons why I have set up my own business to carry on this work assisting companies and conducting independent research.
“My involvement in the inspirational and technical presentations delivered to specifiers in NSW and ACT as part of Forest and Wood Product (FWPA) Australia’s great WoodSolutions program was also a source of satisfaction. I ended up given over 200 presentations to over 2,000 architects and engineers in NSW, Canberra and Adelaide. WoodSolutions is an excellent program and I have seen the interest in specifying timber, particularly in commercial and multi-residential projects, rise astronomically in the last few years. I’ve seen specifiers’ knowledge and confidence in using timber rise steeply. The last WoodSolutions seminar I organised for TDA attracted over 170 architects, engineers and developers. I am still amazed basic knowledge about natural durability and preservative treatment has just not been taught to designers at university level.
“Preparing the magazine for the Timber Design Awards was also a real eye-opener in terms of seeing and what designers are doing with timber around Australia. It was also an eye-opener seeing how much money some people have to spend! Being inspired by this was also the reason I have used so many timber products in my own renovation. I last counted 12 different wood products and species of sawn timber, from 4 countries – used internally and externally, in my small renovation. It is great to put all my knowledge into practice – and save a bit of money too!
“I’m looking forward to continuing to help people in the timber industry and helping increase capacity to take advantage of timber’s natural environmental advantage,” he said.
Stephen Mitchell Associates has been established to provide technical and education consulting services in the areas of: • Due Diligence for Illegally Logged
Wood • Waste Reduction and Recycling • Sustainable and Green Building.