In South Africa, September celebrates a number of significant events including Arbor Week, with the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRR) acting as the country's champion of indigenous forests and trees.
September also sees the World Environmental Health Day and other international reminders of our need to manage our natural resources sustainably and combat accelerating climate change.
The DALRR has called for the public and organisations to get involved in greening their communities and partnering with local government and community-based organisations to coordinate the planting, care and management of all vegetation across urban and rural areas.
The department notes that trees provide more than just ornamental beauty in our open spaces. They provide benefits such as building materials, paper, fibre, oils, gums, syrups, pharmaceutical products, fruit and nuts while also preventing soil erosion. Trees also produce oxygen while using up environmentally detrimental carbon dioxide – they are the filters of our planet.
Incredibly, trees also provide rich nutrients for our soil through fallen leaves, they reduce flooding from rainfall run-off, they lessen sound pollution by deflecting sound waves, act as a windbreak and insulator during harsh weather, as well as providing habitats for wildlife.
In these ways, trees help to not only clean our air, but to reduce our energy costs, improve the productivity of our soils, preserve water supplies and contribute to a beautiful, liveable planet. According to Forestry South Africa, a forest producing 10m3 of wood per year will remove the carbon from the equivalent of 14 million m3 of air each year.
Hardwood trees grow extremely slowly and can reach tremendous sizes – capable of doing incredible work for our environment and impossible to replace in their function. Nathan Chapman, co-founder of sustainable building materials group Eva-Last, says this is why the industry needs to champion the use of alternative materials that protect our natural forests.
“Years ago, timber was in favour in construction and architecture for its look and feel, but it is clear that environmental sustainability and climate change imperatives outweigh any possible aesthetic benefits of using natural timber. At the same time, composite products for decking, cladding and other architectural finishes have come such a long way that they give away nothing in look and feel to real wood. There really is no reason to select timber any more,” says Chapman.
Eva-Last’s range of decking, cladding and beams includes some of the most advanced profile technology on the market. “It’s not just about the look and feel of the product. Over the last two decades we have introduced several patents that improve profile strength across framework spans while reducing profile weight and increasing product longevity significantly, even in the harshest environmental conditions. Our composite alternatives are also highly rated for fire resistance and non-slip surfaces, so in all ways these products are advancements on what timber can offer as a building material,” says Chapman.
He says warranties on Eva-Last products like the Apex range have expanded to cover three decades of use. “This is just unthinkable with real wood, which requires constant maintenance and upkeep, as well as being susceptible to warping, cracking, fading, staining, moisture ingress and destruction by environmental threats like termites. Now, decking, fencing, screening and railing can be put up and left up, requiring nothing more than the occasional clean, as a feature of a property that will not deteriorate or look scruffy in a few years.”
Eva-Last’s Apex, Infinity and Eva-Tech decking ranges are also secured with the company’s proprietary fasteners, under the Hulk brand, which ensure a consistent, flawless and invisible fastening finish. “This eliminates another key drawback of natural timber, which is that it is prone to cracking and coming loose from its fasteners over time, through weather cycles and under heavy use. With some of the most natural-looking, lightest and most durable products ever created available to customers these days, a truly sustainable approach to beautiful architecture and construction is possible – with none of the drawbacks,” says Chapman.