The life cycle of most building products starts with the extraction of raw resources. For timber procurement of raw materials is through forest harvesting. Timber remains the only major Australian produced building material that is both renewable and sustainable. Harvesting timber in a sustainable manner is less intrusive on the environment than the mining of raw materials such as iron ore, coal and limestone for use in steel and concrete.
Forests provide a range economic, social and cultural benefits to society and the competing benefits have resulted in complex planning and management systems. Society in developed countries are increasingly committed the supply of timber from sustainable forests.
In addition to the extraction of the logs, timber harvesting usually includes activities such as building access roads and establishing plantations or native forest regeneration.
Environmental impacts associated with harvesting trees may include undesirable changes to ecosystems, in particular localised fauna loss, and changes to natural flora ecology. These environmental changes are very site specific and vary significantly with the forest management practices used. The life cycle assessment of timber does not extend into the complex issues associated with timber harvesting. However Regional Forest Agreements in place throughout Australia have ensured the application of sustainable forest management.
In Australia, the State and Commonwealth governments established through a series of formal scientific, social and cultural evaluations nine Regional Forest Agreements (RFA). These agreements were formally executed between 1997 and 2000 and each has a twenty-year term. They provide Australia a world class forest reserve system, certainty for timber industries and regional communities, and ecologically sustainable management of the whole forest estate, both on and off reserves.
After harvesting logs must be transported to the mill which is usually by road but in cases of long distances sometimes rail may be used.
Transport is an important consideration for timber as it occurs at various stages of the productís life. However, as timber has a high strength to weight ratio, it is a light material and requires less energy to transport than heavier materials like concrete.