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Substandard plywood causes concern

While Australia’s planning laws and standards for building product manufacturing are notoriously stringent, there is widespread concern that a growing amount of dodgy imported building materials are being used across the country. Source: Architecture & Design

A 12-month market surveillance of structural ply samples taken at point of sale by Engineered Wood Products Association’s (EWPAA’s) revealed that 70% failed to meet Australian Standards and that the failed products were largely imported.

The Australian Industry Group’s 2013 report ‘The quest for a level playing field: the nonconforming building products dilemma’ explains that the difference between imported and domestic plywood products is that “all domestic producers of structural plywood are third-party certified, regularly audited and the incidence of non-conforming product from domestic supply is very low to non-existent.”

Non-conformance issues associated with imported products of this type include higher than acceptable formaldehyde emissions.

The EWPAA recommends purchasing plywood products that have their ‘Green Tick’ for emissions safety which are only handed out to EWPAA members and to products that been tested to meet or better formaldehyde levels demanded by health authorities.

The labels promote the safety of EWPAA member products that are tested to emission standards of Super E0, E0 and E01.

There are also two voluntary standards that make specific reference to formaldehyde in pressed timber products and include emission limits. These voluntary standards are:

  • AS/NZS 1859.1:2004: Reconstituted wood-based panels – Specifications – Particleboard
  • AS/NZS 1859.2:2004: Reconstituted wood-based panels – Specifications – Dry-processed Fiberboard

The safety risks and financial problems associated with substandard or non-conforming building products are well known and well documented, but the environmental risks posed by specifying non-conforming products are now also slowly coming to light.

Evidence of the direct-impact that non-conforming products have on the environment is currently rather lean however, there is a case for arguing that the widespread replacement of faulty building products in Australia is unsustainable in itself, and we’re seeing quite a lot of that lately.

Quite simply, the problem is that these products won’t perform as specified, which means that buildings won’t perform as designed and your building isn’t as environmentally friendly as first thought.