Feb 21, 2022
Trees: From Seed to Sawdust - Episode 18 - Exploring Engineered Wood Products in a Visit to Smartply
Engineered wood, is made, in the case of Orientated Strand Board, by taking the thinnings from softwood conifer plantations and putting it through a process whereby it is transformed into board that is as hard as any hardwood timber.
This process takes place at Smartply located in Belview Co Kilkenny where Monica meets Neil Foot. She is taken on a tour around the plant beginning first in the log yard where stacks upon stacks of logs have been delivered from the plantations and are ready to be processed. The first step is debarking, and the bark is used in heating processes further down the line. Then the stripped log is taken through a very noisy process of 'waferising', where it's torn up into wafers or large flakes. These large flakes are then dried, misted with adhesive resin, and laid down in specially orientated layers to form a woody mat. This woody mat is then pressed and a board - Orientated Strand Board (OSB) is made.
It sounds easy, but it's a complex product. Between both Smartply and it's sister company Medite, which makes MDF, 90 truckloads of tree logs come in and 50 truckloads of product leave each week. 360 people are employed between both sites, and they are the largest timber processer in the country. They are owned by Coillte who took over the running of Smartply in 2002 when the original owners, Louisiana Pacific left Ireland.
According to David Murray, OSB and other engineered wood products are well positioned to fill the need for more sustainable building construction products. Ireland needs to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, and wood, which acts as a store of carbon is a good material to use in this respect. It's also very warm and when well insulated, can reduce heat loss from houses. Smartply produce an array of different OSB products, some are flame retardant others are made to be specifically airtight, they can be used indoors and outdoors, under the ceiling or below the floor and of course are the material of choice in timber frame houses.
Only 1 in 5 houses in Ireland are timber frame. This is low compared to the likes of Scotland where 80% of the houses are timber frame. Education in the versatility of engineered wood products may help to increase this, along with a change in policy. Why is this important to do? Because every little bit we do will go towards reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and keeping global warming to below 1.5 C and Trees are a very important part of that process.