Philip Evans to head National Centre for Timber Durability and Design Life

A leading researcher from the world’s largest university wood and forestry program has been appointed as Foundation Fellow for Australia’s National Centre for Timber Durability and Design Life. Professor Philip Evans will take on the position while maintaining an ongoing role as BC Leadership Chair in the Faculty of Forestry at University of British Columbia – an arrangement which enables continual knowledge sharing and access to multiple sources of research funding.

A strategic initiative of the industry group Forest & Wood Products Australia (FWPA), the Centre is a partnership between industry, academia and government. It was launched late last year and is based at the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC).

The Centre is designed to put Australia at the forefront of international best practice, and use an evidence-based approach to ensure design guides and standards remain world class in the light of climate change, new engineered timbers and changes in building design.

“As Foundation Fellow, I’m there to establish the Centre and set the initial research direction, which will be handed over within five years or so to a new generation that we will train,” he said.

“If you look around the industry, we’re not getting any younger. It’s essential we train talented young people in the field – the value of that to this industry is immense.

“Through a network that the Centre will establish, we will have access to some of the brightest minds in the best universities in Australia and around the world. This Centre is a fantastic opportunity to make a difference and apply the knowledge I have gained over the last 33 years.”

Dr Chris Lafferty, FWPA’s R&D Manager, said Professor Philip Evans was a perfect fit for the role.

“Phil is heavily engaged with industry, and is a world-class operator, with experience in the UK, North America and Australia,” he said.

“Phil worked at The ANU between 1985 and 2001 and is still an Honorary Professor in the Department of Applied Mathematics at the ANU. He is an Australian citizen and knows the Australian industry very well. Many of his former students went on to become today’s industry leaders. 

Chris said the Centre would initially focus its efforts on the development of evidence-based data, systems and tools to underpin consumer confidence in the performance of timber products.

Over time, the Centre would also create world-leading predictive models to enable architects and building specifiers to more easily choose the appropriate timber products for specific end uses and tasks, he said.

In collaboration with industry, Philip has been involved in the creation of many products, most recently novel composite wood flooring that does not swell at the edges when exposed to water.

“It’s important to meet the needs of academia while at the same time producing outputs that industry can use, whether that’s in terms of reducing costs or new products,” said Philip, whose academic work mainly focuses on the surface properties of wood.

“My work has demonstrated that what we do in the lab is only about ten per cent of what is required to take a wood product to market.” Industry is a crucial partner in the innovation landscape, and it’s a good omen that Australia’s timber industry is firmly behind the National Centre for Timber Durability and Design Life”. 

Many of the challenges facing the industry were global, he said, including the loss of traditional preservatives and the use of more complex durability systems, against a backdrop of increasing regulatory complexity. 

The Centre’s founding partners include the University of Queensland and the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, however, its work will be national and international in scope.

Philip can be reached on until his USC email address has been established.