I design and source hotel furniture for a living and as such I make regular trips to China, the factory of the world. There are good and bad sides to offshore production and in modern life, you basically can’t avoid it.  In just a handful of decades, the world has changed so much that many items are simply not able to be made locally.  I have written more about my experiences in China in this post.

But what if we all made a conscious effort to buy more locally made?  And what if we reused and repurposed most of the furniture, building materials and objects we surround ourselves with?

Scrolling through my Instagram feed a few months ago I came across a local organisation trying to change the global sourcing ethos.  Their name is Five Mile Radius and their efforts to design and make using local resources instantly struck a chord with me!  A google search for Architect Laurie Baker and I quickly see why this man inspired Clare Kennedy to start the Brisbane based architectural collective.  It also got me thinking ….

Imagine how the Australian manufacturing scene would transform if we all brought more locally produced building products.

I have seen the immediate impact of a local buying decision, in fact, I was the reason for the impact.  A few years ago I started working with a new client who had hundreds of small 3 star hotels to refit.  They needed a furniture range that could handle the rigors of hotel guests but be available in small quantities and on short notice.  This doesn’t suit the imported furniture model so I started searching locally.  By chance, I came across a cabinet maker in Ipswich who despite once being a major force in the Australian furniture industry was now winding down their operation due to dwindling orders.  They didn’t want to make millions of dollars but just wanted enough work to keep their remaining staff employed.   So we worked together to come up with a cost-effective furniture range which is now being rolled out across almost every state & territory.

The Tiny House

So back to my tiny house project. Plywood is one thing I will need plenty of.  Looking through the Five Mile Radius Instagram account I read about their work with a local company, Austral Plywood.  Some more research and I discover that Hoop Pine (Araucaria cunninghamii) is a Queensland native species which is grown in plantations just inland from Kilcoy where I am building my house.  Without much effort, I had already found a source which perfectly matches the local supply chain ethos!

To demonstrate this visually (because I am a visual person) I have put together this delightful map –

Hoop Pine Plywood production

So thrilled am I with my discovery, that I head down to the Austral Plywood manufacturing facility in Tennyson.  Although I can’t get up close to the process (I am likely to make a wrong step and be crushed by a log), I see the massive logs go into one end of the factory and come out the other end as various grades of plywood.  No need for trucks to cart the raw materials for thousands of kilometers or vessels to ship the plywood across vast oceans and no fumigation with toxic chemicals to kill any foreign bugs. Just a simple one, two, three supply chain.

So what’s the catch you ask?  Well, this hoop pine is more expensive than the plywood imported from Asian countries. But I am happy to make that investment in quality, low-toxicity and local people! If we all did this then the cost of these products will gradually go down, perhaps along with unemployment.

Stay tuned for images of the plywood as it becomes the walls & ceiling of my tiny house.

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