Why Ironbark is an Ideal Material for Australian Nature Play Equipment
Landscape architects have a wealth of materials to choose from, each with its own set of pros and cons. When it comes to timber play equipment, however, one material clearly stands out as a high performer: ironbark. Here’s why it will help elevate your next project.
What is Ironbark?
Coming from the Eucalyptus paniculata tree, ironbark is a strong hardwood that is native to Australia’s eastern coastal regions, thriving in areas that experience high rainfall throughout the year. Such prime conditions allow these slow-growing trees to mature into thick and towering spectacles – reaching an average height of up to 30 metres with the potential to exceed 55 metres.
Not only is ironbark an extremely robust material, it also has properties that make it an ideal product for use in a variety of projects, from fencing and construction poles to firewood – and timber nature play equipment. Its bark is resistant to fire and heat, which helps forge a strong inner living tissue that makes ironbark stand out as a wonderfully useful material. As it’s grown here, ironbark is also pre-seasoned for the Australian climate, so it doesn’t require any chemical treatment to achieve its durability. More importantly, it’s vastly superior for Australian landscape projects when compared to timbers such as robinia, which are commonly sourced and shipped from European forests.
Standing Up to Other Materials
A range of factors must be considered before settling on the right materials for your natural playground. So for landscape architects, there’s more to think about than just the visual qualities of the equipment or the different skill levels you are catering to.
With ironbark, you are getting a Class 1 Australian eucalypt hardwood that has a durability rating of 1 – the highest durability possible. That means the ironbark is expected to last for more than 50 years in outside, above-ground conditions. For in-ground decks poles, you can expect a minimum of 25 years for Class 1 products.
Compare this to many European timbers which can’t achieve a Class 1 rating in Australia. They may be entirely suitable to European climates, and therefore a cheaper option to ship over to Australia for your project, but the vast majority will be unable to stand up to the harsh and varied Australian climate. This can lead to early deterioration of equipment and increase health and safety hazards, not to mention the environmental cost of shipping products overseas.
Be aware that while ironbark is a wonderful material for larger jobs, its weight and density means it isn’t the ideal wood for smaller equipment or projects that require high levels of precision. So the key is to consider which timber is best suited to which product and project, rather than having hard and fast rules around material choices. It’s also often necessary to combine a hardwood with other materials altogether, in order to get a certain play experience or aesthetic. For example, the hardwood can be combined with man-made materials such as colourful foot holders for climbing poles, monkey bars, ladders, slides and more.
Natura’s play consultants and designers are here to help you select the right mix of products for your next landscape design. To speak to us about products, or get a full nature play design, give us a call on 1800 655 041.