The Proven Manufacturing Solution

Carbon reduction is a critical factor in the way the construction industry operates. Andrew Carpenter, Chief Executive of the Structural Timber Association (STA)

Quicker to construct, quieter to assemble, requiring fewer lorry loads, delivering cost savings, and with impeccable environmental credentials – engineered timber systems should be the number one choice for any building in the UK.

The popularity of engineered timber systems in the UK has steadily grown in recent years, and in the last STA report we found that up to a third of newbuilds used timber frame. As our most recent report with the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the Timber Industries demonstrates the spread of structural timber systems remains uneven and this represents a missed opportunity.

Scotland is in the lead by far, where 83% of new builds use timber frame. England and Northern Ireland are at 22.8% and 17.4% respectively, with Wales slightly higher at 30.7%. However, at a time when we have a significant shortfall in housing stock, structural timber systems should be a top choice for specifiers across the entirety of the UK.

We recently launched the Wood Co2ts less Campaign which is raising awareness of how using timber from sustainably managed forests is one of the simplest ways to help reduce carbon emissions. This campaign is supported by Wood for Good, Swedish Wood, Confor, the TTF and STA.

Houses developed using structural timber solutions can be built up to 30% quicker as compared to traditional methods such as masonry and as a lot of the work is done offsite, there is a 90% reduction in waste. As wood also absorbs and stores carbon, it helps offset emissions. By choosing timber we can help make the industry more productive, sustainable and less wasteful.

There is capacity right now in the UK timber industry to double production of housebuilding to 100,000 homes per year, provided there is sufficient demand and the right policy framework in place.
In our recent report with the APPG for the Timber Industries, we set forth a number of recommendations to Government to get the UK building. With the industry having been significantly impacted by COVID-19, some of these have now been put into play. This includes the recently announced moves from the Chancellor to stoke future demand for our sector, including the measures surrounding Stamp Duty, as well as the Green Homes Grant Scheme and planning reform.

Even with these measures to stimulate demand, it is likely the industry is going to need to find ways to do more with less, particularly with social distancing limiting the productivity of some building sites. This is however where offsite manufacturing of components performs.

Employing structural timber systems on a project can provide a cost saving of between 2% and 3% as it stands. Longer term, research by MHCLG has found that through speed of construction, quality of build, decreased size of the workforce, and the ability to bulk purchase, there is a potential for cost savings of up to 30%.

Although we’ve had some challenging times, there is now real positivity around our sector. Timber systems are now acknowledged as the optimum construction solution in the battle to reduce carbon emissions. Trees are at the heart of the climate change debate – from the destruction of the Amazon rainforests to the use of timber as a replenishable and sustainable construction solution.

Once carbon sequestration was a natural phenomenon only understood by scientists but now that’s all changed and terms such as ‘carbon sink’ are commonly used. There are two ways to decrease CO2 in the atmosphere – either by reducing emissions, or by removing CO2 and storing it. Wood has the unique ability to do both. Trees extract CO2 from the atmosphere and hold it captive during its entire lifetime, even when it is reprocessed to form buildings. Commercially managed woodland locks down one third more CO2 than wild forests – so the growing of commercial timber and use in construction is vital in the battle to reduce carbon emissions.

At a time when sustainable development is a global priority and at the forefront of the UK construction agenda with key issues such as climates change dominating our future thinking, timber is an outstanding renewable material that offers a range of environmental benefits. Add to this energy efficiency, speed of construction and offsite manufacturing methods, alleviating the traditional skills shortages – it is important to continue to maximise the benefits of structural timber systems.

For more information visit: www.structuraltimber.co.uk