We promote the use of wood in a number of ways. Firstly through our website and through educating people within the sector via CPD delivery, speaking and networking at industry events.
How do you ensure that end users don’t take the ‘Wood is Good’ message and then simply buy cheap timber from unsustainable sources?
As an organisation, we can educate them about sustainability and the certification systems which are in place to ensure that the wood imported to the UK comes from sustainable sources.
What percentage of wood used in the UK is from sustainable sources?
Over 83 per cent of the wood used in the UK is certified as being from sustainable sources. Of the remaining 17 per cent much of that is coming from countries where sustainable forestry is practiced but don’t use certification schemes, for example the United States. Alternatively the wood is coming from countries with a tiny risk of illegal logging or the wood is part of a scheme which ensures legality but not necessarily sustainability.
How sustainable is wood?
83 per cent of wood used in the UK now comes from certified sources. The certification systems work by certifying a forest as sustainably managed and then operating a traceability system (called Chain of Custody) that means any certified wood can be traced back to its source.
We are confident in the sustainability of certified wood. Comprehensive planting of new trees occurs to replace those cut down to supply our wood needs and obviously ensures a long term future for the industry.
It is a natural product which doesn’t require huge amounts of non-sustainable energy to grow, just the right ground conditions and sunlight.
A tonne of brick requires four times the amount of energy to produce compared to sawn softwood, concrete five times, glass six times, steel 24 times and aluminium 126 times. (Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Management Report 196, Carbon benefits of Timber in Construction, 2006)
If wood is imported from overseas, doesn’t this account for a lot of carbon miles?
An independent study commissioned by the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) discovered that in the process of taking American hardwoods from forests in the US to European distributors the carbon sequestration during each tree’s growth more than offsets the total emissions from harvesting, processing and transport combined.
How does wood perform under a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)?
In 2010 AHEC commissioned PE International to carry out the largest LCA study ever to be conducted in the timber industry.
This independent assessment, which is yet to complete, is being done in accordance with ISO 14040 standards, the UK’s PAS 2050 carbon footprint standard as well as the international Green House Gas Protocol.
It will help the wider industry to identify areas for improvement and we’re confident that, because of wood’s carbon sequestration, the low levels of carbon emissions created by its processing and transportation, as well as its longevity, it will confirm timber as being among the most environmentally friendly building materials available.
Why focus on one material, isn’t the construction industry better served by an array of building products?
Timber has always been used in conjunction with other materials.We are not trying to change that, just promote the use of wood as part of the construction process and put forward a strong sustainable and economic
argument for the use of timber. There are plenty of places where wood could be used, where it currently isn’t, with all the benefits that brings. Lightweight steel factories can just as easily be built using wood. Likewise much concrete low and medium rise housing.
Modern construction methods allow wood to be used with great flexibility and convenience, pre-engineered off site and delivered ready to slot into or form a structure. There is a strong economic argument for its use.
Isn’t timber frame a fire hazard?
The issue regarding wood’s vulnerability in fire largely relates to the exposure of timber structures during the construction phase. A combination of a proper site risk assessment and appropriate security would not only reduce the risk of wood burning but also protect the many other construction products which carry the same risk.
Government statistics show that in a finished building the incidences of fire in timber frame structures are no greater than other materials.
In Scandinavia many industrial buildings are constructed in wood rather than steel to satisfy insurance conditions. Large cross sectional timbers char rather than burn as charcoal forms on the surface of the wood. This ensures the structural integrity of the building rather than the collapse which can be witnessed in steel frame buildings.
What about the longevity of wood as a construction material?
There are medieval buildings in this country primarily built with wood which are still standing, that’s a pretty good track record. Used and treated properly, wood is a fantastic, durable natural product. There is also a growing market for recycled wood as a biomass fuel.
Which are the most common types of wood used in UK construction?
The vast majority of wood used in the UK is softwood.
Which countries supply the most wood to the UK?
The bulk of the wood that is used in the UK actually comes from European countries.
Only around three per cent of what is used here comes from tropical countries. Use of British timber is now up to around 30 per cent.
What about the risk of illegally sourced tropical timber reaching the UK supply chain?
Better due diligence by UK importers, international certification schemes and industry-wide initiatives such as the British-based Timber Trade Federation’s mandatory membership Responsible Purchasing Policy have all helped to reduce the risk of illegal logs coming into the UK.
The European Union has now banned illegal timber being imported into the EU and placed environmental due diligence obligations on importers and traders as part of its Timber Regulations. These are criminal laws of which offenders can be prosecuted.
This culture of responsibility is also helping to change the practices of exporters overseas to move towards legal verification.
Is there a conflict between reducing illegal deforestation and supporting economic growth in developing nations?
Developing countries need to establish their own paths to growth but it’s important that the demand for illegal timber is restricted in consumer countries through regulation and certification to help encourage responsible forest management.
Demand for timber isn’t the driving force behind deforestation but rather changes in land use to farm palm oil, bio fuels, soya or to rear cattle. Unfortunately a byproduct of this is illegal timber which we must do everything we can to prevent entering the supply chain.
The UK timber industry
The government’s forestry strategy calls for 25 per cent land cover by forests in the second half of this century. This increase in forest cover equates to an additional 650,000 ha of forest. Land analysis shows that
around a third of the land area of Scotland is relatively unconstrained and could allow forest planting.
Our target is for 10,000 ha productive together with 5,000 ha amenity planting per year. With the right support we believe this is achievable – indeed, in the past, as much as 30,000 ha planting per year has been achieved and sustained.
Almost 150,000 people in the UK work in the timber industry. It is worth £18 billion every year – over three per cent of all construction and manufacturing output – and contributes around 0.4 per cent to the UK’s total GVA, or around £5.6 billion to the economy.