CTI Blog

CTI Blog - The Case for Wood

This blog post is by CTI Director and TTF MD David Hopkins.

 

Making the case for wood to an audience of architects, designers and manufacturers at the recent Wood Awards in London, David Hopkins, CTI Director and Managing Director of the Timber Trade Federation (TTF), left nobody in doubt as to the importance of wood as the key construction material for many reasons:

“The Wood Awards provides a clear picture, a clear distillation of many of the central arguments for the use of wood across multiple markets – particularly around sustainability, around skills and skilled jobs, around innovation, and around housing.

"First is the environment and sustainability. We face multiple issues around the theme of climate change. Not least is the disappearance of forest landscapes around the world. The basic fact is: if we want to keep forests, we have to increase demand for forests. To do that, we need to increase the use of the products from forests and increase their basic value.

“I was a speaker recently at the tropical timber conference in Paris. At this conference there was an illuminating set of satellite images showing deforestation in several tropical countries. They showed forest cover in the 1980s and then forest cover in 2017. It was depressing. Huge tracts disappeared, gone. But, what was interesting is that most of the areas that had been felled were “protected areas” – conservation areas, national parks, wildlife refuges and so on. The areas that were still standing, that showed unbroken canopies and the greatest forest cover were those with commercial licences and a management plan for timber harvesting. Those that massively increase the value of the trees that are standing and can therefore provide more money to those people that depend on them. It seems counter intuitive, but those areas with commercial licences had more trees, more wildlife and more biodiversity than those areas which were supposedly protected. The people could appreciate the value more.

“At a European level, we have one of the most intense forestry sectors in the world – roughly 5% of forest cover and about 25% of all industrial production. And because of that demand, our forests are growing. We use something like 65% of the annual growth each year, with large swathes untouched. It provides a massive carbon sink, ecosystem services, water services, biodiversity and the basis for a thriving bio-economy. But, it only works because of demand for the product. Demand for responsibly sourced wood means demand for responsibly managed forests and forest growth.

“When you move that on, you see you’re not just dealing with a low carbon material, but that then this becomes the basis of very low energy, low-carbon manufacturing. All of the products and entries you see at the Wood Awards will have been made in a manufacturing outlet, whether it is a ‘furniture factory’ or a ‘housing factory’. Yet to manufacture these items from wood requires far less energy and therefore has a far lower carbon footprint than any other competing material. If we want to have our low-carbon revolution, we need low-carbon materials and low-carbon manufacturing. Timber helps us achieve both.

“The timber sector affords a lot of career pathways in multiple directions. As trade bodies we want to see a great expansion in the downstream timber manufacturing sector – in furniture, joinery, timber frame and housing – but this will never happen without skilled workers.  So our thanks and support go to the Carpenters Company and the Building Crafts College – and other centres like these throughout the UK – for without these skilled students coming through we don’t have a future.

“Finally, the Wood Awards highlight the way in which timber can help solve the housing crisis in the UK. Timber frame is the fastest growing method of housebuilding now in the UK, accounting for about 28% of all new build last year. So, my appreciation of the awards is not just for its integrity and commitment to aesthetics, beauty and craftsmanship, but for me the aesthetics of the final entries comes as the icing on the cake. It is the result of growing forests around the world, adding more to nature than you are taking away, of creating and valuing skilled jobs, developing a high-value, low-carbon innovative manufacturing sector and, through all of that, creating objects and buildings of beauty and making the world a generally better, healthier, more sustainable and beautiful place to live. 

“And that certainly deserves an Award!”

The full list of the awarded projects – including photos and technical info – is available here.

 

[News URL: http://cti-timber.org/content/cti-blog-case-wood]

CTI Blog - Why Build In Wood?

This article is by Paul Brannen, MEP for the North East England Region. It originally appeared on www.northeastlabour.eu

 

Historically timber has been used to build homes, especially one and two storey buildings.  Taller and larger buildings have been possible with timber frames but above 5 or 6 storeys is rare.

However, relatively new engineered timber products such as Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) and Laminated Veneered Timber (LVL) have the structural strength of steel and concrete, enabling wooden framed buildings to now be built to much taller heights and on a much larger scale.  

These new products have enabled the construction of the world’s tallest wooden building, Tallwood House at Brock Commons East, on the campus of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.  It is 53m tall with 18 floors - you can watch it being constructed in under 3 minutes here. 

Wooden buildings even taller than this are currently under construction including the HoHo building in Vienna, Austria which will have 24 floors, see here, and a Japanese company are planning on building the world’s tallest wooden skyscraper.  Other wooden skyscrapers are being built or are planned across the globe.

There are many benefits to be gained from building in engineered wood, including:

 

Speed

Building in wood can see a floor a week being constructed on site, as the wooden panels are constructed off site in factory conditions. This is twice as fast as concrete.  Overall wooden buildings can be up to a third faster to build reducing construction site costs i.e. the hired crane is there for less time.

 

Sustainable

Timber is a renewable and sustainable product when managed and produced in an environmentally friendly way.  Construction timbers, such as CLT, LVL and Glulam, are made with a non-toxic adhesive and can be made with little or no burning of fossil fuels unlike steel, brick and block which all need large amounts of heat to produce and they tend to derive this heat from the energy produced from burning fossil fuels.  The actual chemistry involved in making cement for concrete results in large amounts of CO2 being released. Theoretically this could be captured (Carbon Capture and Storage - CCS) but to date it has not happened.

 

Sequestration of Carbon

While trees are growing they sequestrate carbon from the air. In fact trees could rightly be described as CCS ´machines´. When trees are turned into timber products the timber still continues to sequestrate the carbon for the life time of the wooden product, hence timber is a natural “carbon sink”.

Tall and/or large steel and concrete buildings have large carbon footprints.  Comparable wooden buildings can have a reduced carbon footprint of 60-75% in comparison. 

 

The importance of substituting for steel and concrete

Concrete and steel have large carbon footprints.  One of the primary ingredients in concrete is cement and to make cement you need to heat and grind up limestone or a similar material. In addition to the energy required in the manufacturing process, the U.N calculate approximately 1 ton of carbon dioxide is emitted per ton of cement produced.  As concrete is the second-most consumed substance on the planet, after water, cement production accounts for as much as 8 percent of human-produced carbon dioxide emissions.

Concrete and steel are both heavy to transport involving large numbers of lorries that in turn generate exhaust fumes that contribute to poor air quality especially in our cities and they also burn fossil fuels exacerbating climate change.

Wooden buildings can be five times lighter than a steel and concrete equivalent meaning transport costs both financially and environmentally are reduced. Lorry deliveries to the construction sites where wood is the principal building material can be reduced by 80% because wood is lighter and needs fewer lorries to move it. As wood is lighter this can also reduce the groundwork (foundation) costs.

A 125m high building made from wood could have a 75% lower carbon footprint than one made from steel and concrete.

50% less energy is used to manufacture wooden rather than concrete buildings and only 1% of the energy needed to produce steel.

During construction wooden buildings produce less dust and their construction is quieter, which is good news in urban areas.

Following construction in cold climates the estimated energy consumption and carbon emissions for CLT buildings are 9.9% and 13.2% lower than those of reinforced concrete buildings in view of life-cycle assessment; see here for more information. 

Currently using building methods centered around, concrete, steel, brick and block, the building sector is responsible for 42% of final energy consumption, 35% of total greenhouse gas emissions, 50% of extracted materials and 30% of water consumption in the European Union. Construction and housing have a fundamental role to play in enhancing societal goals for sustainable growth, see here.

 

Health/Ambiance

Wooden interiors deliver a multiple of physiological and psychological benefits including:

- reduced blood pressure, heart rate and stress levels

- improvements to a person’s emotional state and level of self-expression

- improved air quality through humidity moderation.

 

Renovation and Refurbishment

As a light-weighted material that can be processed easily, wood is the ideal material for renovation and refurbishment, allowing high flexibility for inhabitants and users to adjust buildings to specific needs. 

 

Cost; Timber/CLT v concrete/block/steel

A question often posed is whether building in wood is cheaper than building in a material such as concrete. To help answer this question, Building magazine undertook a price comparison in June 2017 and noted:

“We have prepared two detailed cost models, one each for a CLT and concrete design for a seven-storey private residential building. The scheme has been designed with both a timber and concrete solution in mind at the outset, with a structural layout to suit both.

“…the construction cost variance between timber and concrete for this hypothetical scheme is minimal. The higher CLT superstructure costs are offset by the ability to reduce pile quantities because of a lighter frame, hence a saving on substructure. The CLT programme for the frame and upper floors is around 10–15% shorter than the concrete option, resulting in a lower preliminaries cost.”

The cost of wooden buildings can be kept down by pre-fabricating panel sections in factory conditions where they can be made to the millimetre, meaning that there’s little to no waste.  Doors and window apertures can be pre-cut in the factory.  Government figures show about a third of the materials that arrive on a construction site using concrete tend to get sent to landfill resulting in more lorries on the road.

In April 2018 Alinea Consulting produced an influential report that highlighted the advantages of using CLT over concrete. The report, Residential Timber: Cost Model, suggests CLT is a viable alternative and uses two detailed exemplar cost models to demonstrate the point.

Wooden buildings are more energy efficient meaning longer term the owners will both use less energy and pay smaller energy bills.  If the CLT used is thick enough then an energy saving of 14% could occur. This is because wood has a natural thermal efficiency which means timber systems can be more cost effective in constructing energy efficient buildings than concrete, block or bricks.

Additionally, In a recent (July 2018) independent study produced by Rider Levett Bucknall (rlb.com) a comparison was made between the cost of timber frame v masonry build methods in order to determine which is more economical for affordable housing.  The study found "the overall situation ... results in the timber frame solution being more economical to construct" p16.  It was also "quicker".  

 

Fire

But aren’t wooden buildings more prone to hazards and natural disasters?

Buildings made from CLT have no inherent fire risk.  When brought into contact with fire the outer surface of the wood chars and then acts as a very effective insulator for the wood below.  When the heat source is removed the fire goes out. Furthermore, CLT remains more structurally stable when subjected to high temperatures.

See demonstration of an attempt to set fire to CLT with a blow torch in this Economist video on wooden skyscrapers here.

Further, Silvia Melegari wrote in Revolve that CLT buildings, “have the flexibility to handle the world’s strongest earthquakes with no loss of life or structural change”.

 

Who is designing and building big in wood already?

Architects

Waugh and Thistleton, London: http://waughthistleton.com/

White arkitckter, Sweden: http://whitearkitekter.com/project/skelleftea-cultural-centre/

Bob BBL, Norway: https://www.bob.no/

Acton Ostry, Vancouver, Canada: http://www.actonostry.ca/

LEVER, Portland, USA: https://leverarchitecture.com/

 

More Information: Interesting Links and Articles

Videos

What is Cross Laminated Timber?  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YuAya0hRjwU

The world’s tallest wooden buildings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3JqSsc8ZKk

TED talk by architect Michael Green, ‘Why we should build wooden skyscrapers’:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xi_PD5aZT7Q

 

Articles

Innovative Wood Products Collaborative, ‘Why build with wood?’ http://www.themostnaturalresource.com/why-build-with-wood/

New Statesman, “Why wood is making a comeback in house building”, http://bit.ly/2PEXq4s

Building, ‘Cost model: residential timber’ http://bit.ly/2yPDguQ

Sustainability Open Access Journal, “A Comparison of the Energy Saving and Carbon Reduction Performance between Reinforced Concrete and Cross-Laminated Timber Structures in Residential Buildings in the Severe Cold Region of China” http://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/9/8/1426

Revolve Magazine, Spring 2018 Issue: https://issuu.com/revolve-magazine/docs/revolve_27_digital

Benefits of Urban Trees, a FAO infographic: http://www.fao.org/3/a-c0024e.pdf

The contribution of wood-based construction materials for leveraging a low carbon building sector in Europe: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2210670716305923

Adoption of unconventional approaches in construction: The case of cross-laminated timber: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0950061816313514

Cost gap between CLT and concrete is narrowing: https://www.trada.co.uk/news/cost-gap-between-clt-and-concrete-is-narrowing/

Cement Industry Urged to Reduce Invisible Global Emissions http://bit.ly/2OtyYOE

 

[News URL: http://cti-timber.org/content/cti-blog-why-build-wood]

CTI Blog - If the PM is serious about solving the housing crisis, she must scrap Chequers & broker an improved deal that ensures timber can clear customs freely

This article is by Martin Whitfield, MP for East Lothian and Chair of the Timber Industries APPG

 

Earlier this month, Theresa May reaffirmed to the Conservative Party Conference her ‘personal mission’ to fix our housing crisis. Yet in the same speech, she reiterated her commitment to her Chequers Plan, which would crash the UK out of the Customs Union and Single Market after we leave the EU. In fact, the Chequers plan will fundamentally fail to retain any customs arrangements with the European Union. 
 
Without frictionless trade, I believe we face a clear challenge to build the number of homes the Prime Minister has committed to providing over this parliament.
 
This challenge exists because the supply of timber is essential to meeting housing demands. This sector, which contributes £10bn to the UK economy each year is still hugely reliant on trade with EU countries. Incredibly, 90% of the timber used to build homes in the UK is imported from across Europe. 
 
Whilst we do grow and harvest timber in this country, we simply don’t have enough to fill the void that will be left after Brexit. Even if we had the space, the time it takes to grow the trees does not meet the immediate housebuilding demands we face.  
 
Timber businesses across the country, including those in my own constituency of East Lothian, have strong relationships with several European countries and have built successful enterprises which employ over 200,000 people across the UK. This workforce is reliant on these imports. 

Our current relationship is remarkably simple; timber entering the UK from the EU clears ports immediately with no need for customs checks to be carried out. These materials are instantly available to be used or sold. Leaving the EU threatens the simplicity and efficiency of this arrangement. 
 
The realities of a poor deal or even no-deal after we leave is that these imports will be sitting in custom checks for weeks. A clear practical challenge which would face the industry is this; whilst the timber was being checked through customs, it could not be used or sold, and would need to be stored by the company. This is placing a significant logistical and financial burden on businesses, many of which are SMEs, many of which will not easily absorb these additional costs. 
 
Housebuilding and timber go hand in hand. The sector is already stepping up the challenge with new factories, skills-training and solutions. Current output stands at around 60,000 homes per year. This could grow to over 100,000 by 2020 using existing capacity. We have a great deal to be positive about within this sector, but the government is putting this progress at risk. 
 
As Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Timber Industries, I am going to make the case today that our housing needs are reliant on continued access to the Customs Union and Single Market. If the Prime Minister is serious about solving the housing crisis, she must start by scrapping Chequers and broker an improved deal that ensures timber can clear customs freely after we leave.

 

[News URL: http://cti-timber.org/content/cti-blog-if-government-wants-build-more-houses-it-needs-workable-brexit-deal]

CTI Blog - Positive steps forward on apprenticeships and housing in Autumn Budget 2018

This blog post is by Helen Hewitt, CTI Director and CEO fo British Woodworking Federation (BWF)

 

On 29th October 2018, the Chancellor Philip Hammond delivered his Autumn 2018 Budget, the last before Brexit. We were pleased to see some positive measures which will help smaller businesses offer apprenticeships. The £695m initiative to reduce the cost of apprenticeship training for small businesses will halve the amount they have to contribute from 10% to 5%. UK’s SMEs are pivotal to the success of the apprenticeship scheme and this should go some way to resolving the growing skills gap in our sector and to help boost productivity.

Delivering a solution to end the UK’s housing crisis has long been on the political agenda and so we welcomed the Chancellor’s promise of a further £500m for the housing infrastructure fund to help build a further 650,000 homes. In addition, he pointed to strategic partnerships with 9 housing associations to “deliver 13,000 homes across England, up to £1bn pounds of British business bank guarantees, to support the revival of SME house builders.” On the surface, tapping into the potential of SME house builders to increase housing stock is a smart move. However, as we pointed out following the Spring statement, a successful housing strategy is not just about increasing supply. The fund now stands at £5.5bn, yet there was still no mention of an allocation to ensure that essential fire safety works required in existing social houses are paid for. So, the question still remains as to who will foot the bill.  

In more good news for house building, the importance of investing in our high streets with a £675 million Future High Streets Fund to allow councils to rejuvenate town centres could lead to benefits for members. With the Federation of Master Builders estimating last year that as many as 300,000 to 400,000 new homes alone could be created by making use of empty spaces above shops on our high streets, the Future High Streets Fund could be a further boost for residential accommodation.

The Chancellor pledged to publish a full response into the review of build out rates by Sir Oliver Letwin which concluded that large housebuilders are not engaged in ‘systematic speculative land banking.’ We welcome any move to reduce bureaucracy in the planning system and look forward to the Governments response to the recommendations.

The collapse of Carillion left many wondering what the impact on subcontractors would be and called for a review of public sector construction contracts. Some clarity came on Monday when it was announced that public private partnerships will soon be no more with PFI and PF2 contracts abolished. Existing contracts under the PFI and PF2 system will be honoured but no new ones will be signed and a “centre of excellence” will be set up to manage the remaining contracts, worth approximately £200bn. However, more clarity is still required around how a new model will work to ensure that the infrastructure this country requires continues to be built.

 

[News URL: http://cti-timber.org/content/cti-blog-positive-steps-forward-apprenticeships-and-housing-autumn-budget-2018]

CTI Blog - Debate on combustible cladding ban is still open, despite inflated political statements

This blog post is by CTI Director and TTF Managing Director David Hopkins

 

As I am sure you are aware, this week at the Conservative Party Conference, Housing Secretary James Brokenshire made the following statement:

“Combustible cladding is to be banned for all new schools, hospitals, care homes, student accommodation and residential buildings in England above 18m.  

The ban, which follows a lengthy government consultation, will cover all combustible materials, including cladding, on new buildings. However, it will not be applied retrospectively where materials have already been fitted. The new ban will be implemented through changes to building regulations to be brought forward in late autumn.” [Read more]

The TTF laid out its response to the Govt consultation on combustible materials via the CTI [See response HERE] While we can understand the need to introduce a ban over 18 metres, we still believe this will solve nothing without enforcement. The materials used in Grenfell did not pass the current regulations, yet were still used. Introducing tougher regulations, such as a ban, will only work if these regulations are enforced.

Our bigger worry is that the rhetoric from this approach effectively bans the use of timber at lower levels and on buildings below 18 metres. This will come via changes in the Building Regulations. However, the new ban is still subject to further consultation, so there is no immediate change, nor would they be applied retrospectively.

TTF is working with all industry partners across the supply chain – WPA, BWF, STA and TRADA – on a range of projects to help inform this debate, including a public affairs campaign. This is putting us in active, ongoing dialogue with all key Ministerial departments as well as key local authority stakeholders such as GLA and Local Government Association, to ensure our voice is heard in this debate.

We will continue to lobby for the acceptance of timber as a vital structural and cladding material as per our consultation response. There is still a lot of work to do as the argument is far from being resolved. Ministers often make over inflated statements at party conference, but this does not mean the policy is enacted quite as described.

We will keep you updated on progress and lay out more detailed information as to what we are doing as a joined up industry supply chain to help ensure we keep growing the market for timber.

 

[News URL: http://cti-timber.org/content/cti-blog-debate-combustible-cladding-ban-still-open-despite-inflated-political-statements]

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