CTI Blog

CTI Blog - What do you need to know about Formaldehyde?

This guest blog is by Ian Rochester, Technical Manager at the Wood Panel industries Federation. It originally appeared on the BWF Blog.

 

Every now and then we get asked about ‘Formaldehyde’ and mostly it’s in relation to compliance with a specific requirement or from a concerned user or specifier in relation to health impacts. In this piece I will try to explain what the current state of knowledge is and what the future is likely to be.

Formaldehyde is a naturally occurring colourless chemical composed of Hydrogen, Oxygen and Carbon.  Formaldehyde is quickly broken down by sunlight and bacteria in soil and it does not accumulate in the environment. As well as occurring naturally in the environment and being essential to life, formaldehyde is also synthesised for use in manufacturing.  It is a compound that provides functionality for the manufacture of plastics and polymers. One of its most common applications is as an intermediate component of some adhesive resins/binders and in this regard its use in the manufacture of wood-based panels has been widespread.  

 

Understanding the impacts

As an intermediate compound, most of the formaldehyde used in binders is converted to other stable compounds by chemical reactions, but there can be some residual ‘free formaldehyde’ that can be emitted. It is the concentration of free formaldehyde released from products that has given rise to safety concerns over the past three decades. Over this period however research, product innovation and regulation have all helped to enhance understanding about impacts and also control. Importantly it is known that, formaldehyde has a threshold concentration below which no harm will occur. In both the workplace and in products, formaldehyde exposure can be controlled to well below those safe levels. 

There is a lot of information out there on formaldehyde - some scientific and some is no more than opinion (and some which is completely erroneous) - which makes it difficult to form an opinion on at a glance. The World Health Organization (WHO) have made assessments (and reassessed in 2010) to provide guidance on a safe indoor air concentration for the general population and, as I write, formaldehyde is currently going through the most thorough assessment ever undertaken as part of the REACH regulation (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation & Restriction of Chemicals). The substance evaluation process assesses all the relevant scientific information available from across the world and draws conclusions on how to manage the risks which in the case of formaldehyde will be occupational and consumer exposure limits.

From an occupational health and safety point of view, the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Occupational Exposure Limits (SCOEL) has recommended an OEL of  0.6ppm STEL and 0.3ppm 8hr TWA*. If as expected this becomes a binding limit, then even in spite of BREXIT, it is highly probable that the current UK OEL of 2ppm will be amended.

 

Product emissions and indoor air quality

In terms of product emissions and indoor air, in Europe there are currently two formaldehyde classes for wood-based panels, namely E1 and E2.  E1 is 0.124 mg/m3 (0.1 ppm) concentration in a test chamber and E2 is an open ended class for any product higher than E1. The WHO recommended safe concentration limit in indoor air is 0.1 mg/m3 (rounded down from 0.12mg/m3) and recent studies have shown that buildings, including low energy new builds, have formaldehyde levels lower than half the WHO recommended limit. Let’s not forget, the WHO limit has a factor of safety of 5 included from where sensory irritation occurs therefore making sure it’s safe.

There is concern that the E2 class could result in an indoor air concentration higher than the WHO limit because E2 has no upper limit, this is why WPIF members and European Panel Federation member manufacturers do not produce E2 boards and haven’t done so since 2007 and many stopped making it before that. The European Commission has resisted the European wood-based panel industry’s call to remove the E2 class but until eventually removed, industry bodies should continue to insist that E2 products are not specified.

EN Standards and regulations have set the tone across Europe but elsewhere there are requirements that may vary from those in Europe that have to be met if exporting to those countries or particular certification schemes. Notably laws like CARB in California (soon to be US Federal Law), or specific scheme’s requirements like the Blue Angel, BREEAM, LEED etc… most of which approach the subject in slightly different ways. 

The modernised manufacturing techniques used by manufacturers across Europe along with advances in resin development have transformed the way panels are produced such that our members can supply products that meet such demands, from zero added formaldehyde products to ultra-low emitting products that meet both the technical needs in terms of strength characteristics and that of very low formaldehyde emissions.

 

*ppm = Parts Per Million
STEL = Short Term Exposure Limit
TWA = Time Weighted Average

 

[News URL: http://www.cti-timber.org/content/cti-blog-what-do-you-need-know-about-formaldehyde]

CTI Blog - It’s time for a holistic approach to Fire Safety problem

This guest blog post is by David Oldfield, Chairman of BWF Fire Door Scheme and Head of Joinery at Arnold Laver

 

The stories we hear about Grenfell Tower are concerning and the BWF team has been working tirelessly since the tragedy to provide the necessary support and advice to those involved and ensure that corrective action is timely and efficient.

Fire doors are in every building that we live in, work in and sleep in, but they are often overlooked, ignored and allowed to slip into a sorry state.

Many people do not realise that the real job of a fire door is to hold back fire, smoke and toxic gases, delaying the spread around a building and keeping the vital means of escape route clear. They only work properly if they are specified, manufactured, installed and maintained correctly, and of course, closed when a fire breaks out.

Fire Door Safety Week investigations have pointed to an endemic fire safety problem in this type of housing stock and many other residential, recreational, leisure, healthcare and educational buildings.

It is sadly not uncommon to see buildings without fire doors, no emergency lighting or signage on doors and escape routes, broken fire rated glass, wedged-open fire doors, poor fire stopping around service hatches that breach compartmentation, no intumescent or smoke seals in fire doors, rubbish and combustible material left in the common areas.

In the catalogue of issues that the full investigation will reveal, it is clear that there are systemic failures that need to be looked at. We must look for quick wins, but take a holistic approach to active and passive options to ensure that we can all live, recover, work, learn and play in relative safety.

Our hope is not simply that full and comprehensive inspections and risk assessments happen now, but that their recommendations are acted upon quickly, and that the regulatory framework is addressed and policed with suitable resource to ensure we don’t simply create a hiatus and allow matters to drift back to the reprehensible state they are now in.

We also reiterate our call for a Register of Responsible Persons so that the responsible person is not a mystery person lurking in the shadows, but must be front and centre so that people know where to take their problems.

By identifying the responsible person by name and providing the appropriate contact details, residents and building users are empowered to raise problems. This also ensures that those responsible for keeping them safe are made aware of issues directly. This doesn’t do away with the need for fire risk assessments, but supplements an effective process by harnessing the crowd to stay vigilant.

 

More info:

See Best Practice To Refurbishing Fire Doors Guide here

See pecialist advice on fire doors in social housing produced for Fire Door Safety Week here

 

[News URL: http://cti-timber.org/content/cti-blog-it%E2%80%99s-time-holistic-approach-fire-safety-problem]

CTI Blog - Offsite: If it's not a System, then It's not a Solution

This guest blog post is by Gerard McCaughey, CEO of Entekra Inc

 

In Europe wood frame construction market adoption varies widely from virtually 100% in Scandinavia to 70% in Scotland and about 30% in Ireland and many other central and western European countries. However, what is common in all the countries, where wood frame is used, is that virtually all of it is constructed using an off site construction (OSC) system.

Most of the customers in Europe, whether they are builder/developers or custom home end users, understand the benefits that off site systems (OSC) can deliver in terms of speed, efficiency, quality, energy efficiency and sustainability. It would virtually be as alien to a European to stick build a wood frame house, as it would be to buy a new car and have every single component shipped to your front yard and have a couple of local mechanics come out in a pick up truck with welding equipment and pneumatic tools to build the car. You simply wouldn't dream of it.

Why ignore that 100 years of innovation and progress

Yet in the US market this is exactly how wood framed houses are built, without taking advantage of the last century of innovation and ignoring the benefits of computers, modern automation or factory controlled conditions and quality systems. The real question is Why?

Really the question is better phrased as why have off site solutions not been more widely adopted by the US construction industry?

Off Site System providers not component manufacturers

A large part of the reason is due to the nature of the "off site" industry in the US. In Europe and other parts of the world, the off site companies are part of a dedicated off site industry and categorically see themselves as offsite system providers and not as component manufacturers. In fact the term component is hardly ever used by the off site industry outside the US as the off site companies realize that the customer is not interested in purchasing components but rather is seeking a solution. The so called components are merely an output and form elements of a system which is a solution to the problem the builder wants addressed. They are not the raison d'être of the off site company.

Off Site benefits come from an integrated approach

Until there are dedicated Fully Integrated Off Site System providers it will be very difficult for the builder/developer to gain meaningful benefits and for off site solutions to gain a bigger share of the framing market. One of the major obstacles to this is the requirement for an experienced in house engineering team, as off site solutions will always be compromised if they are forced to use engineering that was designed for stick framing.

In particular, design, engineering and manufacturing of Pre Fabricated Floor Cassettes (PFC) requires a lot of internal engineering expertise. PFC's are are a critical element of off site construction in the multi-story , multi-family and light commercial markets. Engineering for maximum off site efficiency requires a detailed in depth knowledge of factory manufacturing techniques, structural engineering and the off site building process and connection detailing including sequencing and materials selection.

Until those in the industry with a genuine interest and vision for the potential of the "off site industry" realize that they need to become more than just component manufacturers and instead act as off site system/solution providers and resource themselves accordingly, the industry will fail to reach its potential, despite the the labor shortage, which is forcing builders to look for new solutions.

True off site companies are solution focused businesses that happen to manufacture components as an output of an integrated system that's purpose is to facilitate the fast track construction of a building utilizing both labor and material efficiency. Off site companies may manufacture components but they are not component manufacturers!

 

*Gerard McCaughey is Chief Executive of Entekra Inc, a firm specializing in design, engineering and manufacturing of Fully Integrated Off Site Solutions™ (FIOSS™) for homebuilding industry. Mr. McCaughey previously co-founded Century Homes, Europe’s largest offsite building manufacturing company producing over 8000 house units annually, with five plants in Ireland and UK, which he sold in 2005 to Kingspan Group Plc. He is regarded in Europe as being one of the leading figures in off site construction and green building movement, and was at the forefront of regulatory reform in both Ireland and Britain. He has acted as an off site construction consultant in Eastern Europe, United States and South Africa and has spoken and written about green and offsite construction in many other countries around the world and is a previous winner of Ernst and Young’s, Industry Entrepreneur of the Year Award and recognized by US Immigration Service as a "Person of Extraordinary Ability" in green and offsite construction.

 

[News URL: http://cti-timber.org/content/cti-blog-offsite-if-its-not-system-then-its-not-solution]

CTI Blog - Renewed CTI looks at 2017 with confidence

This blog post is by David Hopkins, CTI Director and Managing Director of the Timber Trade Federation (TTF)

This feature also appeared on the Structural Timber Magazine, Spring 2017 edition

 

2017 is set to be a great year for the Confederation of Timber Industries (CTI).

Thanks to an internal reorganisation and a revamped strategy, the Confederation has already started to intensify its initiatives with the aim of growing the UK Timber Industry.

As announced in an Industry Manifesto last autumn, CTI’s backbone now includes major trade associations such as the British Woodworking Federation (BWF), the Builders Merchants Federation, the Structural Timber Association (STA) and the Timber Trade Federation (TTF) offering their support and expertise.

These four organisations – in collaboration with major companies and the All Party Parliamentary Group for Timber Industries – are called upon to promote collaboration, share best practise and promote the Timber Industry case to key policy makers.

The first demonstration of the new CTI strategy was unveiled through a seminar held at the House of Commons in February 2017. Focused on the Housing White Paper issued by the Government and promoted by the Structural Timber Association (STA) and the Timber Industries APPG, the event showed how Offsite Timber Frame Construction could represent an effective and proven solution to meeting housing demand.

Industry figures show that the current production capacity is around 100,000 units per year and could easily scale up to 150,000 given the right policy frameworks.

In that occasion, Stewart Dalgarno, Director of Product Development at Stewart Milne Group clearly stated: “Housing is arguably the biggest social issue of our times, and a huge economic opportunity. The timber industry already has the capacity to help meet this demand and is already delivering around 60,000 units per year using proven offsite construction methods. This is not something for the future, we’re doing this now.”

However, to fully realise the potential of delivering over 150,000 offsite timber frame units per year by 2020 a more certain and long term commitment and policy framework is needed, along with an improved and widespread understanding of the benefits of using wood in construction.

A major step in that direction was taken just few weeks later, when the CTI joined forces with Wood for Good at Ecobuild 2017 to showcase the natural advantages of working with wood to develop sustainable communities and a low carbon economy.

For three days, experts from the Structural Timber Association, British Woodworking Federation, Timber Trade Federation, TRADA and Wood for Good were on hand to answer queries about this rapidly growing section of the construction market.

The CTI / Wood For Good joint stand also hosted two successful initiatives: the launch of the BWF Life Cycle Assessments through the new BRE LINA tool and the presentation of the new guide on the ‘Robustness of CLT Structures’ produced by the Structural Timber Association (STA).

The event clearly showed how a coordinated and targeted approach across the UK Timber Industry can help again put the sector in the spotlight.

With this in mind, the Confederation is going to undertake several tailored initiatives throughout 2017. The next project will be led by the British Woodworking Federation and focused on Apprenticeships and Skills. The seminar – to take place again at the House of Commons in Autumn 2017 – will see the participation of policy makers, Industry leaders and Sector experts.

In Winter, it will be the turn of the Timber Trade Federation (TTF), called to organise and coordinate a debate on Sustainability and Quality of Standards across the whole Timber Supply Chain.

As underlined by many commentators, the 21st Century is definitely emerging as the Timber Age and what the Timber Industries need is a mouthpiece to push this message forward.

Well, the CTI is ready to play the role.

 

[News URL: http://cti-timber.org/content/cti-blog-renewed-cti-looks-2017-confidence]

CTI Blog - Values and Value: getting the message right 

This guest blog post is by Dougal Driver, CEO of Grown in Britain

 

This November will see the 800th anniversary of the 1217 Charter of the Forest, which enshrined rights to royal forest access for ‘free men’ of the time. A modern day Tree Charter has been created for the anniversary, aiming to reaffirm the connection between Britain’s people and its forests through ten principles.

These  include recognizing economic and employment potential alongside the roles of conservation, health and wellbeing that forests can provide. Of greatest concern to us at Grown in Britain is that society comes to value the right trees for the right reasons.

British timber was formerly seen by timber traders and distributors as a somewhat poor relation to imported stock. After massive investment by all the big producers across Britain in the last 20 years, that perception is now well out of date. Some of the big mills here in the UK operate at a standard certainly equal to, if not slightly ahead of, major mills in other parts of northern Europe. Kilning and quality control, and greater availability, have contributed to British timber representing just shy of 40% of the UK’s timber usage by volume in 2015, according to the latest TTF statistics. British timber’s economic value is therefore undisputed.  

The language used in many other forums where trees are discussed, however, still shows a gap in public understanding, which we must all work harder to close. Forest cover is talked of as being ‘lost’, with the implication that it’s ‘gone forever’, and trees are still talked of as being ‘cut down’, with its derogatory implications, rather than ‘harvested’. Grown in Britain is starting to tackle some of these perceptions, but we need the whole timber industry’s help in doing so. 

At home, at social gatherings, or even when taking family and children for walks, we should all play our part in helping others to understand that, for example, trees for harvesting and trees as valued habitats can exist in close quarter. We need to ‘normalise’ this concept of trees being harvested and replanted wherever we go in life, if the raw material that sustains our industry is not to be erroneously valued and our industry wrongly targeted by public opinion. British wood producers and an increasing number of timber merchants are choosing to highlight positively their connection with sustainable British timber through the Grow in Britain licensing scheme. 

The right to access forests for recreation, health and wellbeing, plus the benefits of doing so, and the environmental outcomes that forests support, are rightly valued by all. Where effort is needed is to dovetail these sentiments with industry’s capability to maintain such societal values alongside undertaking economic harvesting and production.  

We hope CTI supporters and stakeholders will all sign up to the Tree Charter principles. At the same time, we hope you’ll also help Grown in Britain to underline the economic value of our forests and woodlands by supporting more British producers, and bringing more British-grown timber into your supply chains.  

It’s the only way to ensure that values and value can co-exist sustainably for the future. 

 

[News URL: http://cti-timber.org/content/cti-blog-values-and-value-getting-message-right]

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