CTI Blog

CTI Blog - The 4 wonders of the timber industry

This guest blog post is by Andrzej Manka, Sales Manager at Timber Expo.

 

When we think of innovative sectors, the timber industry probably isn’t the first that springs to mind. Many believe this industry is very traditional, conservative and reluctant to change.

In a word - die-hard! This is especially true when you compare it with other industries: new tech or finance for example, not to mention AI. In our ultra-modern world, we appreciate constant growth, astonishing productivity and impressive innovation above all else.

But this stereotype doesn’t match with the reality; the timber industry is now up there at the top of UK and international innovation lists. Admittedly, these represent only a small minority of timber companies, but their success gives the industry dynamics and makes it the leading power in the whole construction business.

As Daniel Kahneman states in his brilliant book “Thinking, Fast and Slow”, stereotypical and simplified thinking is a characteristic for the “Fast system” of thinking, the type we use to understand something immediately and without any unnecessary effort. This way of thinking and making sense of the world evoke an image of the timber industry as rather backward, and poor in innovation. However, there is a second way of thinking, the “Slow system,” which enables us to go through all important details and deal with the more complex issues.

When you take the time to study the timber industry, as I have been doing for the past 11 months, you will discover so many astonishing and innovative projects in the industry that you’ll likely fall in love in timber quite easily. Not to mention that wood is beautiful, and makes our homes and offices so much more aesthetic, natural and trendy.

“A timber revolution is in the air.” - this is the first sentence of the description of the fantastic exhibition in Roca London Gallery.

“Construction heading towards a 'timber revolution” - proclaims another exciting headline from a video published by BBC

Alex de Rijke, of dRMM described wood to be the new concrete: “Concrete is a 20th-century material. Steel is a 19th-century material. Wood is a 21st-century material.”

Timber is becoming the leading material in construction industry in the UK and is nearly 30% of the whole construction projects.

The value of the timber industry to the British economy is £7 billion.

So let’s have a look at the four wonders of the timber industry. They are not really “wonders” in a literal sense; they are actually the result of creative, courageous and hard working timber specialists. This is, of course, a very subjective (dare I say even controversial?) list of “Four wonders.” It’s more like an invitation for us to discuss certain achievements in the timber industry. 

One other thing- this list list contains different categories like technology, production, and architecture. Maybe it’s a bit risky to compare projects that belong to different science or business activities, but let’s try. 

 

1. Transparent wood

Invented first in 1992 by German researcher Siegfried Fink and then, independently developed by Professor Lars Berglund. This Swedish KTH research group, led by Professor Liangbing Hu from The University of Maryland, have elaborated a method to remove the color and some chemicals from wood. Thanks to that, the wood becomes 90% transparent. Potential application of this invention is very far-reaching and the wood could be used in construction, interior design and even the car industry.

 

2. Engineered wood

On the image above you can see an example Cross-laminated-timber housing in east London; “a 10-storey carbon-neutral apartment complex in London's Dalston, the "world's largest cross-laminated timber building".

Engineered wood technologies are what makes the timber & construction industry so dynamically developing and profitable. The most used in the construction industry are plywood, fibreboard, cross-laminated timber (CLT), laminated strand lumber, and many more. Because of the use of these timber products, it’s been predicted many times during the last decade that timber will be the main building material in XXI century.

 

3. Timber skyscrapers

At the moment, the world’s tallest timber building is a 14-storey apartment block in Bergen, Norway. However, we are expecting a lot of new timber skyscrapers in the UK, USA, Europe and Asia in future. One of the advanced projects that should be started very soon is an 80-storey, 300m high wooden building integrated within the Barbican (on the image above). Around 1,000 new flats will be build in this impressive 93,000-square-metre timber skyscraper project.

Timber skyscrapers are not only stunning examples of strong “timber trends” in contemporary architecture, but they also bring sustainable development to big cities, as well as reducing carbon emissions.

 

4. Museum Globe of Science and Innovation

Are you familiar with the history of the Internet? If so, you’ll know that Tim Berners Lee invented the World Wide Web when he worked in The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) based in Geneva, Switzerland. The same organization has built the Globe of Science and Innovation, a fine example of outstanding construction. The museum of modern technology, made of wood, is a perfect concept. It creates a very special atmosphere for those who wants to stop for a moment and contemplate the nature of technological innovation.

 

There are so many more impressive wooden wonders of the world! You can find literally hundreds of great examples. One of my favorites is The Splinter, a wooden sports car with a twin-supercharged 4.6 litre V8.

Not to mention an interesting initiative from Metsa, one of the world’s leading timber companies. They have just started the Open Source Wood initiative, a project to encourage innovation and the sharing of knowledge inside the timber industry. Metsä Wood’s Executive Vice President, Esa Kaikkonen, explains why the project was established: “Not enough knowledge about modular wood design and building is shared, so wood construction remains niche. There is plenty of innovation but it is difficult to find, so Open Source Wood is our solution. We believe that with open collaboration the industry can achieve significant growth.”

There is still many ways in which the timber industry can evolve, but there is no doubt that the timber revolution has already started and it looks very exciting!

 

[News URL: http://cti-timber.org/content/cti-blog-4-wonders-timber-industry]

CTI Blog - Why the latest reset of environmental policy could be good for woodworking

This guest blog post is by Matthew Mahony, Policy and Communications Executive at the British Woodworking Federation (BWF). It originally appeared on the BWF website.

 

Although it’s been overshadowed by more immediate concerns such as the collapse of Carillion, last week the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs launched its much anticipated its 25-Year Environment Plan, a document that could have major implications for the UK timber industry.

The plan sits alongside both the Industrial Strategy and the Clean Growth Strategy and identifies key areas around which policy will be focused, including increasing resource efficiency and reducing pollution and waste.

 

Why government should believe in being braver

With the new Plan and the recent Clean Growth Strategy(*), we’re seeing a government that is again dipping its toe into the water on environmental issues. And why not? There is a clear public mandate to adopt an ambitious agenda on environmental sustainability. It’s a genuine cross party issue which is supported by polling data that there is substantial support to strengthen current environmental regulations in the wake of Brexit.

Although the championing of a ‘Green Brexit’ and a ‘Blue Planet PM’ is a little insincere, there will be opportunities to retain ‘the good stuff’ in strategy terms if no longer in name. This would include the popular EU Timber Regulation which was the stated reason why David Cameron’s government stopped short of new criminal offences under UK law for the import and possession of illegal timber.

If the government decides to convert public support for our green and pleasant land into real political capital, Brexit could provide an opportunity to loosen the shackles of existing state aid rules. Taxation incentives for sustainable products could support businesses doing things the right way and avoid endemic short-termism, a big problem in a construction industry tasked with delivering 300,000 extra homes per year by the middle of the next decade and addressing the issue of a leaky existing building stock.

 

So what of the plan?

The plan itself is certainly lightweight – essentially a list of ‘good things’ which doesn’t go far enough. It’s not far off being at home on Buzzfeed, but in an era when government thinking on sustainability seems stuck between ambivalence and opportunism, it’s encouraging to see a renewed commitment to basics such as tackling climate change, promoting recycling and protecting the forests - even the elusive Great Crested Newt gets a mention.

Many of these aims have clear benefits for woodworking and the use of wood products over less sustainable alternatives, not least the targets to achieve zero avoidable plastic waste, maximise the benefits of the UK’s woodlands, protect international forests and support zero-deforestation supply chains.

There is also a recognition that market forces alone are often insufficient in recognising the social, economic and environmental gains from the better deployment of resources, materials and products.

 

Natural capitalism

Perhaps most encouraging of all within the plan is the reaffirmation of the Industrial Strategy pledge to support a Natural Capital approach. This will help account for the true value of England’s wood and forests. As well as reflecting more of the wellbeing benefits of a wood culture, the approach accounts for Carbon sequestration – the process by which trees lock-up and store carbon from the atmosphere - and a measurement that can better indicate the true worth of the products we make.

In my opinion, if government is to adopt a long term plan, then this is a good start but we need something akin to an Environmental Constitution to give more robust protection from the type of mercurial decision making that we’ve seen on issues including Fixed-term parliaments and selling off Britain’s forests.

 

How soon is now?

Where the government’s intentions fall short for me is that setting up a long term plan is all very good but there needs to be more of a sense of urgency across the board. If we are to get millions of new homes within the next decade as the government hopes, then we don’t want inefficient, leaky houses stuffed with single use plastics - we need to address today’s problems today and setting the framework for this can’t wait, especially as hitting the reset button on such issues has cost valuable time.

We want to see millions less deliveries during construction, millions of tonnes of CO2 taken from the atmosphere and stored in the built environment and millions less tonnes of hazardous legacy materials. It should be a no-brainer that large construction projects must be mandated to account for social value and sustainability and are required to use materials that are sustainable and responsibly sourced. NB: in the wake of the Carillion debacle, it’s easy to forget that the three elements of sustainable development that government should now account for in the built environment are social, environmental and economic sustainability.

To bring the plan forward, government also needs to be more open to new initiatives and drivers, particularly within construction. There are some great innovations out there, not least those that BWF and its timber industry colleagues have been working on and those coming from Europe and North America.

Although there are too many to list, promising initiatives close to home include Powys County Council’s Homegrown Homes initiative and its Wood Encouragement Policy aimed at supporting forestry and product manufacturing, retaining and creating new jobs and building better, and more energy efficient houses.

If we want real progress by 2022 rather than 2042, now is the time to start acting on solutions. I can think of a good place to begin

 

(*) Read the CTI response to the Clean Growth Strategy here

[News URL: http://cti-timber.org/content/why-latest-reset-environmental-policy-could-be-good-woodworking]

CTI Blog - What does the construction industry want from its timber suppliers?

This guest blog post is by Charlie Law, Managing Director at Sustainable Construction Solutions. This article was previously published in the TRADA Timber 2017 Industry Yearbook.

 

The UK consumes circa 16 million m3 of sawn wood and panel products annually, the vast majority of which is believed to be used either directly or indirectly by the construction industry. But is the timber industry giving construction industry customers what they want with regard to sustainability?

This will probably depend on who you are talking to within the supply chain, but according to some senior sustainability managers from a number of major contractors, there are some fundamental requirements that must be met. The primary concern (other than getting the right timber on site at the right time) is that it must be from a verifiable legal and sustainable source.

For legality, this will need to meet the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation. However, when talking about sustainability, contractors are not just looking at the environmental issues, such as ensuring the timber is harvested from forests that will be replanted, they are looking to ensure the wider social and economic issues are also met. Associated with this is local sourcing, which is becoming a key requirement for a number of construction clients. There are also the issues of resource efficiency, and alternative and innovative new products and how these may perform over time in a given situation.

 

Responsible sourcing

Members of the UK Contractors Group (UKCG, now part of Build UK) have previously issued procurement wording stating that: ‘All timber products purchased for either temporary or permanent inclusion in the works on UKCG member sites shall be legally and sustainably sourced, as defined by the former UK Government Central Point of Expertise on Timber (CPET).’ Many contractors have qualified this by stating that they will only accept timber that has full chain of custody via a third-party certification scheme that meets the requirements of CPET. CPET requires that any approved scheme must meet its full range of sustainability requirements, such as:

  • forest management planning to reduce net deforestation and restrict land use changes
  • minimising harm to ecosystems including protection of soil, water and biodiversity, and
  • control on the use of chemicals and correct disposal of waste.

CPET also ensures traditional tenure and use rights are observed, consulting and working with indigenous populations who rely on the forest, labour rights (freedom of association, elimination of forced or child labour and discrimination), health and safety of workers, training, grievances and disputes. At the time of writing, CPET has only approved the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) schemes as being compliant with its requirements, achieving almost identical scores in the latest review from 2015.

In addition to these minimum requirements, many clients and contractors have specific project or company requirements that could include an FSC-only policy or a requirement for FSC or PEFC project certification. For example, some clients and contractors are members of the World Wide Fund for Nature Global Forest & Trade Network, which promotes the use of FSC-certified wood.

 

Local sourcing

Another key requirement in recent years has been the move by contractors, in many cases at the request of the client driven in part by the Social Value Act, for more locally sourced products and services. The UKCG procurement statement was redrafted to include this the additional requirement: ‘We will give preference to schemes that support the principles of the Social Value Act, eg the use of timber and timber products which are assured as “Grown in Britain”’ and this was published on the Grown in Britain website. The majority of UKCG members subsequently signed up to support the Grown in Britain campaign and procure British grown timber where feasible. Grown in Britain also forms part of the social value assessment carried out by the Considerate Constructors Scheme.

Grown in Britain is a not-for-profit organisation that is trying to reconnect the British public and business to our woodlands and the timber resources it can provide. According to the Forestry Commission Timber Utilisation Statistics 2015 Report, only around 15% of the sawn softwood the construction industry uses is sourced from the UK, and although there are no specific figures for hardwood used in construction, the Forestry Commission Statistics 2016 state that UK sourced hardwood made up less than 10% of the total hardwood market. Therefore individuals and organisations must insist on using Grown in Britain timber wherever practicable to improve these statistics.

The Grown in Britain licencing scheme (GiB) is a chain of custody scheme that confirms the provenance of timber, and is specifically aimed at timber grown in the UK and products manufactured from this timber, as well as the woodlands. In most cases it will sit alongside a product’s FSC or PEFC chain of custody certification, but in certain circumstances, such as where there is a requirement to source timber from a particular local woodland, it can also act as an assurance of legality and sustainability. The key requirement of a GiB licensed woodland is that it meets the requirements of the UK Forestry Standard (UKFS). Timber traceable to a forest with a fully implemented forest management plan in line with the UKFS requirements and guidelines also meets the UK Government’s Timber Procurement Policy.

 

Circular economy

With more focus on the circular economy, and the associated resource efficiency, clients and contractors are also looking to incorporate more reused and recycled material into their projects. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation describes the circular economy as “one that is restorative and regenerative by design, and which aims to keep products, components and materials at their highest utility and value at all times, distinguishing between technical and biological cycles.” Although timber is the construction industry’s ultimate renewable resource, this does not mean it should be sent out as biomass for energy production, or worse landfill, after its first use. Many timber components can be either reused in their original form or recycled into new materials such as chipboard, keeping them at their highest utility and value.

There are a number of reuse organisations that will collect unwanted timber from construction sites and timber processors for reuse. One of these is the National Community Wood Recycling Project (NCWRP), which is a social enterprise that has been promoted by many in the construction industry as it helps to create sustainable employment for local people, especially those who might find it difficult to get into employment.

FSC and PEFC both have allowances within their schemes to cater for recycled content within a product. Ensuring products containing recycled timber materials are certified to one or more of these schemes helps to demonstrate that resource efficiency has been considered in the manufacturing process.

The timber industry should also be looking at how its products could be easily removed and reused at the end of their service life. This could be removable hoarding panels that may only be in place for a few months, or floorboards that could be in place for a lot longer.

 

Timber delivery documentation

For contractors receiving deliveries on a construction site, the key to confirming whether a product is FSC or PEFC certified (or Grown in Britain licensed) is the delivery ticket. All the above schemes require a minimum amount of information, including the claim and the certificate number, to be noted on both the delivery ticket and the invoice. However, all too often timber, or more likely timber products, turn up on site without this minimum information on the delivery ticket. This needs to be addressed by the wider construction supply chain to ensure full chain of custody is maintained throughout the supply chain. In addition, one thing contractors would really like to see on delivery tickets is the volume of product (preferably against each item, but a total volume would be useful as a minimum) as this aids with the reporting required for project certification and industry monitoring.

 

Educating the wider construction supply chain

Where timber merchants, who generally meet the documentation requirements, are supplying materials to manufacturers they know are supplying into the construction industry, but they are not part of the timber industry (for example, lift cars contain a surprising amount of timber and panel products), it would be great if they could impart their knowledge on chain of custody and its requirements; this is something the Timber Trade Federation is looking at. In addition, the Supply Chain Sustainability School has some useful online training modules on chain of custody and what is required, produced in association with Exova BM TRADA, which can all be accessed free of charge.

 

Alternative products

There will, however, always be situations where it may not be possible to obtain a specified product with the right sustainability requirements, for example plywood is not manufactured in the UK, so a Grown in Britain plywood product would not be obtainable at this time. This is where the knowledge of the timber industry should really come to the fore, by suggesting alternative products that may suit a client’s requirements. For example, it may be possible to use an OSB board instead of plywood, as this would be available from a home-grown source.

Linked to this is the rise of modified wood products such as acetylated timber (for example, Accoya®) and thermally modified products (Brimstone and ThermoWood®). These are now increasingly being specified for external applications in lieu of other timber species due to their improved resistance to insect and fungal attack.

Where there is any doubt as to the proper application of a timber product, the contractor can always be referred to TRADA for their expert opinion. Call the TRADA Advisory line on 01494 569601.

 

[News URL: http://cti-timber.org/content/cti-blog-what-does-construction-industry-want-its-timber-suppliers]

CTI Blog - Offsite timber construction has a major role to play in tackling UK Housing Crisis

This blog post is by Andrew Carpenter, Chief Executive of the Structural Timber Association (STA) and Member of the CTI Board of Directors.

 

Through discussion, debate and demonstration, the Government appears to have made the connection between construction and manufacturing and we have foreseen great potentialities within the ‘Industrial Strategy’ for offsite construction to play a significant part in delivering more homes to meet the shortfall in housing stock.

The Confederation of Timber Industries and the STA firmly believe that offsite timber construction is a great opportunity to reach the specified target of one million homes by 2020. With four out of five new homes in Scotland built using structural timber together with much of the housing volume in Canada, the US and Europe – we know that offsite timber solutions deliver.

In the main it will address many Government concerns associated with public procurement of housing including speed of build, environmental impact, lifetime energy efficiency and cost performance. These factors are not only of benefit to Government plans but to the wider construction industry. Cost savings, speed of build, faster return on capital outlay, reduction in waste, improved health and safety - are just some of the benefits of offsite timber construction. Add to this the unrivalled capacity and availability of materials within a robust supply chain combined with a sector that is quick to respond and it’s a clear choice.

Innovation in the structural timber product range has broadened the appeal, driven by intelligent and integrated construction solutions. We can demonstrate how easy, practical and efficiently projects can be completed, having a direct impact on transforming communities, while conveying the dynamic and fast-moving pace of the sector and the excitement that can be engendered when delivering innovative construction methods. 

UK manufacturers of structural timber components have a major role to play. We are geared for capacity, have the skills and materials to respond quickly and the experience to create a world-class offsite manufacturing sector in the UK. Current capacity is typically run on a single day shift only, making increases in output by multi-shifting relatively easy to do. Assuming full year outputs the sector can deliver around 150,000 units in 2020/2021, up from around 80,000 in 2017/2018.

I’ve never known such unified agreement that offsite construction is the solution - there is acceptance at pretty much every Government level, national, regional and local, that offsite is what is needed. The time is right for the construction industry to embrace innovative offsite timber technology and develop better buildings at a rapid rate to meet Government targets, to overcome the shortfall in housing stock, while delivering energy efficient buildings in a cost-effective quality manner.

 

[News URL: http://cti-timber.org/content/cti-blog-offsite-timber-construction-has-major-role-play]

CIT Blog - Keeping reputation through responsible sourcing

This blog post is by TTF Managing Director and Member of CTI Board of Directors David Hopkins. It originally featured in the CTI Newsletter Winter 2017-18.

 

The recent legal cases concerning breaches of the European Timber Regulation (EUTR), in the UK and in Holland, are a stark reminder of the timber sector’s obligations in moral and legal terms. The two cases involved companies at different points of the supply chain, with differing cases against them, and markedly differing levels of punishment.

The first involved high street furniture chain Lombok. It was charged with not having conducted sufficient due diligence over the importation of a single item of furniture – a sideboard from India. There was no allegation that the item itself contained illegally harvested material. The charge was simply that insufficient due diligence had been conducted to confidently state it was of “negligible risk” – a clear legal requirement before placing goods on the market.

The second case, in Holland, did involve illegally harvested material. The Dutch authorities have ruled that Boogaerdt Hout placed illegally sourced teak from Myanmar onto the market. The company has been given two months to clear the material out of its supply chain or face fines of EUR20,000 per cubic metre. This follows a similar case in Sweden last year concerning Teak from Myanmar.

Both show the importance of conducting strict due diligence throughout timber supply chains. Without this in place how can one safely say there is, or is not, “negligible risk” to the materials we place on the market.

If we cannot say there is negligible risk, then we cannot say the timber we are selling is safe, and the reputation of the entire timber sector is called into question. In the minds of much of the public all timber is the same. Even Kevin McCloud made this mistake with his comments at UK Construction Week, despite the construction sector largely being served by certified European timber.

The real crime here though is that, as 21st century business regulation goes, compliance with the EUTR is relatively straightforward. It is a flexible, business friendly approach which allows companies to make their own judgements on their own supply chains. It doesn’t prevent trade, it enables it on a level playing field basis.

It’s why we are lobbying the Government to maintain the EUTR post-Brexit, and through the CTI’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Timber Industries, have got several politicians to ask questions in the house confirming the government’s future commitment.

We want to keep the reputation of the timber sector very high. The way to do that is to engage fully with the process of due diligence, make it simple and effective and be proud to demonstrate and articulate what we’re doing. The TTF will be reviewing its own Responsible Purchasing Policy (RPP) processes and mechanisms again in 2018 and working with Government and the Timber Industries APPG to ensure that regulation is something that we help design ourselves, rather than something which is imposed.

 

[News URL: http://cti-timber.org/content/cit-blog-keeping-reputation-through-responsible-sourcing]