Industry News

Finland's tallest wooden building works set to start in spring

Construction of the The Lighthouse, the tallest wooden building in Finland, is scheduled to start in April-May 2017.

The 14-storey building - projected by Arcadia Architects Ltd - will be located close to the center of Joensuu in Carelia. It will provide 117 apartments. 

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BWF State of Trade Survey: Business rates among main concerns for woodworking manufacturers

The British Woodworking Federation (BWF) has issued the results of its Joinery State of Trade Survey Q4 2016.

The consultation shows that the benefits of increased joinery sales are being balanced out by inflationary pressures such as wages and the impact of exchange rates on raw material costs.

With business rates changes set to hit many joinery companies from April, the balance of respondents reported that rates for their current property would increase as a result of the recent revaluations, with almost one third expecting an increase of over 5%.

BWF Policy & Communications Executive Matt Mahony commented on the state of the joinery industry and the business rates changes: “With the cost of doing business a concern for many in our sector, we surveyed what the consequences of the Business Rates Revaluations would be and were concerned to find that almost a third of respondents indicated an incoming business rates increase of over 5 percent. The high street may have been a major focus of the ‘business rates revolt’, but further cost rises for our industry are unpalatable. There are undoubtedly companies that will benefit from the changes, but on balance our industry looks to be getting a bad deal from the revaluations – this is especially galling as we have long campaigned for low energy manufacturers to be incentivised and it makes no sense to include plant and machinery in rateable value when trying to drive investment and job creation.

“Looking at the rest of the survey, on the whole we saw a stable, although by no means easy quarter for the woodworking industry. Sales volumes had increased for 26% on balance and were anticipated to grow again for the next quarter (Q1 2017), but at a lower growth rate than before. Further depreciations in the Sterling also raised the cost of imported materials, meaning that raw materials continue to be the main driver of input price inflation, with wages & salaries also having a big impact on costs.

“Realistically it’s not a bad picture at this point of time, although uncertainty over the impact of Brexit continues to linger in the background as it has been for the last couple of quarters. You can see the impact on costs, but thankfully this doesn’t seem to have hit the investment intentions of joinery businesses or their plans to take on more staff.

“In the longer term the big questions are whether government and industry can work effectively to deliver new plans for housing and manufacturing and also to what extent the market will be able to capitalise on Brexit. First the sector will have to get to grips with the major changes in training which could help address the availability of skilled labour and the issue of joiners having to provide a broader spread of services to fill main contractor skills gaps on site."

Key points from the BWF Joinery State of Trade Survey Q4 2016 include:

  • A balance of 20% of respondents reported that business rates for their current property would increase as a result of recent Business Rates Revaluations in England & Wales with 32% of respondents indicating that their rates would increase by over 5%.
  • A balance of 26% of joinery companies reported an increase in sales volumes for Q4 2016 from the previous quarter. This follows on from 55% of joinery companies reporting an increase in sales volumes in Q3 2016 from Q2 2016.
  • Manufacturers felt that sales volumes would improve in the next quarter, with a balance of 34% predicting an increase for Q1 2017, and a balance of 22% predicting an increase over the next year.
  • 19% of companies reported a current order book of future work extending beyond 3 months – down 9% from the previous quarter - with 58% now saying that their order book extended from between 1 and 3 months.
  • Demand was listed as the most likely constraint on output over the next year by 45% of respondents. Capacity and labour availability came next, with 21% and 18% of respondents feeling that they were most likely to constrain output. Raw material prices had become the main factor for 13%.
  • 39% of respondents on balance reported increasing their labour force in the last year, with 57% of respondents anticipating an increased labour force over the next year.
  • Raw material costs were noted as the main inflationary factor for unit costs for 87% of respondents, with wages/salaries increases pushing up unit costs for 81% of respondents on balance.
  • Exchange rates were a factor in inflating unit costs for 57% of respondents – having risen from 5% a year previously.
  • 67% of respondents on balance reported an inflationary impact in unit costs through fuel costs.
  • Investment in product improvement had been increased by 50% of companies on balance over the past year, with a balance of 51% to boost investment over the next year.
  • Investment in manufacturing equipment spending had been increased by 53% of companies on balance over the past year, with a balance of 66% to boost investment over the next year.


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Grown In Britain begins tree planting in Sylva Foundation’s Future Forest, Oxfordshire

On Friday 10th February, Grown in Britain staff, supporters and licence-holders came together to begin planting the Grown in Britain Grove, part of the Sylva Foundation’s Future Forest, in Oxfordshire.

Some 300 productive tree saplings were planted during the day, which also included a tour of the Sylva Centre. The Centre is clad in thermally-modified home-grown sycamore and ash, financed through a research grant from Grown in Britain (GiB).

“The Grown in Britain Grove is a focus point for celebrating the future of British timber,” said Grown In Britain CEO, Dougal Driver. “Many of our licence holders are forest owners and sawmillers in their own right, already contributing to the future of Britain’s productive forests through their re-planting programmes. We want the Grown in Britain Grove to be somewhere that licence-holders further along the supply chain, in joinery manufacturing, construction and retailing, can come, participate in planting, and feel part of the continuing story of sustainable British woodlands and timber production,” Dougal Driver added.

The Grove is financed through donations to Grown in Britain, and the campaign is particularly grateful to Orpago bespoke furniture and Vastern Timber for their contributions.

Left to right in the picture are: John Weir, Forestry Commission; Laura Sceal, GiB; Judith Millidge, Small Woodland Owners Group; Helen Bentley-Fox, GiB; Dougal Driver, GiB; Tom Barnes, Vastern Timber; Dr Gabriel Hemery, Sylva Foundation (seated); William Jackson, Certainly Wood; Jen Hurst, Sylva Foundation.


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Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme now fully accepted in the Netherlands

The Government of The Netherlands has announced the full acceptance of the Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme (MTCS) under the Dutch public procurement policy for sustainable timber following a parliamentary debate on 18 January 2017. 

This decision marks an important milestone for the MTCS and is a significant endorsement of Malaysia’s commitment and ongoing efforts in promoting sustainable forestry and timber industry through a timber certification scheme.

The Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC) believes the acceptance of the MTCS under the Dutch public procurement policy for sustainable timber will allow Malaysian wood based companies to enjoy better access to the Dutch markets.

The Dutch market currently accounts for about 30% of the total export of PEFC/MTCS-certified timber products from Malaysia which was valued at RM202 million in 2015. The PEFC/MTCS-certified timber products from Malaysia constitute approximately 50% of the total certified tropical timber imported into the Dutch market. This volume is approximately the same as the volume of PEFC/MTCS-certified timber collectively imported by other EU member states with operational sustainable timber procurement policies, namely United Kingdom, Germany, France, Belgium and Denmark.

In her letter to the Dutch Parliament dated 22 December 2016, The Netherlands’ Minister for Environment, Sharon Dijksma affirmed her decision to fully accept the MTCS following the positive outcome of the fact finding mission by the Timber Procurement Assessment Committee (TPAC) to Malaysia which was held from 23-25 November 2016.

Minister Sharon Dijksma stated: “Forests are of crucial importance in combating climate change and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals…The TPAC report confirms my belief that MTCS has implemented important improvements and has sufficiently mitigated the three bottlenecks…Consequently, I hereby decide to accept the MTCS timber certification scheme under the Dutch central government’s public procurement policy."

The MTCS started its operation in 2001 and has since evolved into a scheme with international stature with endorsement by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). 

“As a PEFC-endorsed scheme, the operation of the MTCS has been significantly strengthened to meet international sustainability benchmarks. With this acceptance, the Netherlands becomes the latest country to fully recognize the MTCS in its public procurement policy along with other countries such as United Kingdom, Germany, France, Denmark, Belgium, Finland, Switzerland and Japan,” said Datuk Himmat Singh, Chairman of the MTCC.   

“This acceptance marks a significant milestone for the MTCS and would further encourage the implementation of sustainable management of tropical forests globally and spur growth for the use and consumption of certified tropical timber. Additionally, the acceptance of the MTCS will contribute towards The Netherlands’ ambition of procuring at least 90% of its tropical timber imports from sustainable sources by 2020,” Datuk Himmat Singh explained.


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Timber sector responds to Housing White Paper

Timber sector representative bodies have been giving their reaction to the release of the Government’s Housing White Paper.

The publication – released last Tuesday and aimed at “fixing Britain's broken housing market” - will drive Government construction and housing agenda over the next months.

Key announcements include:

- Expanding the land available for new housing without affecting the Green Belt

- Making housing plans easier to produce

- Supporting developers to build out more quickly also encouraging modern methods of construction and promoting custom-build homes

- Giving communities a stronger voice in the design of new housing

- Providing small firms with a loan to help them deliver 25,000 new homes by 2020

- Attracting institutional and private investment on housing sector

- Addressing skills shortages by growing the construction workforce

- Promoting affordable housing through specific initiatives (i.e. Starter Home, Help to Buy)

Iain McIlwee, CEO of the British Woodworking Federation (BWF), commented: “What is not to like? The Housing White Paper reaffirms the Government’s commitment to resolve what really is the biggest issue on our socio-economic landscape. Rather than seeking a magic bullet, it is a broad strategy that covers all parts of the housing sector, ensuring that the volume housebuilders are free and encouraged to build on available land, and vitally creating an easier mechanism for the custom housebuilder to literally fill in the gaps. 

 “The strategy addresses the balance between ownership and rental properties. And through repeated reference to quality, it reaffirms that it is not just a numbers game, but seeks to ensure we are building quality properties that will stand the test of time – a strong underlying thinking which is very much a Natural Capital approach of not leaving a mess for future generations. This carries into the section on climate change and wherever possible has a positive impact on employment in the UK. 

 “So I am very relieved to see that the social and environmental opportunities have not been overlooked. The whole timber supply chain is ready to support local authorities in developing policies to support this approach, and of course to ensure that the natural advantages of wood are put to good use in delivering the sustainable housing stock we so desperately need.”

Andrew Carpenter, Chief Executive of the Structural Timber Association (STA), said: “As Sajid Javid outlined what he called ‘the bold radical vision for the housing market’ and the government’s commitment to support offsite factory built homes, the STA firmly believe that offsite timber construction is the only way to reach the specified target of one million homes by 2020. We welcome the government’s commitment to act as a catalyst for change in the wider housing market, through supporting offsite manufacturing techniques.

As the government pledge support for small and medium size developers, as well as initiatives for self and custom builders – in theory there is a lot of positive content in this White Paper. Making the planning system more accessible and releasing land that is currently in public sector ownership, will certainly have an impact but only time will tell how it works in practise.

The time is right for the construction industry to embrace innovative timber technology and offsite techniques to develop better buildings at a rapid rate to meet government targets, to overcome the shortfall in housing stock and produce energy efficient buildings.”

John Newcomb, Managing Director of the Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) added: “The Builders Merchants Federation welcomes the Government’s ambitious proposals to boost housebuilding.

“We need more homes, of all tenures, that are built to high standards, use less energy and water, are pleasant to live in, and located where people want to live.

“But building new homes isn’t the whole answer, we also need to make the most of the current housing stock that we have. This is why we welcome the Government’s attempts to encourage later life buyers to down-size, with dignity, to somewhere suitable for them. This then releases larger homes back into the market.”

David Hopkins, Managing Director of the Timber Trade Federation (TTF) concluded:  “It is good to see the Government finally wake up and acknowledge the need for greater stimulus in the housing market.

The efforts toward greater use of offsite manufacture, along with moves to bring more SME builders into the market will go a long way toward easing pressure in the sector. It is good news for the timber sector.”


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