Raise awareness of timber’s sustainability benefits

More timber must be used in construction projects to help create a net-zero carbon construction supply chain, says a recent report from the Environmental Audit Committee. TDUK’s David Hopkins explains how timber merchants and the wider supply chain can unite to make this goal a reality.

A new report from the government’s Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has warned urgent action is needed to reduce the levels of carbon emissions found in construction projects.

This warning is just the latest in a long line of reports highlighting that more needs to be done if the UK is to meet our legally binding targets of reducing emissions by 2050.

The Climate Change Committee has recommended that the use of timber be increased to 40% by 2050 – but there’s a long way to go. In 2016 just over a quarter (28%) of newbuild homes across the UK were built using timber frame, with most of those being constructed in Scotland.

So how can we work together to change this? The EAC report ‘Building to net zero: costing carbon in construction’, highlighted barriers to timber take-up including the limited incentives introduced to encourage the use of timber, as well as an urgent need to close the skills gap by improving training and knowledge in how to design and build with modern timber products.

Merchants – and especially those businesses who specialise in timber products – can help by making sure their staff are experts in all the different timber species and their various benefits. At Timber Development UK (TDUK) we offer a wide range of knowledge and educational tools that our merchant members can use to upskill their own staff on Building Regulations, timber construction and the various industry initiatives designed to promote the use of timber. We’re constantly working hard to expand and improve these resources, all of which can be found online at www.timberdevelopment.uk.

But we can all go a step further. Sustainable timber is inherently a low-carbon commodity, and a strong carbon capture and storage solution that can significantly reduce the embodied carbon impact of construction. And yet, for many years, the whole timber supply chain has perhaps struggled to effectively communicate the benefits of this material to the wider construction industry, many of whom are often more experienced in using other, less sustainable materials. This must change if we are to put timber at the heart of the industry and make real strides towards achieving our net-zero targets. We are working with many supply chain partners to raise awareness of timber’s significant environmental benefits, and we’re also working hard to make these benefits even better, by creating a net-zero carbon roadmap for the entire timber supply chain.

TDUK Sustainability Director Charlie Law says: “The timber supply chain consists of many players and many thousands of businesses. This can make the kind of collective effort required to achieve net-zero carbon emissions as an industry quite difficult. The newly formed TDUK gives us real scope to take on these big challenges, perhaps for the first time.”

Over the past six months we have already created a partnership across all the various timber trade associations to create this net-zero roadmap. We are currently canvassing all our members to better understand where the industry’s material carbon emissions come from, whether they are created during the felling, manufacturing, processing or transport stages.

Once we have real data on exactly what generates these emissions, we can begin to explore how they can be improved, and identify opportunities for further decarbonisation and mitigation measures that can be put in place across the whole supply chain. Every step we take on this journey will help make timber even more sustainable, and an even more attractive building material for your customers, ultimately helping you sell more timber and improve your bottom line.