For more than a century, our built environment has been dominated by high carbon, energy hungry materials such as cement and steel. These materials were integral to a new wave of innovation, allowing a new generation of superstructures to rise to heights once limited to the likes of the Great Pyramid of Giza.
The skyscrapers and concrete superstructures which dominate our urban centres and architectural and engineering schools are undoubtedly triumphs of design and engineering. But they also represent millions of tonnes of carbon emissions – a debt which every year we continue to add to.
The built environment is currently responsible for around 40% of carbon emissions in the UK – many millions of tonnes of carbon emissions every year. Architects, engineers, urbanists, and all those who help shape the way we live and move around our cities have a deep responsibility to be aware of, and design for, the impact of climate change. They have one of the greatest opportunities to shape a new future. In the timber supply chain, designers have a tool to make this happen.
A sustainable timber supply chain stands as a proven business model ready to support a new wave of ingenuity centred on low-carbon construction. Timber allows for new – and existing – buildings to transform our cities into areas which work in harmony with, rather than opposition to, our planet. Which add to the natural world, rather than plunder it. Which act as a vast network of carbon capture and storage, rather than stand testament to vast amounts of carbon emissions.
Timber Development UK (TDUK) was brought together to drive forward this transformation. This begins with two key objectives. To connect the supply chain, as the largest supply chain body in the UK, spanning sawmill to specifier. And to lead best practice by building the largest, most comprehensive online library of technical specification and design guidance for our members. We are now in a position to fulfil both these aims.
Our members will regularly receive a new magazine, Designing Timber, which you are reading right now. They will find new engineering manuals, case studies, as well as a full library of Wood Information Sheets, learning modules and more, on our new website, www.timberdevelopment.uk, the foundation of a new digital platform which will enable us to create a stronger, more visible service for the whole supply chain.
Each step we are taking now is towards one aim: to empower designers to accelerate a low-carbon future. We are rapidly expanding the tools, training and guidance to support the sustainable timber supply chain to lead as a net zero industry. This includes a new library being developed with Edinburgh Napier University, due to be released in the next couple of months. We are also supporting a new course for timber engineering and design from the New Model Institute of Technology and Engineering (NMITE).
We will set out a net zero roadmap, which explains how every member of our supply chain can work to reduce emissions. Our world leading Responsible Purchasing Policy system will be enhanced to ensure our timber is contributing only to a positive future. These actions are allowing us to create a system which harnesses market forces to grow our forests, and locks in carbon.
Our new organisation, and the market it embraces, is already supporting the growth of a low-carbon, low-energy manufacturing base, able to create buildings using factory precision and create better jobs right across the UK. We can help to fulfil the rising ambition of foresters and timber suppliers both at home and abroad to grow more forests, and support our universities to grow as global centres of excellence for timber construction and material sciences. These already provide a solid base for a rapid transition to a low-carbon, circular economy.
While the architectural marvels of the last 100 years will likely be defined by concrete, steel and glass, over the next century they will be made of timber. You can already see this taking shape in the Wood Awards, where every year the quality, ingenuity, and ambition of timber construction continues to rise. This year you will see an incredible shortlist of projects along with a new series of events showcasing the best of timber design to the world.
For our members, this is only the beginning. As carbon is taken into account, we are on the precipice of another revolution in building. Timber will be central to this brave new world. At Timber Development UK we are determined to empower all with the knowledge and confidence to use the world’s lowest-carbon building material – wood.
Whether you are an architect, an engineer, a designer, a merchant, a sawmiller, or anything in between, we aim to ensure you have the connections, the advice, and tools to succeed. We look forward to working with you on this journey.