From blueprint to greenprint: the government’s roadmap to timber construction

While Parliament was in recess this summer, the Confederation of Timber Industries were hard at work on the Timber in Construction Roadmap – due to be published in November.

The government’s long promised Timber in Construction Policy Roadmap will support the expansion of low-carbon timber construction in the UK, following a period of significant collaboration between government and industry.

For many years there have been mixed signals around timber in construction from government, as while promises would be made to one department to boost industry, others would push policies which undercut the safe use of timber in construction.

Through the Timber in Construction Working Group, a joint government initiative run by DBT, DESNZ, DEFRA, DLUHC and the Forestry Commission, together with industry, the aim is to overcome the barriers in place for timber, and create a clear, joint-up policy environment.

A short history of the working group

The working group was created to action the commitments in the government’s Net Zero Strategy and England Trees Action Plan, which pledged to increase the safe use of timber in construction and reduce embodied carbon in the built environment.

The built environment accounts for 25% of our national emissions and must be decarbonised if we are to reach net zero by 2050. Timber is excellent at reducing these emissions because:

  • It acts as a form of carbon capture and storage, as the carbon dioxide sequestered by trees is stored in the wood product for the product’s lifetime.
  • It increases the number of trees grown in sustainably managed forests, which helps to sequester even more carbon dioxide.
  • It requires very little energy throughout the supply chain of harvesting, processing, and manufacturing.
  • It displaces carbon-intensive materials to reduce the carbon footprint of a building.

Since COP26, when we launched the Time for Timber Manifesto, government advisory bodies such as the Climate Change Committee and Environmental Audit Committee have all independently called on the government these to recognise these benefits.

Putting words into action

The group has held several meetings with industry subgroups to address key perceived challenges for the timber industry. The core themes identified are:

  • Demand – how do we make timber the material of choice for builders?
  • Supply – how do we ensure supply is adequate to meet future demand?
  • Insurance – how do we address insurance fears with timber?
  • Building safety – how can we expand timber construction safely?
  • Carbon – how can we reduce carbon in the built environment?
  • Labour and skills – how do we ensure the labour supply is adequate for future demand?

Through the Confederation of Timber Industries, both Timber Development UK and the Structural Timber Association have been working to shape these discussions, alongside industry partners such as the Confederation of Forest Industries and Built By Nature.

The roadmap will be a policy document that outlines how the government’s plan to promote the safe expansion of timber construction. This will be a culmination of working group discussions, looking at what actions government and industry must take to address key barriers to timber expansion.

The document will provide an overview of timber as a construction material, priority themes and policy implementation plans. This will then be monitored and evaluated until the election next year.

A sea change for timber in construction

The roadmap is a high-water mark for our recent advocacy efforts to achieve an official government commitment to expanding timber construction in the UK.

If implemented properly, the roadmap offers the government a huge opportunity to expand low-carbon construction, particularly in the housing sector, across the UK.

The Climate Change Committee estimates that if timber frame was used to build 270,000 new houses, the amount of carbon sequestered in UK homes per year could increase to 3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e), while reducing embodied emissions by 20% per building.

Expanding timber construction also offers a range of economic benefits, helping regions to ‘level up’ with green jobs, and create localised manufacturing bases across the country.

We have championed several policy recommendations (many of which can be found in our latest APPG report) which will be highly effective in achieving these objectives. It is now up to the government to take action.

Where are we now?

The working group is progressing well, with the final details now being added to the roadmap. We are likely to see this document in November, when the APPG for the Timber Industries hosts its annual autumn luncheon in the House of Commons.

Keep an eye on the CTI social media pages for more updates on the Timber in Construction Working Group and general policy developments. For more detail on the Timber in Construction Working Group, contact Jack Clappen


The article was originally published on the Confederation of Timber Industries website.