CTI Blog

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]

CTI Blog - Offsite: If it's not a System, then It's not a Solution

This guest blog post is by Gerard McCaughey, CEO of Entekra Inc

 

In Europe wood frame construction market adoption varies widely from virtually 100% in Scandinavia to 70% in Scotland and about 30% in Ireland and many other central and western European countries. However, what is common in all the countries, where wood frame is used, is that virtually all of it is constructed using an off site construction (OSC) system.

Most of the customers in Europe, whether they are builder/developers or custom home end users, understand the benefits that off site systems (OSC) can deliver in terms of speed, efficiency, quality, energy efficiency and sustainability. It would virtually be as alien to a European to stick build a wood frame house, as it would be to buy a new car and have every single component shipped to your front yard and have a couple of local mechanics come out in a pick up truck with welding equipment and pneumatic tools to build the car. You simply wouldn't dream of it.

Why ignore that 100 years of innovation and progress

Yet in the US market this is exactly how wood framed houses are built, without taking advantage of the last century of innovation and ignoring the benefits of computers, modern automation or factory controlled conditions and quality systems. The real question is Why?

Really the question is better phrased as why have off site solutions not been more widely adopted by the US construction industry?

Off Site System providers not component manufacturers

A large part of the reason is due to the nature of the "off site" industry in the US. In Europe and other parts of the world, the off site companies are part of a dedicated off site industry and categorically see themselves as offsite system providers and not as component manufacturers. In fact the term component is hardly ever used by the off site industry outside the US as the off site companies realize that the customer is not interested in purchasing components but rather is seeking a solution. The so called components are merely an output and form elements of a system which is a solution to the problem the builder wants addressed. They are not the raison d'être of the off site company.

Off Site benefits come from an integrated approach

Until there are dedicated Fully Integrated Off Site System providers it will be very difficult for the builder/developer to gain meaningful benefits and for off site solutions to gain a bigger share of the framing market. One of the major obstacles to this is the requirement for an experienced in house engineering team, as off site solutions will always be compromised if they are forced to use engineering that was designed for stick framing.

In particular, design, engineering and manufacturing of Pre Fabricated Floor Cassettes (PFC) requires a lot of internal engineering expertise. PFC's are are a critical element of off site construction in the multi-story , multi-family and light commercial markets. Engineering for maximum off site efficiency requires a detailed in depth knowledge of factory manufacturing techniques, structural engineering and the off site building process and connection detailing including sequencing and materials selection.

Until those in the industry with a genuine interest and vision for the potential of the "off site industry" realize that they need to become more than just component manufacturers and instead act as off site system/solution providers and resource themselves accordingly, the industry will fail to reach its potential, despite the the labor shortage, which is forcing builders to look for new solutions.

True off site companies are solution focused businesses that happen to manufacture components as an output of an integrated system that's purpose is to facilitate the fast track construction of a building utilizing both labor and material efficiency. Off site companies may manufacture components but they are not component manufacturers!

 

*Gerard McCaughey is Chief Executive of Entekra Inc, a firm specializing in design, engineering and manufacturing of Fully Integrated Off Site Solutions™ (FIOSS™) for homebuilding industry. Mr. McCaughey previously co-founded Century Homes, Europe’s largest offsite building manufacturing company producing over 8000 house units annually, with five plants in Ireland and UK, which he sold in 2005 to Kingspan Group Plc. He is regarded in Europe as being one of the leading figures in off site construction and green building movement, and was at the forefront of regulatory reform in both Ireland and Britain. He has acted as an off site construction consultant in Eastern Europe, United States and South Africa and has spoken and written about green and offsite construction in many other countries around the world and is a previous winner of Ernst and Young’s, Industry Entrepreneur of the Year Award and recognized by US Immigration Service as a "Person of Extraordinary Ability" in green and offsite construction.

 

[News URL: http://cti-timber.org/content/cti-blog-offsite-if-its-not-system-then-its-not-solution]

CTI Blog - Structural Timber Offsite solutions can massively help solve UK Housing crisis

This guest blog post is by Andrew Carpenter, CTI Director and Chief Executive of the Structural Timber Association (STA)

This feature is part of STA response to the launch of the Government Housing White Paper

 

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 CTI and 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.

With four out of five new homes in Scotland being built from structural timber – we know that offsite timber solutions 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 all largely beneficial not only to government plans but to the wider community.

Offsite manufactured structural timber systems have advanced greatly in recent years and can offer house builders cost, programme and performance assurances. Structural timber solutions outweigh other sectors in regards to volume of materials – the sector is quick to respond and can add capacity at a relatively rapid rate to meet demand. Shortages in other traditional construction materials will continue to encourage larger builders and specifiers to look to alternatives.

Innovation in the structural timber product range has broadened the appeal – the industry is no longer defined simply by the supply of timber frame kits and panelised solutions. It is driven by intelligent and integrated construction solutions, such as closed panel timber frame, structural insulated panel systems and volumetric modular options. Manufacture in well managed factory conditions, with stringent controls in place - minimises waste and optimises both quality and productivity.

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 - particularly important for the social housing and private rental sectors, together with home owners and occupiers.

 

[News URL: http://cti-timber.org/content/cti-blog-structural-timber-offsite-solutions-can-massively-help-solve-uk-housing-crisis]