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]

CIT Blog - Keeping reputation through responsible sourcing

This blog post is by TTF Managing Director and Member of CTI Board of Directors David Hopkins. It originally featured in the CTI Newsletter Winter 2017-18.

 

The recent legal cases concerning breaches of the European Timber Regulation (EUTR), in the UK and in Holland, are a stark reminder of the timber sector’s obligations in moral and legal terms. The two cases involved companies at different points of the supply chain, with differing cases against them, and markedly differing levels of punishment.

The first involved high street furniture chain Lombok. It was charged with not having conducted sufficient due diligence over the importation of a single item of furniture – a sideboard from India. There was no allegation that the item itself contained illegally harvested material. The charge was simply that insufficient due diligence had been conducted to confidently state it was of “negligible risk” – a clear legal requirement before placing goods on the market.

The second case, in Holland, did involve illegally harvested material. The Dutch authorities have ruled that Boogaerdt Hout placed illegally sourced teak from Myanmar onto the market. The company has been given two months to clear the material out of its supply chain or face fines of EUR20,000 per cubic metre. This follows a similar case in Sweden last year concerning Teak from Myanmar.

Both show the importance of conducting strict due diligence throughout timber supply chains. Without this in place how can one safely say there is, or is not, “negligible risk” to the materials we place on the market.

If we cannot say there is negligible risk, then we cannot say the timber we are selling is safe, and the reputation of the entire timber sector is called into question. In the minds of much of the public all timber is the same. Even Kevin McCloud made this mistake with his comments at UK Construction Week, despite the construction sector largely being served by certified European timber.

The real crime here though is that, as 21st century business regulation goes, compliance with the EUTR is relatively straightforward. It is a flexible, business friendly approach which allows companies to make their own judgements on their own supply chains. It doesn’t prevent trade, it enables it on a level playing field basis.

It’s why we are lobbying the Government to maintain the EUTR post-Brexit, and through the CTI’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Timber Industries, have got several politicians to ask questions in the house confirming the government’s future commitment.

We want to keep the reputation of the timber sector very high. The way to do that is to engage fully with the process of due diligence, make it simple and effective and be proud to demonstrate and articulate what we’re doing. The TTF will be reviewing its own Responsible Purchasing Policy (RPP) processes and mechanisms again in 2018 and working with Government and the Timber Industries APPG to ensure that regulation is something that we help design ourselves, rather than something which is imposed.

 

[News URL: http://cti-timber.org/content/cit-blog-keeping-reputation-through-responsible-sourcing]

CTI Blog - Global sustainability issues require global and innovative solutions

This blog post is by Dirk Vennix, CTI Chief Executive

Can Economic Growth and Sustainability co-exist? This question has been debated for decades and is at the core of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) taking place this week in Paris.

Preserving Earth’s resources implies not only the switch to a low carbon, sustainable and long-lasting economic model, but also the engagement of all the productive sectors. In other words: global issues require global and innovative solutions.

The challenge is huge but the timber industries are ready to tackle it head on. Timber is the only true renewable construction and manufacturing material and we want to reinforce this message. Flexible, mouldable and low-energy processed, timber-based products could really contribute to a low carbon economy, helping UK to achieve its carbon reduction targets.

Several research studies show that increasing the use of wooden products from sustainable managed forests would have beneficial implications on the environment: - replanting of harvested trees [1]; - storing carbon in timber products [2]; - promoting woodland expansion all over the world [3]; - reducing emissions and air pollution [4].

If the equation is easy to understand - more trees planted = more CO2 absorbed – we still have a long way go to spread this message to key decision makers and opinion formers. The Confederation of Timber Industries will do its share in promoting this new approach. With the help of our supporters including timber supply chain companies and environmental organisations, we are going to publish a report on growing the use of sustainable timber in May 2016.

The aim will be to report on the future of timber as the only truly sustainable material and how the sector could develop a credible place at the forefront of the low carbon economy. Replenishing natural resources, both domestically and globally, is our responsibility, as well as enhancing a sustainable and prosperous model business model.

The CTI Board has already agreed clear objectives in its strategic plan (2015-2017) which will be covered by the report,  including: - develop the case for low carbon footprint in the domestic market; - ensure there is consistent application of standards through established certification schemes; - improve application and enforcement of timber related regulation in key EU member states.

To expand on the last objective the report will include an analysis of the EU’s review of the European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR). Although it represents a valid tool to tackle illegal logging and trade, its effectiveness is clearly undermined by loopholes and exceptions [5]. Similarly we believe the implementation of the EUTR should be more closely aligned with other related policies such as CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and FLEGT (Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade).

The CTI welcomes the application of consistent standards, clear due diligence requirements and fair competition between companies in different member states. There is substantial scope for improvements to the EUTR and the CTI strongly supports the WWF and trade associations who are already campaigning on the issues surrounding timber regulation in the EU.

The more united we stand, the more chance we have to make an impact around the decision-making tables. 

 

 


[1] “In managed European forests there are five trees planted for each harvested”, Timber Accord, 2014

[2] “Roughly one tonne of carbon is stored for every metre cubed of timber used. If we build 200,000 new houses in timber it would store around 4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year”, Wood For Good, 2014

[3] “Europe’s forests have increased by almost 13 million ha - about the size of Greece - in the past 15 years through new planting and natural expansion of forests,” Forest Europe report, 2011

[4] “By increasing the UK’s forest cover from 13 to 16%, we could reduce around 10% of our national CO2 emissions by 2050”, Timber Accord, 2014

[5] For instance, the EUTR excludes seat products (including chairs and sofas) from its scope alongside musical instruments, soft furnishings and toys. The TTF has estimated that the EUTR currently only covers approximately 40% of products by value that originate from forests 

CTI Blog - Scrapping zero-carbon homes is a false economy

This blog post is by David Hopkins, Executive Director of Wood for Good.

The Government has announced that it will scrap the zero-carbon homes target in an effort to apparently “improve housebuilding productivity.”

The zero-carbon policy was originally introduced as a step to meeting the 2008 Climate Change Act’s mandate of an 80% reduction in CO2 from the 1990 levels, by 2050. The Government has claimed that by scrapping the target it aims to reduce regulations on housebuilding and increase productivity in the sector.

However, removing the policy will not only significantly hinder the UK in meeting wider climate change goals, it is also unlikely to lead to any marked improvement in productivity.

There’s a widely held misconception that creating sustainable homes takes longer and is more expensive. This doesn’t need to be the case. In fact, it’s still quicker and more efficient to manufacture, deliver and assemble a high-quality, low-carbon timber-frame building than build one on-site with lower thermal insulation built from materials which directly contribute to carbon emissions.

Scrapping zero-carbon is a false economy. In terms of future productivity, building significant quantities of homes without sustainability in mind now, sets the UK up for a need for continued and expensive maintenance and repair works for the future.

Take social housing – the growing problem of fuel poverty has driven a need for registered providers to retroactively build sustainability into their property portfolios. Many have implemented solar panels, biomass systems, and external and internal insulation funded by the Green Deal, ECO and vast quantities of their own capital.

If sustainability isn’t factored into new build developments now, it will prolong the need for retrospective action in the long term – creating an extra, ongoing financial burden on an important sector.

There is also obvious financial merit in continuing to create sustainable homes in private house building. Timber’s naturally high thermal insulation also acts as a selling point – lowering the need for future retro insulation measures and making homes more attractive to new owners or renters.

Off-site construction using timber can also reduce build times by weeks and even months, improving the efficiency of the build process, allowing new tenants or owners to move in more quickly, and thereby improving the productivity of the project.

Despite the change in plans, the opportunities to continue to improve sustainability are still very much within in the housebuilding sector’s grasp.

This short-sighted policy should therefore not provide cause for developers to ignore sustainability – especially when you consider the significant inroads the industry has made in improving efficiency in housing over the past decade and the continued market demand for this to be included in new homes.

The Government has only removed the targets at the top. This should not mean we have to accept a spiralling race to the bottom

CTI Blog - Missed opportunities in the Summer Budget

This blog post is by David Hopkins, Executive Director at Wood for Good.

There were some very clever gimmicks within the Budget announcement. However, four months on from the Chancellor’s pre-election budget, it’s disappointing to see key issues surrounding manufacturing, housebuilding and climate change omitted once again.

Not only do these both represent significant challenges for the UK, but they are all key drivers for economic growth.

The UK timber industry is a vital £9 billion low-carbon manufacturing sector that is key to achieving cheaper, quicker, and more sustainable delivery of housing. Recent reports show that yearly output levels of new homes would more than double, and exceed annual housebuilding targets, if off-site methods were used.

The UK needs a new era of sustainable construction with wood at its heart to boost our economy and reduce our emissions. The budget has missed an opportunity to help drive this forward.