CTI News & Events

CTI brings industry and politics together at Labour conference

Both national and local politicians now better recognise the benefits of a stronger partnership between government and the timber industry, following a Confederation of Timber Industries sit down with Labour in Brighton to discuss how timber can help solve the housing crisis.

Politicians present included Chi Onwurah, MP, and Shadow Minister for Industrial Strategy, as well as Councilor Leo Pollak of Southwark, Councilor Heather Johnson of Camden, and Councilor Katherine Dunne of Hounslow.

Each was welcomed by Hamish MacLeod, Director of Public Affairs with BSW Timber, and David Hopkins, Managing Director of the Timber Trade Federation, who elaborated on the recent inquiry into housing by the APPG for the Timber Industries, and answered questions.

On a national scale, CTI was pleased to see Ms Onwurah discuss bringing forward an industrial strategy specifically for timber, which acknowledges the importance of growing UK forests and building sustainably in an evolving green economy.

The successful growth of UK Forestry, which accounts for 40% of the volume traded in the UK, was discussed by Mr MacLeod to the politicians who wanted to know what species are being grown, it’s effect on biodiversity, and visions for the future of UK forestry.

He was able to allay some of the concerns regarding biodiversity by both acknowledging the trade-offs made by commercial forestry, as well as to the advancement of forestry techniques, which uses technology, restrictions on monocultures, and is compelled to grow 15% native forests.

Misconceptions regarding the fire performance of timber were also discussed by Councilor’s Pollak, Dunne and Johnson, who raised the difficulty they face post Grenfell in reassuring residents.

Mr Hopkins pointed out that many residents across the UK already unknowingly live in timber buildings, whether they look to their stairs, windows or the furniture in their living rooms, or even to the frame of their house underneath hidden behind a brick façade – all performing well.

When built well, and within the proper specifications, the evidence did not show any increase in risk to life in homes or apartments built with timber over other materials.

Most of the local politicians had been drawn to attend by the sustainability aspects of building in timber, with the impact of major construction projects in their areas top of mind after each had declared climate emergencies.

The timber industry must engage with local councils who are right now building houses around the country, who can be enthusiastic champions, and are able to make a significant impact through their policies – as had been demonstrated by Hackney.

Follow up and engagement opportunities between the CTI and local councils was raised by both parties, with agreement that more needed to be done to highlight the positive tale of timber in the UK. Reflecting on the event, David Hopkins, Managing Director of the Timber Trade Federation, said:

“We know there is a strong story for the timber industry to tell in terms of construction, skills, and sustainability, and now is the time for businesses to work together to ensure that we align to get a consistent message to all UK politicians – which we will do with this housing report.

“Politicians are interested in building with timber, but it will be up to us to make sure they have the tools and information close to hand to talk to their constituents, and opportunities to work with the housing associations, developers and architects who are determined to change construction.”

CTI statement on the performance of wood cladding in a fire

The outcome of the UK government’s assessment last year of the use of different cladding materials in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy confirmed that timber, where necessary enhanced with flame retardant, remains fit for purpose where the upper floor level of a building where the upper floor level is less than 18m above ground (Building Regulations England). In all situations where Building Regulations stipulate a particular reaction to fire performance level for materials on the external face of a multi-storey residential building below this level, then those performance levels must be complied with.
 
However, Building Regulations guidance does not always stipulate a particular reaction to fire performance for cladding and/or balconies on buildings where the upper floor level is less than 18m above ground. In such circumstances, so as to provide consistency, insurance and peace of mind against unforeseen circumstances, an independent, professional fire risk assessment which takes into account the building design, use, materials and location is essential at the project design stage. Indeed, this has been a principle embodied in the CDM Regulations for some years which has very recently been reinforced by MHCLG in a circular letter to Building Control in England & Wales.

Such an assessment may demonstrate that, by means of careful design and component specification, flame retardant treatment is unnecessary in the particular circumstances. However, following recent reviews and from industry feedback on new projects, the Confederation of Timber Industries (CTI) recommend that all such timber based cladding and balcony components should be treated using a quality assured factory-applied flame retardant to Euroclass B, unless shown not to be necessary by an appropriate risk assessment process.

Timber remains an excellent material for manufacture and construction, but proper risk assessment, specification and detailing are paramount to ensuring safety whatever the build method.

[News URL: http://cti-timber.org/content/cti-statement-performance-wood-cladding-fire]

Combustible Materials Response, Implications for Timber Industry

Last week, the Government announced an amendment to part B of the building regulations which has implications for timber components of buildings in and on external walls.

The regulations specify that for all residential developments above 18m, all materials in or on the external wall must be of European Classification A2-s1, d0 or Class A1, classified in accordance with BS EN 13501-1:2007+A1:2009.

This includes external cladding and facade systems above that height, as well as structural timber components within the external wall.

David Hopkins, CTI Director and Managing Director of the Timber Trade Federation (TTF) said: “While it is disappointing that the Government has taken this approach, it is not that surprising.

“Flame retardant timber cladding remains incredibly popular and the consultation response has confirmed its’ suitability for all building types below 18 metres. We look forward to helping grow the market for this versatile, environmentally positive material now that clarity has been provided.

“For other structural timber such as cross-laminated timber (CLT), it is clear that architects and designers may now have to look at new design strategies for the external wall build ups in taller buildings. However, CLT has not been banned. It is still a perfectly safe, viable building material for a huge variety of projects.  The UK remains a global leader in timber design and construction so this regulation is likely act as a spur to further innovation.

“The move toward timber design and construction is a huge movement and it is unlikely that this change to regulation will halt that. There is still an enormous market for structural timber design and that will continue.

“Globally, the USA is amending its building code to allow buildings up to 18 storeys using engineered timber; Australia has recently announced its latest tallest timber tower; and new buildings from mass timber are being unveiled across Europe on a regular basis.

“Offsite timber construction remains the fastest growing sector for building in the UK, certainly for housebuilding, and will continue to be so due to its practical and environmental advantages.

“We will continue to promote the positive benefits of timber construction, including its fire safety performance, to all stakeholders including Government as we build our timber future.”

Read the “Technical Notice” on Changes to Building Regulations Approved Document B and Approved Document 7 here.

 

[News URL: http://cti-timber.org/content/combustible-materials-response-implications-timber-industry]

CTI Briefing Paper highlights potential Timber Industry losses due to Combustible Materials Ban

The Confederation of Timber Industries has produced a briefing paper summarising its view on two major topics of discussion such as Combustible Materials Ban and Fire Safety.

The factsheet focuses on possible actions the Government could take to improve fire safety of buildings by setting a clear regulatory framework.

The paper also warns of the "unforeseen consequences to homeowners and the construction industry" that an indiscriminate ban on combustible materials could trigger and recommends the establishment of a "licensing system for use of materials."

"In order to improve the safety of buildings, the Government must ensure that any new regime is both enforceable and enforced," says the paper. "Arguably one of the challenges to date has been lack of adherence to and enforcement of, existing building regulations and guidance. There has also been some confusion and a lack of clarity in the existing regulatory framework. Unless there is a cultural shift, any changes to the regulatory framework will not have the intended effect of making buildings safer.  

"As the London Fire Brigade said in its response to the Government’s consultation on banning combustible materials: 'a ban requires careful consideration to ensure there are not unintended consequences.”

"We therefore believe that a licensing system for use of materials – rather than an outright ban – is likely to be a more effective means of ensuring buildings are as safe as possible."

On the extent of combustible materials ban, the CTI "supports changes to limit the use of (and in some cases ban) combustible materials in taller buildings. However, the Government has not been clear regarding whether or not it intends any changes to apply simply to cladding, or to the structural wall in its entirety.

"If the scope of the ban were to include the structural wall as well as the cladding wall, then the impact will be a massive limitation in access to the materials available for building and the stifling of innovation, investment and employment."   

Download the briefing paper here.

 

[News URL: http://cti-timber.org/content/cti-briefing-paper-highlights-potential-timber-industry-losses-due-combustible-materials-ban]

Government pledges to prioritise the timber industry after Brexit

Last Wednesday, at the Westminster Hall debate on Leaving the EU, Environment Minister David Rutley MP committed to “strengthening the timber trade” during a parliamentary debate on the implications of Brexit on the timber industry.

Describing the industry as a “real priority” for Government, the Minister also pledged to make sure that timber importers face as “few additional costs as possible” after Brexit.

The comments came after Martin Whitfield MP, the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Timber Industries, urged the Government to ensure that after we leave the EU, timber imports can continue clear customs the same way they do now [Read more].

Martin Whitfield MP said: “Without frictionless trade, I believe we face a clear challenge to build the number of homes the Prime Minister has committed to providing over this parliament.

This challenge exists because the supply of timber is essential to meeting housing demands. This sector, which contributes £10bn to the UK economy each year is still hugely reliant on trade with EU countries. Incredibly, 90% of the timber used to build homes in the UK is imported from across Europe.”

David Hopkins, Director of the Confederation of the Timber Industries (CTI) said: “We welcome the Minister’s commitment to minimise the additional costs of Brexit on the import and export of timber. I am glad that the Government understands the indispensable role our industry plays in the UK construction sector and the wider economy.

“It is encouraging that David Rutley MP has agreed to meet with the APPG for the Timber Industries to further discuss how the Government can support the timber sector and, therefore, ensure the Government achieves its house building targets.”

The Confederation of Timber Industries has already secured a number of concessions from Government in relation to the sector‘s future after the UK leaves the European Union.

Earlier this year Government committed to protect timber businesses from up-front payments of VAT in the event of a no-deal Brexit. This followed earlier Ministerial commitments to retain the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) and the EU’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) after the UK leaves the European Union, following pressure from the industry.


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A full transcript of the Westminster Hall debate on Leaving the EU: Timber Industry is available here.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Timber Industries is the cross-party group which champions the timber industries in Parliament. Its Chair is Martin Whitfield MP and the secretariat is provided by the Confederation of Timber Industries. Find out more here.

 

*Read also:

31.10.18 - If the PM is serious about solving the housing crisis, she must scrap Chequers & broker an improved deal that ensures timber can clear customs freely

26.10.18 - Martin Whitfield MP elected new Chair of Timber Industries APPG

 

[News URL: http://cti-timber.org/content/government-pledges-prioritise-timber-industry-after-brexit]

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