Industry News

Timber is essential to zero-carbon bio-economy

New Book – Wood: Building the BioEconomy – shows how the EU can reduce emissions while increasing output.

CEI Bois, the pan-European trade body for the timber supply chain, is calling on politicians to put wood at the centre of plans to reduce emissions and achieve zero carbon targets. 

CEI Bois has released a new publication, Wood: Building the Bioeconomy which shows how the EU can reduce emissions by using low carbon, renewable, biological alternatives such as timber over high carbon materials such as concrete, steel and plastic.

The book shows this would be good not just for the climate, but also the economy. Increasing the use of European wood-based products in global construction, textile and plastics markets could generate as much as €60bn of revenue.

“If we are to restore balance in the atmosphere, we need to reduce emissions in the first place, while also increasing the capacity of the global carbon sink,” said Patrizio Antonicoli, Secretary General of pan-EU industry body CEI Bois. 

“Forests and timber are part of both solutions, absorbing carbon from the atmosphere, and storing it as wood. Timber harvested from the forests can be turned into high-value products for construction using only a fraction of the energy and carbon that other materials would need.”  

“The more Governments across the continent can support and invest in wood, the more valuable this bioeconomy can become, helping to reverse the adverse climate and environmental impacts of human activity, and meet our obligations under the Paris agreement.”

EU forests provide a net sink of around 424 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year, equivalent to around 10% of the total GHG emissions of Europe. Thanks to sustainable forest management by the industry, this massive carbon sink has grown by 9% in area as compared to 25 years ago.  

A total of 43% of the EU is now covered in trees, supporting the livelihood of around 3 million people, with forest producing around 470 million m3 of roundwood and building thousands of homes which are high quality, warm, and sustainable.

The development of cross-laminated timber (CLT) means timber can be have a higher strength to weight ratio than steel and the fire resistance to be used in high rise buildings, and universities and businesses continue to innovate to make it even more versatile.

As a material lends timber lends already itself to modern methods of construction, such as offsite, with timber frame able to be built up to a third quicker than other methods using brick and masonry and producing up to 90% less waste.

Download a free copy of Wood: Building the BioEconomy here.

CTI brings industry and politics together at Labour conference

Left to right: Cllr Hamish MacLeod, Katherine Dunne, David Hopkins, and Cllr Heather Johnson

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.”