Just because construction site hoarding is temporary doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have to be considered as part of a responsible sourcing strategy. Despite the fact that many clients and contractors are now insisting on greater levels of sustainability across all aspects of projects, this is one area that is being overlooked when it comes to timber sourcing.

The European Timber Regulation (EUTR) stipulates that all timber used on construction sites needs to be legally sourced. This means ALL timber, from that used in construction of the building to the hoardings used to shield the site from prying eyes. Timber hoardings may also be used to convey an appropriate message to the outside world. This might include a project’s sustainability credentials as part of promotional information about the developers’ and contractors’ CSR efforts, all designed to give the local and wider community a feel good factor about the project.

However trumpeting a project as a leading example of sustainability on hoardings which breach regulations on responsible sourcing, no matter how temporary they are or how good the rest of the site is, is an irony which might lead some to seriously doubt the integrity of the project’s other claims. Cheap Chinese plywood accounts for a large chunk of the problem. A recent report by the National Measurement Office found that only two of the 16 companies investigated which import Chinese timber met the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation for due diligence in the sourcing of legally harvested timber.

The issues around imported plywood extend far beyond variable quality to mislabelling of products as certain species which they subsequently turn out not to be. Greenpeace has campaigned to end the use of illegal and destructive rainforest plywood since 2000. It found evidence that a large quantity of Chinese plywood was faced with veneers from slow growing tropical species sourced from endangered rainforests. By contrast SmartPly, part of Coillte the Irish forestry company, has access to sustainable, well managed fast growing softwood timber. OSB, unlike plywood, uses forest thinnings which are smaller diameter logs unsuited for use by the sawmills, therefore maximising the overall resource.

The concerns over illegal timber extend beyond the actual material itself to the pay, reward and working conditions for those harvesting timber or laying out the plies of material for plywood production. Sustainability is not just about protecting vulnerable resources but also ensuring the preservation of community and individual economic sustainability.

The big problem in the UK construction industry is making sure that timber hoardings are seen as part of the whole construction project when it comes to product specification and timber sourcing. On the whole, focus is concentrated on the building, and protection of the site perimeter during construction is left to the contractor who has a lot of other priorities. With one or two exceptions in the form of more enlightened firms, poorer quality and potentially illegal plywood is the dominant choice for hoarding applications, but one which can undermine a project’s sustainability credentials and wider image.

SmartPly SiteProtect OSB offers the answer to the problem, a high quality hoarding solution with a pre-primed smooth finish ready for painting. Manufactured under factory controlled conditions to European standards, dependable product performance is ensured for long lasting looks with no delamination. With raw material supplied from our own well managed local forests we have not only security of supply but also we know exactly what timber we are using, ensuring a robust chain of custody for FSC Certification. This enables clients to have confidence that their sites are compliant with binding UK and European responsible sourcing regulations, and that they are not contributing to the illegal timber trade or unsustainable practices.

To find out more about SmartPly, please visit www.discoversmartply.com.


Mike Harrison, Marketing Manager, Coillte Panel Products