Posts

As the built environment moves towards becoming eco-friendly, buildingspecifier Editor Joe Bradbury posits the question – are we not seeing the wood for the trees in the quest for a viable green alternative?

The construction industry accounts for almost 7% of the economy in the UK and we hold a 10% share of total employment. However, with great size comes great responsibility and unfortunately – a very big carbon footprint. 47% of greenhouse gas emissions are generated from buildings and 10% of CO2 emissions come from construction materials. Shockingly, 20% of the materials used on the average building site end up in a skip. According to a 2011 report, in 2010 up to 4.3 million tonnes of timber waste was generated.

However, it isn’t all doom and gloom and reckless capitalism, as the construction industry has come on leaps and bounds over the past 20 years or so in a bid to make the industry a cleaner, greener entity. One area where vast improvements have been made is in the recycling and usage of wood in buildings. In 1992, less than 2% of all waste wood was recycled; 10 years later approximately 60% (2.8 million tonnes) of all wood waste generated in the UK was recycled.

The energy industry is also beginning to see the potential of wood for cleaning up its act. Because trees absorb carbon dioxide whilst they grow, burning wood for energy is considered ‘carbon neutral.’ In 2010 around 0.55 million tonnes of wood was used in energy generation. Some coal-fired power stations have had some of their boilers converted to accept wood and they burn more than 100,000 tonnes of recycled woodchip a year.

Remarkably, the future of wood in construction of buildings has reached soaring new heights recently as innovations in engineered timber could spell the beginning of a new era of eco-friendly wooden skyscraper design.

Despite wood in its raw form not being able to compete with the steel-frame design used in skyscrapers globally, a new type of super-plywood has been created that just might give steel a run for its money.

By gluing layers of low-grade softwood together to create timber panels, today’s “engineered timber” resembles Ikea flat-packed furniture rather than traditional sawn lumber and removes the height limits usually imposed on buildings with timber frames. Free from these constraints, ambitious architects are exploring the possibility of a next generation of “plyscrapers.”

Architect Michael Green has drawn up plans for a 30-storey, naturally grown tower for downtown Vancouver, which if built would become the world’s highest wooden building – an accolade currently awarded to London’s Stadthaus at nine storeys and the 10-storey Forte Building in Melbourne.

With China next on the list of countries suspected to implement timber skyscrapers into their cityscapes, it is definitely possible that we could one day be working in a building that began life as a seed.

However, there is still deep mistrust of timber builds en masse, with many considering them a tinderbox responsible for causing ravaging city fires such as the great fire of London, San Francisco and Chicago, to name a few examples.  Whilst historically fires have razed great cities to the ground, today’s engineered timber develops a protective charring layer that maintains structural integrity and burns very predictably. This means that it would actually be more structurally sound than steel, which warps drastically under intense heat.

NASA satellite photos of our planet help biologists calculate the number of trees there are on Earth. Whilst impossible to settle on a specific number, many professors agree that there are roughly 61 trees per person worldwide. It requires 22 trees to produce the amount of oxygen consumed by one person, with an acre of trees producing enough oxygen for 18 people. The forest loss is 49,421 acres per day, equivalent to an area twice the size of Paris – an alarming statistic when you consider the expanding population.

Obviously trees alone aren’t the answer to the construction industry’s environmental issues, however, through responsible usage and with the utmost respect it could help us edge further towards that cleaner, greener future we all need.

A report commissioned by WWF finds that UK businesses must invest in sustainable forest management if they are to guarantee access to timber that their businesses rely on in the near future. Leading countries that supply timber to the UK are either at the point of expiry or running at a deficit as forest resources are used without adequate provision for sustainable timber supply.

However, the report highlights key benefits that will make the case for businesses to switch more rapidly to sustainable sourcing. These include:

  • advantages in regulatory positioning
  • easier raising of finance
  • added brand value
  • a more engaged workforce

It also gives manufacturers maximum scope for product development and provides retailers with a full range of tradable goods. These benefits can increase performance of the timber industry as a whole and ultimately aid the bottom line of all companies involved.

As the international market for timber will change in its dynamics in the next decades, without urgent action UK businesses who have failed to adequately plan for continuity of their timber resource could be left exposed with fewer commercial options.

Depleting sustainable resources

The implications are far reaching with WWF’s Living Forests report series concluding that global demand for timber is expected to triple by 2050 due to an increase in demand of wood and paper products from growing economies and populations. At the same time this report’s analysis indicates that:

  • Brazil has only 16 years of timber forests remaining, South Africa 7 years, Colombia 12 years, Mexico 9 years, Nigeria 11 years, Thailand 9 years and Pakistan 10 years.
  • Primary forest is being depleted at an alarming rate in many forested countries, the most extreme examples being Nigeria, losing 99% of primary forest, and Vietnam 80% since 1990 – a loss of almost 2 million hectares in these two countries alone. This has a huge impact on the biodiversity and other important forest ecosystem functions.
  • In the UK by 2050 less than 22% of the timber will originate from Britain.
  • All the UK foresters interviewed for the report expressed grave concerns over the future of domestic softwood supply.

The report also sets out how sourcing timber from sustainably managed forests, will help protect the natural environment as forests not only provide timber but also supply a range of ecosystem services, such as carbon sequestration, water provision, flood prevention, erosion control and biodiversity. Securing long-term supply of timber from sustainably managed forests, will help protect wildlife and ecosystem functions residing in these forests, as well assisting in securing wider social benefits, and is also a contributor to the bottom line of businesses utilising timber as a resource, which currently is as yet widely unaccounted for as a benefit, only as a cost.

Julia Young, Global Forest and Trade Network Manager for WWF-UK commented “Committing to sustainable timber sourcing isn’t just an added bonus, but is something that any timber dependent business must be investing in if they want a healthy and resilient business that will survive. This report sets out important areas in business functions where benefits are likely to accrue, but are not accounted for when making decisions about the overall cost benefit of sustainable sourcing. We can no longer rely on our usual sources of timber as unsustainable practices are having devastating consequences on forests, and we face a real danger of not having enough timber to satisfy our growing population needs.

“Businesses need to review how their timber is sourced if they want to secure supply for the future, and in keep timber prices stable. This will have tangible business benefits of sustainable practices including advantages in regulatory positioning, easier raising of finance, brand value and an engaged workforce. It also gives manufacturers maximum scope for product development and provides retailers with a full range of tradable goods. These business benefits can increase performance and ultimately aid the bottom line.

“The UK Government must lead by example and address sustainable forest use in the urgently upcoming 25 year plan for nature.”

Designer furniture retailer Lombok has become the first business to be fined for breaching regulations introduced in 2013 to prohibit the importing and sale of illegally harvested timber.

Lombok was convicted and fined £5,000 plus costs after pleading guilty at the first hearing.

The company failed to exercise the required due diligence when placing an artisan sideboard on the market, imported on 1st June 2016 from India.

A previous breach of the relevant regulations had earlier been identified and led to a Notice of Remedial Action being served on Lombok on 28 April 2015; this was followed by a warning letter dated 7 October 2015 when the company failed to comply with the notice.

On 20 October 2016, officers visited Lombok’s central London showroom and found the required due diligence checks had not been made for an artisan sideboard for sale that had been imported from India.

When convicting the company District Judge stated these offences are “important”, addressing environmental concerns, biodiversity concerns, and public confidence that companies do not endanger those. Companies are required to mitigate the risk of illegal logging. Lombok had failed to exercise due diligence when importing the artisan sideboard, with their previous failures an aggravating feature, though in mitigation they had reacted proactively.

Taking into account their mitigation and credit for an early guilty plea, Lombok was fined £5,000, plus a victim surcharge of £170 and prosecution costs of £2,951. The total of £8,121 was ordered to be paid within 28 days.

Mike Kearney, Head of Regulatory Delivery Enforcement, said “The Government’s Regulatory Delivery team will take action against businesses that persistently, deliberately or recklessly fail to meet their legal obligations.

“Lombok failed to change their practises in response to our advice and so, given the impact of illegal logging, a criminal prosecution was appropriate. I am pleased that Lombok is now improving its supply chain monitoring.”

This prosecution was brought by the Insolvency Service Criminal Enforcement Team on behalf of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Regulatory Delivery team.

Window Solutions response to an article we published last month entitled “Industry risks running out of timber soon if we don’t become more sustainable” posing the question: is PVC-U a more natural choice for windows as the sustainability of timber is called into question, or can the industry rebound?

Dear Editor,

On 11 July, you ran an article entitled ‘Industry risks running out of timber soon if we don’t become more sustainable’, which talked about the findings of a report from the WWF and the need for businesses to commit to sustainable timber sourcing to guarantee supplies for the future and keep timber prices stable. For the windows industry – and those specialising in wooden doors and frames – the report heralds an important warning which must not be ignored.

The world’s raw materials supply is being outstripped by growing global demand, and businesses everywhere must commit to using less. In the past, PVC too has faced similar challenges in supply and demand and we had to adapt quickly to survive.

We started small, recycling trade off-cuts more than 15 years ago. It’s relatively simple to recycle PVC and when used with new polymer, it can be given a new lease of life. Some reports suggest that PVC can be recycled up to 10 times in its lifetime, so future new polymer use could be significantly less if we recycle and reuse it more.

Our commitment to sustainability and using our resources more carefully has since expanded over the years – not because of the threat of another material supply crisis but because we needed to futureproof our business. We have invested more than €50m in new technology and facilities to ensure that more than half of our products will be made using recycled materials by 2020. Our ultimate goal is to use up to 100 per cent post-consumer waste in the core of our profiles.

At this year’s Fit Show, we launched our new co-extrusion profile, which uses new and recycled PVC together. For the replacement of first generation PVC-U windows, co-extruded profiles offer a closed loop process as the windows being taken out of a property can be recycled and reincarnated as new windows.

Our past resource crisis actually made us a better business committed to sustainability, and I hope that our timber counterparts in the windows industry will react and rebound in a similar way. After all, necessity is the mother of invention. Perhaps in the future we will see new wooden frame designs, which use less raw materials or take advantage of recycled material. This will be good for the progression of the market, new product development and this all benefits our customers.

The windows industry may yet come out of this timber crisis stronger, leaner and greener.

Yours sincerely,

Gareth Jones,
Marketing & Technical Director – Window Solutions at REHAU

Brio architectural hardware made an adventurous curved door project a reality for an innovative wedding venue in north Devon.

Tunnels Beaches is a network of hand carved tunnels leading to sheltered beaches and a tidal Victorian bathing pool at Ilfracombe, the location of a breath-taking beach front wedding venue operated by Devon Beach Weddings. The bespoke building curving out of the rock means there are no concerns about the UK weather and whatever turn it takes it is all visible through curved bi-folding glazed doors – whether opened or closed.

The owner had the idea to refurbish and at the same time to extend the upper story of the curved building by 2 metres, installing curved bi-folding glazed doors and thereby increasing capacity from 130 guests to 160. With a full house for weddings in 2017, (120+ weddings booked), over 100 weddings already booked for 2018 and prime dates in 2019 booking fast, the extension was a must.

Awlwood Joinery already had a good relationship with the owners Jamie and Zoe McLintock having worked with them at the Tunnels Beaches Bath House – an old Victorian bath house – which was turned in to wedding accommodation for the venues guests, so when the scheme was mooted to install curving bi-folding doors the McLintock’s turned to David Wray at Awlwood Joinery. “It wasn’t anything we had done before but we are skilled guys and the concept is not beyond the reach of man – after all we can send men to the moon – so we undertook the commission. The architect, RGP of Barnstaple, came up with a scheme and we did as they instructed – but with fewer doors (two sets, opening out). The design included wood cladding and lots of steel.

“We opted for the Brio Weatherfold 4s system after talking to Bob Harrison at Hebden & Holding architectural ironmonger and the Brio team which takes panels up to 1 metre wide. The decision was led by the architect’ plans and the constraints of the timber as you cannot have huge pieces of curved timber so we had to make up the doors from smaller pieces that would eventually be bolted together on site. The actual frame was put together by the owner’s site carpenters.”

David Wray says: “I am very pleased with the results especially with Brio’s new dual point locking mechanism. Most bi-folding doors are locked top and bottom which means reaching up and bending down to operate. The new Brio system is a finger locking mechanism. I am so impressed with it I am using it on all jobs. It may be more expensive but it is well worth the investment for the huge improvement and simplified operation and it looks so much better.

Brio’s 286 Dual Point Lock system launched last year has been joined by Brio’s 288 Lever Furniture to give joiners a deluxe option to offer their customers who now, more than ever, are looking for aesthetics as well as practicality.

Brio’s 286 Dual Point Lock is suitable for Brio’s tough exterior folding system Weatherfold 4s with timber or aluminium panels and for single hinge panels, such as French doors, up to 3.5 metres high, offering an alternative to the standard flushbolts. It is both ultra secure and aesthetically pleasing.

Rather than having the standard flushbolt at the top and the bottom of the door system on the inside of the property the end user can now choose a more sophisticated finish with the 288 lever handle readily accessible in the central part of the door so there is no reaching up or bending down to operate bolts.

“I am also impressed with Brio R&D – they are always coming up with new ideas and fixes. Best on the market. The solutions are effective and the Brio representatives are helpful and thoughtful – that’s a one-off!”

According to David Newton, General Manager UK at Brio, the demand for bi-folding and sliding exterior and interior doors is set to continue apace, with a variety of aesthetic demands from delicate ‘floating’ glass systems to commercial style projects such as this example in North Devon. “What this means in practice is that Brio, with its range of product and flexible attitude, will continue to keep pace with the architect’s need for innovative product that can transform anything they design on paper into reality,” he says.

For more details on the BRIO product range visit www.briouk.com

BDA Founder Professor Nico Hendriks spoke at one of two lunches held for the Structural Timber Association during the week of the Ecobuild exhibition. BDA Technical Manager Paul Oakley spoke at the second event.

The STA comprises companies who make, supply or install structural timber products or systems and also companies supplying services to the sector.

A key role of the organisation is the maintenance of high standards and to that end it has introduced its STA Assured schemes covering different parts of the sector. The highest level, STA Assured Gold, is for products and systems supplied to construction sites. These include Structural Insulated Panel (SIPS) and framing systems as well as trussed rafters and roof systems.

We are delighted that the STA accepts Kiwa BDA Agrément® as meeting the requirements of its’ Gold scheme and Nico and Paul were pleased to be able to explain the way BDA goes about its’ assessments to those attending the events, including manufacturers, distributors, architects and building control personnel, as well as STA members and senior management. Key elements of our assessments include consideration of the requirements of Building Regulations for the products or systems concerned as well as NHBC or other non-statutory requirements. Arrangements are also made with the manufacturer to ensure maintenance of the agreed and approved specification for the product or system every time it is made or assembled.

The availability of approval by Kiwa BDA has been welcomed by manufacturers across the industry and we have many assessments underway, including timber and timber-related products.

Other speakers at the lunches included new RIBA President Ben Derbyshire, QS Ian Dacre, whose practice, Rider Levett Bucknall has worked with the STA on an estimating guide and costing exercise, as well as senior figures from the Construction Products Association and the House Builders Federation who addressed the issues facing our industry as it rises to meet the challenge of delivering 300,000 homes a year.

For more information please visit www.kiwa.co.uk.

Technical Editor Bruce Meechan looks at the range of very low carbon solutions available from a major timber frame manufacturer based on the Shropshire – Mid Wales border.

As an offsite manufacturer working across a variety of sectors including commercial, residential and education, Lowfield Timber Frame is well used to being presented with different technical challenges; and to meeting them through the use of different solutions that reflect the versatility of what is arguably nature’s most versatile material.

In essence, Lowfield has in recent years, responded to the demands of both clients and architects for PassivHaus and Near-to-Zero carbon buildings employing twin-wall timber frame, structural insulated panels (SIPs) and now a closed panel system based on timber I-joists.

Darren Jarman, Managing Director for Lowfield Timber Frame, told MMC Magazine: “We have an extensive product range that enables us to respond to clients targeting PassivHaus standard or other very low energy solutions; and we will work with their architects and assessors or other specialist consultants in order to ensure all the details – such as the floor wall junction or foundation connection, achieve the required levels of insulation.

“Some ten years ago we supplied a twin-wall timber frame system for the principal of Munro Associates who was building a new home up in Pitlochry, Scotland. That achieved the level of U-value necessary for PassivHaus – by filling with Warmcel recycled newspaper insulation; and now we are working with PYC Warmcel on a solution featuring 300 mm thick I-joists supplied by Metsa Wood for a social housing scheme featuring low rise homes. We have also built to PassivHaus standards using the Kingspan TEK system; so our product range can really cover all the bases and offer clients solutions to suit their individual needs.”

The architect, Mungo Munro commented: “We do a lot of work for housing associations as well as clients in other sectors, though this was a self-build where Lowfield produced a timber frame to my own design. I went for a double timber frame as it virtually eliminates any cold-bridging and achieved a U-value far better than the Building Standards required.”

Amongst the other highly sustainable projects Lowfield Timber Frame has helped deliver recently is the Telford Town Park Visitor Centre, offering bicycle hire and a café as well as classroom space. The original intention was to build the walls from straw bales, but the cost would have pushed up the budget so the specification switched to the Kingspan TEK system.

The jointing arrangement for the SIPs system helped keep the air leakage rate to around 1 m3/m2/hr at 50 Pascals. The addition of a high performance vapour control layer as part of the building envelope meant the overall airtightness figure for the finished structure outperformed the PassivHaus requirement at 0.58 m3/m2/hr. In terms of insulation value, combined with Kingspan Thermawall TW55 boards, the U-value for the Tek walls was 0.14 W/m2K.

Lowfield also contributed to the conversion of an eyesore, asbestos-clad packing shed into a stunning studio on the outskirts of Leamington Spa; which earned the architect, Sjolander de Cruz, the RIBA Sustainable Project of the Year Award.

G-frame Structures specialises in the design, supply and installation of engineered timber and hybrid structures. A designer of bespoke solutions, G-frame Structures offers a direct route to a complete hybrid package working with a palette that includes Cross Laminated Timber, Glulam, Laminated Veneered Lumber. We are also able to meet your other structural solutions using more standard construction materials through our sister company Murform Ltd.

Involve us early in the design stages and we’ll help you to make savings from the outset and deliver your project ahead of programme with safety first and inside budget. We can also advise and help you to interface with a range of other systems, we are able to design and install timber cladding panels and insulated render as part of our water proof envelope package.

Known by our partners and clients for our hands-on approach to problem solving and fast, efficient delivery, the G-frame team brings a high degree of multi-disciplinary expertise and a commitment to building lasting relationships which leads to repeat business. We provide solutions across the range of building types including social and private residential, education, public access and workspace. Recent projects include the new Moneypenny HQ in Wrexham by AEW Architects, 150 London Road by Stephen Davy Peter Smith Architects and Graveney School 6th Form Block by Urban Projects Bureau which has recently won two awards at the 2016 RIBA London Awards.

All wood products are PEFC or FSC certified.

For more information please email Joe Hall at j.hall@g-frame.co.uk, call us on 01525 288022 or visit www.g-frame.co.uk.

G-frame Structures will be at VISION 2016 at Earl’s Court on 7 & 8 June – come and see us on Stand Number 105

We are all familiar with the fairy tale of the three little pigs; a moral-laden fable about three pigs that construct three houses from different materials. The big bad wolf blows down the first two pigs’ houses, made of straw and sticks respectively, but is unable to destroy the third pig’s house, made of bricks. The story has been told and retold for hundreds of years. However, I think that things have changed…

There have been a multitude of innovations in modern construction techniques of late, so I have decided to take a second look at how affective the pigs’ methods actually were; would the straw and stick homes still fall to huffing and puffing today?

Straw house

With shortages of materials, lack of skills, an ever increasing population and subsequent carbon footprint, there is understandably an enormous demand for a housing solution that won’t cost the earth, both financially and environmentally.

Straw bale construction is one such material that could help achieve this goal. Indeed, a house built from straw goes one step further than helping to alleviate a housing crisis – it can even help the very occupants within that house keep the modern enemy of fuel poverty at bay. Straw bale buildings are so efficiently insulated that they require very little heating, even in the dead of winter.

Where timescales are an issue, straw bale building can also prove to be a worthwhile consideration. Last year saw the first ever straw bale houses hit the market in Bristol. The housing development consisted of seven homes that were erected on site in just nine days, thanks to their precision factory-made panels which slot together perfectly. This speedy turnaround adds to their affordability, of course.

Social Landlord Martin Connolly, responsible for the development, commented on the Bristol homes: “We got into straw bale housing to explore how we could make housing more affordable. What was behind it was concern about homelessness and the environment.”

“In the first instance, we wanted to achieve natural non-toxic house building which sequesters carbon. Hugely insulated and air-tight, the homes produce virtually all the energy they need to run. We are installing rain water harvesting to cut down water and sewage bills, and LED lights, solar panels and an air-source heat pump to reduce light and heating costs. Bath University research shows the running costs can be reduced by as much as 90%. And, as volume of sales increase, we can strive to make the house purchase price even more affordable.”

So, was the first little piggy really that foolish to choose straw over other available materials? Let’s consider the facts; just shy of 4m tonnes straw is produced as a by-product each year by British agriculture. It only takes around 7 tonnes of straw to build a three-bedroom house similar to the Bristol developments. This means that theoretically it would be possible to grow enough straw to build more than half a million new homes each year using straw grown exclusively in British fields. Perhaps not so foolish!?

Stick house

Was the second piggy wrong to build his house from wood? I think absolutely not. Perhaps, considering that the structure fell merely at the exhaling of a wolf, it is his construction skills (or lack thereof) that should be questioned rather than his choice of material. Timber frame buildings are inherently strong, durable and sustainable. Readily available and relatively low in cost, structural timber offers a competitive advantage over many other materials.

Studies suggest that by moving more towards offsite construction techniques, the reputation of the construction industry will improve in the eyes of the younger generation, who above all have a keen interest in innovation, technology and environmental issues. This means that a career within the sector would become a more viable and attractive option, which in turn will help to alleviate the chronic skills shortage currently blighting the industry. Even the second piggy could brush up on his abilities by enrolling in an apprenticeship scheme.

The government report, Construction 2025, highlighted that the poor public image of construction was having a detrimental effect on companies’ abilities to recruit and retain the best talent. The cleaner, safer and more professional setting of a modular construction factory could definitely help attract prospective apprentices and graduates into this relatively new and exciting area of our industry.

Timber is the perfect choice for specifiers who want a precision engineered material that is both cost effective AND sustainable. Structural timber is a low-carbon alternative that offers high structural strength, airtight construction and a traceable supply chain. Therefore it is the perfect choice of material for little piggies with a passion for sustainability and style.

Brick house

Although the hero of the fairy tale is the pig that chose brick above all other materials, the truth of the matter is that there are pro’s and con’s to every material and brick is no exception. Brick homes require very little maintenance and never require painting, caulking or staining. However, this does have a trade-off. Changing the appearance of a brick exterior can be somewhat difficult and expensive.

Homes made of brick are highly energy efficient and therefore remain cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Whilst this in itself is good for the environment, there are caveats and sadly the manufacturing process of bricks almost nullifies this benefit. The manufacturing processes used to create building materials such as cement and bricks are currently accountable for roughly 12% of all emissions of carbon dioxide in the world.

Brick manufacturing especially is very energy-intensive due to the kilns that are used requiring firing for up to three days in order for the bricks within to become hard and strong. Brick kilns operate at about 1100°C and are often kept hot even when not in use. This immense heat is generated using fossil fuels, which emit significant CO2 when combusted.

Houses constructed using brick are durable, energy efficient, highly fire-resistant and low maintenance. This means that they tend to have a higher resale value than their timber beam counterparts. Homeowner insurance is also a lot lower for these very reasons. So whilst savings can be made in the long term, the initial outlay will be much higher if using brick in your project.

Bricks are much more expensive as a building material than timber or straw. Also, whilst largely low maintenance for the most part, when repairs do need to be made they can be difficult, time consuming, highly invasive and expensive. This renders brick a non-cost-effective option for many home builders, regardless of savings that will be made at a later date.

Summary

It is clear to see that each method of construction has both benefits and draw backs. This means that no one method is a perfect solution to meet 21st century housebuilding demands. If the housing crisis, combined with materials shortages and the skills gap are the modern day “wolf at the door”, then it is only through a multifaceted approach that utilises all of the tools and knowledge in our arsenal that we can succeed and thrive as an industry. It’s impossible to tell which material will come up trumps in the end – but one thing we can all agree on is that modular technologies, offsite methods and alternative material usage will play increasingly larger roles in construction as we go forward as an industry. Expect to see a lot more on the topic!

So in summary, does a fairy tale that was first committed to print in the 1840’s still offer worthy advice to the wise and considerate specifier who wishes to keep the wolves at bay? I say “no, no, not by the hair on my chinny chin chin!”

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