DYNAMIC WOOD: THE SUSTAINABLE FUTURE
Camilla Hair, SCA Timber Supply Ltd
Wood is no longer a commodity. Its carbon storage potential means the more wood you use in new-builds or renovations, the more carbon dioxide you are locking away in the fibre of the wood for its lifetime.
The natural appeal of wood and its historic connections are powerful: I still remember the scent and texture of wood shavings in the workshop of my Master Builder grandfather, Owen James. Yet wood is a material for the future too. Timber-frame construction has now reached multi-storey proportions. Modified, strengthened wood is becoming available, while laminated beams, formerly only for major buildings, are now available for domestic projects.
Certified, sustainably-managed forests mean that the wood reaching you via the builders’ merchants is making a significant contribution to the future of the planet. In SCA’s forests in Sweden, we plan our harvesting around 100 years ahead, and grow 100 million trees at our tree nursery each year, ensuring a sustainable future for softwood (pine and spruce) supplies.
New data from the Timber Trade Federation shows that about 90 percent of wood used in Britain is now covered by responsible sourcing certification schemes.
FOREST STEWARDSHIP COUNCIL (FSC) SCHEME
To play your part, ask your merchant if they have gained ‘chain of custody’ certification, such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) scheme
, for wood products. This will assume greater importance in 2013, when the EU’s Timber Regulation comes into force. It demands that all wood sources must be clearly stated, aiming to prevent the sale of illegally-logged timber.
Rav Sumal, Director at C&S Builders Merchants (Stamford Hill), recently achieved certification under the FSC system: “With next year’s EU Timber Regulation on the horizon, major contractors are concerned about timber sourcing. Some are not prepared to let timber on site unless it’s come from a merchant with FSC chain of custody, and it’s stated clearly on the paperwork.
Local authorities also want evidence of legal and sustainable timber sourcing. “Although builders don’t have to be certified, it would be good for business to ensure their timber is not from illegal sources. Asking merchants for timber chain of custody is the best way of managing that risk.” Although Europe’s forests provide 98 percent of the softwood and 84 percent of all the wood and wood products imported into the UK, it’s still worth double-checking timber origins.
Left: Stairs by Atmos Studio using European oak and MDF Wood Awards 2011 innovation award winner (photo;Atmos Studio/The Wood Awards)
The wood industry is modernising quickly to be of greater service to builders. TRADA
has launched a free, downloadable smartphone Timber Species app, which gives basic data for many different species of wood. IA new online ‘Wood Campus’ was launched last month, providing free training at many different levels to anyone who registers at www.woodcampus.co.uk
. Training includes ‘choose and use’ sheets and ‘how to’ videos for tradesmen.
Merchants too are offering more information, as Chris Hopkins, Director at Turnbulls Building Supplies in Lincolnshire, confirms: “Timber is such a staple of the building trade that everyone presumes there’s nothing more to know. Yet being able to get the right advice at the trade counter is important to builders in a hurry, so as independent merchants we are up-skilling our people with in-depth timber knowledge to better service our customers’ needs.”
Strange House by Hugh Strange Architects, using spruce (Switzerland), and Nicaraguan cedro macho, guapinol and nanciton - Wood awards 2011 Private Category Winner
A DEFECT-FREE FUTURE
Sawn softwood now accounts for around 90 percent of UK wood consumption, according to industry statistics. But even this most every-day material is seeing changes in its production and presentation. At sawmills, X-ray scanning technology and computerised grading are being introduced. And with competition from MDF, solid wood products are gradually shifting towards a laminated, defect-free future.
Merchants too are adapting their wood offering and service levels, labelling their racks and making wood selection faster. “Builders are savvy individuals and in this economic climate buy only what they need for each job. To make their lives easier, we’re now selling sheet materials cut to half-size,” says Geoff Dobbs, Branch Manager at RGB Building Supplies in Tiverton. “With much new housing being of smaller proportions, it makes sense to review the way we offer materials for sale. Nine out of ten builders ask for longer lengths of planed timber to be cut in half to fit their vans. We’re offering a wider choice of formats, including some packs cut to set lengths, enabling the builder to pick up what they need quickly.”
To update yourself on new developments in wood products and uses, Timber Expo
, 25 and 26 September 2012, will show you just what today’s timber sector can offer. And if you fancy showing off your own wood skills, then look at entering The Wood Awards – the established arena for all that’s dynamic about wood.