Guest contributor: David Hopkins, CEO of the Timber Trade Federation
The FMB’s work to produce and promote a National Retrofit Strategy with the Construction Leadership Council will bring tremendous benefits to UK PLC’s climate targets, if builders are able to ‘think outside the box’. Traditionally, topics like insulation have largely meant mineral wool style loft insulation. Yet there are now a suite of products which enable builders to point at CO2 reduction benefits not simply from the outcomes of having installed insulation.
Wood fibre insulation is something which many builders are still to become familiar with. Yet in a carbon-challenged world needing rapidly to change future outcomes for the planet, it makes sense to look at solutions which bring additional benefits. Wood locks away CO2 in its fibre for its useable lifetime, whether this is in a building, or eventually as part of the circular economy, recycled into yet more wood-based products and re-incorporated into future buildings. It therefore both brings carbon reductions through its insulative properties but also by the very fibre of its being.
While the National Retrofit Academy is laudably producing a suite of retrofit qualifications, including a Level 2 in Understanding Domestic Retrofit, which we gather may be available by the end of 2021, understanding the products which can create the most benefit for your householder or client and for the planet, also has to be part of the equation. To this end, we have produced a dedicated leaflet on wood and retrofit, available free for builders to download.
Whilst wood fibre insulation is one option, other producers of panel products are now marketing panels to help you meet Passivhaus standards. At the same time, one of the easiest retrofit solutions is installing timber windows and better-fitting timber doors, which all help to reduce heat loss and thus energy consumption. The Wood Windows Alliance website has information on essentials such as thermal values, but don’t forget to add to your list of benefits the carbon capture and storage potential which sustainably-grown, legally harvested timber makes in its own right. As a rough average, every cubic metre of softwood wood stores just under a tonne of CO2. The more dense the wood, the greater the carbon capture and storage.
Wood is a natural insulator, far exceeding the capabilities of other building materials. Internal wood cladding, perhaps also backed by wood fibre insulation, can help heat retention in the nation’s homes. Even the humble decorative timber moulding, like Scotias and Quadrants for example, can help plug draughty gaps between windows and walls; skirting too can help to fill gaps at floor level. If a new floor is being fitted, consider whether wood-based sub-floor panels would also help to reduce heat loss.
In short, retrofit is good for the planet, and we applaud the FMB’s efforts to lead the nation towards warmer, more energy-efficient homes. Wood is also good for retrofit: it’s the right climate for both to succeed, in the hands of the skilled craftspeople who make up the FMB’s membership.