It is now two months since we officially launched the Wood First campaign, so now seemed to be a good time to take stock and reflect on what we are trying to achieve, what we have achieved and what we can look forward to as the campaign moves on.
So, now seemed to be a good time to take stock and reflect on what we are trying to achieve, what we have achieved and what we can look forward to as the campaign moves on.
Our campaign is calling for local authorities throughout the UK to introduce a Wood First rule in planning guidance whereby timber is considered – where feasible – as the first-choice, primary construction material in all building projects from housing to schools to high-rise blocks.
We’re calling for this for a number of reasons. First and foremost we look at sustainability and environmental concerns. In short, the greater the long-term demand for sustainably managed timber, the greater the supply of forest cover to provide it. The greater the supply of forest cover, the greater the amounts of carbon absorbed and stored and the greater the benefits for biodiversity through the habitats which are created.
As the trees are harvested and turned into wood products, the carbon remains stored within them. The greatest long term storage option available is construction and building. Under this scenario, every timber building will act as a long term carbon store while the replacement forest has time to grow and mature – absorbing yet more carbon and storing it in new buildings and products.
The cycle is endlessly renewable.
Yet carbon capture and storage alone is not enough to get this going. Putting Wood First has other benefits – wood is one of the greatest insulating materials available helping buildings achieve great levels of energy efficiency; processing and production of timber products requires very little energy so maintains a low carbon footprint; modern timber products are exceptionally durable and have long life spans; they can be re-used and recycled, and at end-of-life used in energy production to substitute for fossil fuels. They provide excellent sound-proofing too so in the case of high-rise housing or other multiple occupancy sites you won’t have to hear your neighbours.
But, again, all this is still not enough for some.
So, we look at the other benefits: using timber can be quicker, cleaner and cheaper! Most modern timber systems are pre-engineered off site so can be assembled quickly on-site without the levels of noise, dust and machinery needed for traditional techniques.
Stadthaus in Murray Grove for example, where four carpenters who built the basic nine-storey structure in 27 days and the project was completed in 49 weeks – an estimated time saving of 5 months compared to traditional techniques, using traditional materials.
Not only can greater use of timber save time and money, it has been shown to help create wealth too. The recently published report from the Independent Panel on Forestry showed that the timber supply chain has a huge Gross Value Added (GVA) impact for the economy – around 40% higher than the contribution of the mining and quarrying industries for example.
So a greater use of timber can have a knock-on effect in stimulating local economies. And we haven’t even started on the aesthetic benefits….
As the campaign continues we will be articulating far more clearly on each of the benefits we’ve outlined and making sure our key audiences understands the benefits a Wood First rule can bring to them. We have an engagement program which will take us from Hackney to Hadrian’s Wall – and even over the other side! – and we’ll be inviting you to join in. Please do sign up to keep in touch – we are keen to hear your views and get you involved.
David Hopkins – Wood First!