What’s stopping the wider adoption of timber in construction?

The Timber in Construction Roadmap was published in December 2023 after months of industry collaboration. Andrew Carpenter provides some insight from the inside on key barriers and opportunities present when exploring the use of structural timber

Headed by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Timber in Construction Working Group was formed in December 2021 following COP 26 held in Glasgow.

The Structural Timber Association (STA), together with Timber Development UK (TDUK) and Confederation of Forest Industries (Confor), led on structural timber sector involvement.

The overall objective is to increase the amount of timber used in construction safely. This was divided into six and later seven topics, where barriers and opportunities were interrogated and recommendations to overcome them created for both government and industry.

The priority themes were demand, supply, carbon, building safety, insurance, skills and innovation. Each topic had a separate working group made up of industry experts.

The result was a curated report on the industry in December 2022, which provided the data for the Timber in Construction Roadmap published 12 months later.

Accurate data was crucial in terms of market share and carbon impact – it was important to demonstrate just how much of a positive impact the increased use of timber in construction would have.

A big part of the process was identifying the main barriers preventing the wider adoption of the material. A key driver from Defra was the use of more home-grown timber, but that will require a considerably more long-term commitment. While not something that can be achieved immediately, the STA is working closely with Confor to support this.

The priority themes were demand, supply, carbon, building safety, insurance, skills and innovation.

In the short term, the aim is to help new adopters of structural timber systems make the transition from more traditional methods. However, there is a myth that timber is not as cost-effective as other materials. This presents a considerable barrier and more transparency is needed. The STA is currently developing a cost comparison tool to help debunk the myth.

Another issue we can tackle now is the gap in skills and training, which the roadmap highlighted as a key challenge. This one is apt from an STA point of view, as a series of training schemes is set to be announced in the coming weeks, covering all levels of the build process from design to construction. Ultimately, the industry will benefit from upskilling all parties, from architects to erectors and installers, and the STA is committed to driving the solution in this area.

What is key for the future of the industry – and for driving practical results – is to agree on key performance indicators (KPIs), measure them, and of course, achieve them. The focus is on turning plans into actions without delay to achieve the roadmap's objectives and increase the use of structural timber in construction.

The Timber in Construction Roadmap can be found here

Original source: What's stopping the wider adoption of timber in construction? | Opinion | Building Design (bdonline.co.uk)

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