Geared up and ready to go

20 September 2017

Structural Timber Association chief executive Andrew Carpenter says the combination of market conditions, political will and housing need mean the potential for timber-based construction in the UK has rarely been better

As great supporters of the TTJ Awards, the Structural Timber Association is delighted to sponsor the new category for Structural Timber Systems Supplier of the Year.

As a volume user of timber, our sector plays an important and growing part in the overall industry and it is excellent and appropriate that we are represented in this way.

On the same day as the TTJ Awards ceremony, in the morning we’re also looking forward to the TTJ Round Table discussion, Housing Needs: Timber Solutions. It’s the perfect theme given the launch of TTJ’s new award category and we’re sure it will spark interesting views on how timber building realises the potential it has in this country.

And what potential. 2015 proved successful for our sector in terms of house building – showing an 8.1% increase over 2014 and the second best performing year for timber frame since data collection began in 2002. Our next Timber Trends and Capacity Report will be launched at Timber Expo, at the NEC Birmingham from October 10-12, and research predicts that we are set to improve on the 2015 statistics.

We have seen momentum grow over the last three to five years and the timber sector is well placed to capitalise on current and forecast growth. Consequently there is a lot of confidence in the industry, but to continue to thrive, the sector knows it must continue to innovate to keep ahead of the curve.

Current capacity is typically run on a single day-shift only, making increases in output by multi-shifting relatively easy to do.

Assuming full-year outputs, the sector can deliver around 150,000 units in 2020/2021, up from around 80,000 in 2017/2018.

Higher levels of optimism are now reflected across structural timber solution providers, with more positive signs of investment and an increase in activity levels.

The construction industry is clearly ready to take advantage of innovative timber technology and offsite techniques to develop better buildings at a more rapid rate and buildings that are more energy efficient too, which is particularly important for the social housing, education, healthcare and commercial sectors, as well as home owners and occupiers.

In fact, I’ve never known such unified agreement that offsite construction is the solution – there is acceptance at pretty much every government level, national, regional and local.

As with all sectors, Brexit holds some uncertainty for ours, however, timber is a global and innovative industry, which will grasp the opportunities and overcome potential hurdles.

The environmental credentials of wood cannot be matched by any other building material. Thanks to advances in offsite structural timber construction, its speed of build also remains unparalleled, allowing structures to quickly become wind and watertight. So we’re geared up and ready to go.

I believe the time is right for the construction industry to embrace innovative timber technology and offsite techniques to overcome the shortfall in housing stock and produce high-performance, energy-efficient buildings to meet the demand.