Supply remains big issue

26 February 2018

When there is an issue in the timber trade that keeps dominating trade talk it’s hard to focus on other things. This is what is happening with the supply and pricing challenge currently facing the sector.

Without wanting to repeat last month’s comment, it’s clear there is concern in the supply chain about where things are headed.

If you were at the excellent London and South East Timber Trade Association meeting recently in Tunbridge Wells, a very clear picture was painted of the high demand, rising prices and shortages of raw materials affecting many different product sectors.

In our special market update we bring an update on the severe log availability/high price situation affecting the home-grown timber industries.

There is considerable frustration among sawmills, many of whom have reduced production to manage the raw material challenge.

The positive news is that a large cross-industry delegation have met the Scottish government and it now appears more likely there will be intervention aimed at releasing more timber to the market. While the situation remains serious, several people do think things will ease for UK sawmills in the spring. Time, of course, will tell.

Another very topical subject is covered in this month’s Sector Focus on cladding and inevitably the issue of fire safety has been elevated in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire.

There have been rumours of developers and local authorities pulling timber cladding from some projects as they react to the post-Grenfell scrutiny on external cladding materials, even though timber was not involved.

When things like this happen, the industry has to be responsive, proactive and ahead of the game.

As Wood Protection Association (WPA) technical director Gordon Ewbank says in the Focus, NHBC has already reviewed its position for new buildings over 18m tall and will only accept Euroclass A1 or A2 cladding materials or test data for a whole cladding system as it will be installed. Unless suppliers stump up for the testing, timber (even FR treated) will be effectively excluded from these projects.

The WPA and Timber Decking and Cladding Association are participating in a Confederation of Timber Industries project to develop a national timber fire specification. This will draw all key data and product knowledge relating to the performance, design and use of timber-based materials in situations where fire is a risk.

The hope is that timber cladding will continue its rise in popularity and, backed by data, can continue to be specified successfully on all kinds of building projects.

Lastly, two pieces of TTJ news. The annual TTJ Awards is moving to a fantastic new venue – The InterContinental London Park Lane. And I’m delighted to welcome back Sally Spencer full time onto TTJ as deputy editor after three years heading up Progressive Media’s Central Content Team.