According to Nick Whitehouse of the Offsite Housing Review, UK annual newbuild home starts have been wallowing around the depressed 100,000 mark through several years of slump. However, the country’s rising population and demographic changes mean we actually need more like 230,000 a year, bare minimum. At the same time the big developers have very successfully trimmed down through the slump to become lean, mean and profitable. But what this means for the market is an established core industry that has capped capacity, at least in the short term, at around 170,000 housing starts a year.

Throw in the fact that the economy is starting to pick up and the property market is showing embryonic signs of recovery, that the slimmed-down ‘traditional’ UK brick and block building is already reporting skills and materials shortages as a result and the government and others are making increasingly positive noises about increased use of quick, efficient offsite construction, and this all amounts to a growing opportunity for quick, efficient, readily upscaleable and offsite-oriented timber-based construction.

And, said Nick Cunningham of the National House-Building Council, the equation in favour of timber becomes clearer still if you bring in the growing pressures on UK building to boost energy and overall environmental performance.

What this sum also adds up to, said representatives of the STA, is the perfect timing for its creation out of the UK Timber Frame Association. In recent years, said chairman Lawrence Young, UK timber-based construction has become increasingly mature and diverse. CLT, glulam frame, SIPs and other engineered wood building and hybrid technologies have been gaining momentum alongside timber frame and the industry continues to push back the technical boundaries, a point borne out by our timber frame focus this week. At the same time, the market is increasingly looking for timber construction solutions in the round rather than one specific form or another. So bringing the broad spread of the industry together under one association with one coherent voice will meet customer and specifier needs and enable the sector as a whole to capitalise on its growing and evolving market opportunities.

According to chief executive Andrew Carpenter, having a pan-industry body, with members sharing the same commitment on issues from quality and health and safety to training, will also help it drive up standards, which in turn should help build market share. And he was sure enough of his ground at the launch to urge the construction industry to give preference to working with STA members.

That the moment is right for the launch of the STA was further underscored by Timber Expo last week, where it held its official launch conference. In their initial number crunching, the organisers report an upturn in visitors from construction and specifier sectors and, said one exhibitor, these people were there to "talk about real projects".

The STA’s birth also holds positives for the wider timber sector. Its aim is also to work hand in glove with the entire timber supply chain, a point underlined by the fact that Timber Trade Federation chief executive John White also spoke at the launch. He saw its creation as another important step towards achieving the cross-industry engagement needed to exploit "every opportunity for the greenest building material known to man".