Wood CO2ts less launched in July (TTJ July/ August). The initial phase of the campaign was designed to drum up the support of the timber industry. The next will see the message shared with the wider construction industry. Pressure is increasing for the world to act to reduce the impact of climate change. The declaration of a climate emergency has been met by well-meaning pledges, including the UK government’s goal to be net zero carbon by 2050, but to enable change, we need to look at the cause.

The environmental impact of the construction industry on the planet is clear. Drawing on limited resources, labour intensive practices and creating buildings that are high in embodied and operational carbon are having long-term effects. Opting for more sustainable building materials that capture and store carbon, such as wood, needs to become normal practice.

Spreading The Message

The key messages for the construction industry start with the forestry story and the need to plant more trees. Increasing sustainably managed UK forests captures CO2 from the atmosphere and stores it as carbon. It encourages use of locally sourced timber and the European forest carbon sink continues to grow.

Using wood in construction means buildings become carbon stores rather than emitting further CO2 into the atmosphere. It is also a cost-free solution in comparison to carbon capture technologies.

In addition to the environmental benefits, wood products promote a healthier environment. As we continue to spend most of our time indoors, healthier interiors are imperative and wood products help improve air quality and thermal comfort. Wood also has a positive effect on human health because it lowers activation of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which manages stress responses, blood pressure, heart rate and can inhibit functions like digesting, recovery and repair. When surrounded by nature and wood, these symptoms reduce.

Safety First

At the time of writing, the government has not published its response to the review on lowering the restriction on combustible materials in external walls down to 11m. It’s no secret that timber is a combustible material and it is a matter of priority for the timber industry to ensure using wood products in a building is both appropriate and, ultimately, safe.

Timber industry bodies are working together to form a collaborative response to the review. The Wood CO2ts less campaign will communicate the response and give further information to both the timber industry and wider construction industry on next steps.

The campaign targets architects, engineers, contractors, policy makers, planners and local authorities. Each audience faces different challenges and so communication has been targeted through means such as e-newsletters and features, adverts in priority media – both online and printed and round tables.

The team will also follow the news agenda to identify further opportunities to promote the campaign.

Wood CO2ts less is not targeting consumers, but the message may reach end users via online and other media. Consumers may not have a direct influence, but knowing more about the benefits of timber in construction could help drive change from the ground up.

The campaign will be evaluated on its reach via media coverage and assessing dialogue among decision makers and influencers. It will have been a success if architects consider wood first when choosing materials and instil the need for new and refurbished buildings to be built sustainably.

It will be a success if there is an increase in demand for wood products and more trees are planted in the UK. It will be a success if we start to see a reduction in CO2 because buildings are built with and generate lower emissions.

This is the beginning of a long journey, but the goal is attainable. The campaign’s main support comes from Swedish Wood, Confor, the Timber Trade Federation (TTF) and Structural Timber Association (STA).

And the timber industry is also pledging its support through the likes of Södra, Vastern Timber, James Latham, James Jones, BSW and Scottish Forestry.