Both events delivered positive news on the international timber trading environment in general, and prospects for the UK market in particular. They also highlighted exciting new steps being taken worldwide to reinforce wood’s status as the pre-eminent manufacturing and construction material for our low carbon, sustainability-oriented age. The ISC was being held in the UK for the first time in 13 years and co-hosts, the Timber Trade Federation (TTF) and Confor, took the chance to showcase a modern, forward-looking national timber industry.

The conference itself was preceded by a tour of the UK softwood supply chain, taking in state-of-the-art BSW Timber and James Jones & Sons sawmills, and the latest word in UK timber frame construction in the form of 2014 Commonwealth Games athlete’s village housing being built by Mactaggart & Mickel. Delegates were impressed. One Nordic producer drew an analogy between the advance of UK softwood and the progress made by New World wine. "We perhaps didn’t take it seriously," he said. "Now we have to." TTF chief executive John White also saw the fact that the conference was co-hosted by bodies representing different industry segments as key. It highlighted a commitment to cross-industry collaboration which would strengthen timber’s ability to take on highly cohesive rival materials sectors, he said.

The ISC’s market outlook was not rose tinted. Speakers said economic conditions overall remained challenging, but the consensus was that the worst of the slump was over, with the softwood market expected to head upward increasingly strongly through 2014-15. Nineteen EU countries were now reported to be forecasting housing start increases.

In a blueprint for a 42-storey crosslaminated timber and concrete tower devised in the US, and new Scottish engineered wood construction products, the ISC audience was also presented with latest developments widening softwood’s building market horizons. And a presentation on the European Wood Promotion Programme’s Wood Growing Cities project showed how these are set to be communicated increasingly powerfully to the construction community.

Meanwhile the AHEC Convention highlighted the impact long-term manufacturing migration and recession have had on US hardwood production, leaving the resource "seriously under-utilised". But speakers also highlighted that US exports have now been rising for four years, with the UK recently among its best performing markets.

Presentations also highlighted latest initiatives to expand US hardwoods’ use through timber engineering and thermal treatment, and delegates heard too about the truly ground-breaking new American Hardwood Environmental Profile project. This provides life cycle analysis, carbon footprint, environmental product declaration and EUTRaligned legality assurance information for US hardwoods in one user-friendly hit and launches within months. Enough in itself to ward off post-timber convention collapse.