Wood for Gold regularly meets Olympics minister Tessa Jowell.
• The ODA’s backing of the CPET’s certification standard was a major Wood for Gold success.
• The velodrome roof is so far the most iconic specification of timber in Games venues.
• Olympic timber procurement will be the benchmark for future major public projects.

It is already four years since London won the race to host the 2012 Olympic Games.

The excitement of the world’s biggest sporting event coming to town didn’t take long to transfer to the timber industry.

It had a unifying effect across the industry’s organisations, with groups lining up to support an industry campaign.

The Timber Trade Federation, British Woodworking Federation, ConFor, TRADA, wood for good, Trussed Rafter Association, UK Forest Products Association and UK Timber Frame Association were instrumental in setting up the campaign – Wood for Gold – with a mandate to maximise wood use in the Games.

The campaign’s aims are best summed up in the words of a House of Commons early day motion proposed by timber-supporting MP James Paice in 2006: “to encourage the use of the 2012 London Olympics to provide a unique showcase for the wood industry and for wood to play its part in helping to deliver the most environmentally sustainable Olympic Games ever.”

Charles Kennedy, Simon Hughes, Peter Ainsworth and John Gummer were among more than 100 MPs who signed their names in support.

Campaign chairman Craig White, a wood-using architect, said he thought Wood for Gold’s impact had been very good so far. “We have succeeded over the three years in moving from a lobbying organisation to an engagement organisation.

“The campaign now meets quarterly with the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) and its procurement team, as well as meeting regularly with Olympics minister Tessa Jowell, who is very keen to understand the role timber will play. We’ve also met 50+ contractors, designers and engineers on the procurement teams.”

Timber Supplier Panel

The creation of the ODA’s Timber Supplier Panel, consisting of approved wood product suppliers to the Olympic Park, represented a big achievement for the timber industry (TTJ November 8/15, 2008) and Wood for Gold was “instrumental in the ODA choosing the government’s Central Point of Expertise on Timber’s [view on] certification rather than any one certification scheme”. ?“This gives an appropriate range of certified products for the Olympic project,” said Mr White.

Despite the ODA’s tight conditions on legal and sustainable timber procurement, there have been some hiccups.

“Occasionally, some of the lower tier contractors have sought to procure wood which is not to the CPET standard. That has been sorted out. They have been made very aware [of the procurement rules]. The timber industry itself is trying to police the certification as well.”

Mr White said these occasions had involved very small amounts of wood for temporary work. “The Olympics is an enormous procurement process and there are hundreds and thousands of cubic metres of wood products being supplied. Occasionally, some things slip through the net.”


Mr White accepts many people will see the level of wood use in the major venues as an indicator of whether the Wood for Gold campaign has been successful. “Our aspiration was to find a venue that would use wood in an iconic way, not just ordinary use of timber. The velodrome roof is an example with the hybrid use of timber [glulam] and steel tension cables.”

The tennis centre could be the next big use of timber, with glulam in the pipeline for the structure and also a large amount of wood cladding. The prospect of Rafael Nadal stepping out onto court under a signature timber roof is a great prospect for the timber engineering sector.

“It’s going through the procurement process at the moment. We know the ODA want it, the engineers want it and the contractors want it.”

Two large ones that got away include the Aquatics Centre, although the ceiling will be timber clad and the media centre. “We did a large amount of work in the background to get a very innovative timber building for the media centre but sadly that did not come off.”

Olympics legacy

Mr White said other issues, including its use for legacy purposes were deciding factors rather, than material merits. “What we have achieved over three years is that we have market-tested a way in which the timber industry in the UK and Europe can engage with very large infrastructure projects.

“Out of this will come a lot of learning for the industry,” he said, adding that he thought the lessons learned by Wood for Gold could lead to specific programmes within the relaunched wood for good, such as a Building Schools for the Future project.

Wood for Gold has also been in touch with the UK team bidding to organise the 2018 World Cup. “If there’s any gold to be won, the timber industry should have a campaign that uses the Wood for Gold brand to engage with.

“There is a bigger picture,” Mr White continued. “The standards set on timber procurement for the 2012 Olympics will be the standard for public sector procurement for the next 20 years.

“Even if elements of the industry are not directly involved in the Olympics they need to see how the procurement processes are working, and we have a duty to show what sustainability looks like.”