With the government pressing home the sustainable development message, and companies committing to corporate social responsibility, those wanting to do business in some quarters must wear their green credentials on their sleeves.

The truss rafter industry is no exception, with UK manufacturers having to get serious about sustainability issues or risk losing contracts – especially in the housing association market.

Dover Trussed Rafters general manager Chris Shelton described sustainability as “a growing issue in the truss rafter industry”.

“People want FSC– or PEFC-certified timber,” he said. “Housing associations in the main are asking for it because it will enable them to access government grants, plus the government is promoting green buildings.

“A year ago you couldn’t get certified timber for roof trusses, but now it is becoming more available, mainly from Scandinavia and the Baltics. I think it is something our industry has got to get up to speed on if they want to supply these contracts.

“If certified timber is available you should use it – there is a little bit of a premium on it, but that isn’t too bad as we add value to the timber which only represents around 50% of the selling price of the truss.”

Mr Shelton believes certification is a good thing. “You can’t not be concerned about the environment and it is not changing anything that the Swedes and others don’t already do.”

Government grants

Richard Finlinson, chairman of the Amphion Consortium, a group of more than 20 housing associations, said: “We wouldn’t want to use anything other than timber from sustainable sources as that would go against everything we stand for. If we didn’t use sustainable timber we might have difficulty – not now but in the near future – in obtaining government grants.

&#8220A year ago you couldn’t get certified timber for roof trusses, but now it is becoming more available, mainly from Scandinavia and the Baltics. I think it is something our industry has got to get up to speed on if they want to supply these contracts.”

Chris Shelton, general manager, Dover Trussed Rafters

One truss rafter timber supplier that has already gone down the certification route is MBM Forest Products Ltd.

Sales director Jimmy Clegg said: “We now have TR26 truss material available ex-stock which is fully FSC-certified. We have been working at this for some time with one of our major suppliers in the Baltic states as certified material for trusses and carcassing is becoming a major requirement in the UK.

“As time goes by our specification is becoming more balanced to the customer base requirement. The people we are working with decided a long time ago to go down the FSC route which has proved to be right. It gives customers in the UK another choice of supplier.”

Kier Partnership Homes actively promotes the use of sustainable timber in order to help ensure long-term supply of materials in a way that fulfils its commitment to corporate social responsibility, accords with its environmental policy, reflects client aspirations and meets and exceeds performance requirements and guidelines.

A spokesperson said: “Legislation and guidance surrounding the social housing sector is becoming increasingly aware of the importance of environmental and sustainability issues. EcoHome accreditation has become the predominant force for sustainable development.”

Choosing suppliers

Kier Partnership Homes selects its core timber suppliers on the basis of their being able to supply certified material. One of its suppliers is Crown Timber plc. Director Geoff Skinner said: “Requests for environmentally-accredited product began to rise in 2002, largely originating from specifying authorities, many connected with national and local government, who were showing that certified timber was a must for any truss rafter manufacturer wishing to supply them.”

Crown talked to its suppliers and, because of the timber’s Nordic origins and work already done by them, decided on PEFC accreditation. In 2003, Crown began working with BM TRADA. Mr Skinner said: “Some suppliers already had PEFC certification but those that didn’t were encouraged to obtain it, even if that meant changing the log supply source, so that a chain of custody could be obtained and passed on to us.”

By August 2003, Crown was awarded certification for its European whitewood. Performance improved and, in January 2004, the schedule of scope was extended to include all its other solid timber products by the addition of European redwood. By June 2004, Crown no longer had to sell segregated stock, having reached the volume of certified product required to state that all timber it supplies is minimum 70% PEFC certified.