The UK housebuilding industry, one of the most important markets for the timber industry, is in the midst of rapid change.

The goal of creating sustainable communities, with affordable homes and higher housing densities are all having an impact. Today over 45% of new homes are apartments. This is placing new demands on the building supply chain, including timber products.

Timber frame is a major beneficiary, as developers move to fast-track building. Engineered wood products, such as I-joists, are a natural companion and benefit accordingly. However, we cannot be parochial. There are also innovations in masonry construction, with thin joint systems, and in steel frame construction.

At iLevel Trus Joist we work closely with manufacturers of all types of building systems, including modular and pod structures.

This takes investment in products, design, software and customer solutions. Solutions is the key word. Increasingly the demand is not for single products but building elements, such as roof or wall solutions.

Housebuilders are focused on land acquisition and marketing completed developments. They are passing the task of constructing homes to an integrated supply chain.

This presents a fresh challenge to us all. Manufacturers must invest in innovative solutions and our distribution and merchant partners will need to re-visit the skills they add.

Our company is changing the description of its supply chain from Master Dealers to Service Partners. It is more than a new name, it is a fresh approach to highlighting the skills and resources they deliver to customers.

This all takes investment for the future, investment with no “guarantee” of a return, as the market is changing so rapidly. Yet, unless we invest, the timber trade will fall behind competitors with non-timber solutions.

The alternative is that timber products and services will simply be price-driven commodities – an all too familiar story in the timber trade

Surely, the road to added value, with all its investment and risk, is the more attractive route?