2014 is a good year for treated wood. Demand has increased across all sectors, reflecting a resurgent UK economy.

Against the trading background, the twin challenges of building confidence in treated wood performance and the impending EU Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) permitting process have concentrated the minds of timber treatment businesses. The Wood Protection Association (WPA) is taking the lead role for industry on both fronts.

On performance, the WPA Benchmark, a third-party quality scheme that verifies preservative and fire retardant treated wood is fit for purpose, continues to expand the availability of products that conform to expectations in British Standards. In June, it was expanded to include a wood preservative product approval scheme. Under this scheme an independent expert panel assesses efficacy data provided by a chemical manufacturer and recommends the retentions required to protect wood in service.

Approvals to date have related to Use Class 4 and 3 (uncoated) but a technical working group has started to develop a similar scheme for Use Class 1 and 2 construction applications. Although it’s a voluntary scheme, all the major preservative manufacturers have had products approved by the WPA and the results (approved retentions) are published on our website. Next year, the WPA intends to underwrite its quality and product approval schemes with a Benchmark treated wood performance bond.

Complementing these initiatives is a major project to assess the natural durability of home-grown spruce, pine, larch and Douglas fir. Thanks to funding support from WPA members and contributions from Forestry Commission Scotland, Scottish Enterprise and some timber trade associations, WPA has been able to contract BRE to carry out this important project. The project will better inform WPA Manual specifications, the wood preservation standard BS 8417 and assess the benefits of incising technology for specifications beyond those for which it is already being adopted. On regulations, the hot topic of the moment is without question the IED. Under this EU directive, most UK timber treatment businesses will need to have an IED permit by July 7, 2015. Failure to meet the deadline could have serious consequences. Compliance is based on a timber treatment business being able to demonstrate that it is using best available techniques (BAT) to prevent emissions to the environment. BAT will be defined in a yet to be published EU Best Available Techniques Reference Document (BREF) but until this is legally in place (two to three years) each EU member state will operate its own regulatory controls.

The WPA regulatory affairs team has been working hard to influence how the IED will be regulated across the UK and to provide treaters with the guidance to ensure compliance. To make sure we fulfil our commitment as industry lead on IED we’ve beefed up our regulatory affairs activity with new resources and services. The IED compliance guidance documents and permit application templates have become the reference guide of choice and our new site-specific consultancy service is proving popular with treaters getting to grips with IED. New versions of the guidance documents were published this week.

WPA has consistently lobbied for a more practical approach to permitting until the European BREF document comes into force and recent meetings with regulators for Scotland and England and Wales indicate we have made some progress. In the absence of a legally binding government approved Sector Guidance Note, the WPA has been invited by SEPA and the local authority IPPC link authority to help develop guidance on timber treatment plant operation and interpretation of BAT for use by those who will be responsible for approving permits.

Things are moving fast and our best advice to those who need to have permits by July 7, 2015 is to stay in touch with what the WPA is doing – the scope of WPA involvement with regulators is not replicated by any other organisation.