Timber Expo has given our industry another fantastic platform to promote ourselves as the product that will suit the needs of the construction industry, reliably, consistently, competitively, while beating the opposition (steel, concrete and masonry) on our environmental credentials.

Before Timber Expo opened, around 70 senior people attended a Timber Summit; they kindly allowed me to go along as well!

The Summit centred on a survey of 50 architects and senior people within major construction companies and it gives a very clear picture of where we are. The summary is:

Architects "love timber" – they understand it; they want to use it. Even then, we’re not considered to be ‘mainstream’. Yes, there’s plenty more to do, but we’re on their radar.

Main contractors feel uncomfortable with timber and will try hard to shift specifications to concrete or steel, especially on design and build works where they have more control.

Both groups are frustrated by the difficulty in getting information – if they want details about something like plasterboard it’s easy, just a click or two away, whereas timber is a mass of options, although concrete didn’t do well either.

They find it hard to get sub-contractors who they can place work with, that have the necessary expertise. Maybe we could help the subbies to market themselves?

We’re seen as being the least developed supply chain out of our competing building materials – there are some perfectly obvious reasons for that, but it’s our job to find ways to solve it, otherwise we’ll never make the shifts in attitude that are needed to make timber the obvious choice.

On a personal note, I think the existing chain of custody policy is pathetic and typifies how we’ve allowed our industry to end up with a system that adds cost, reduces flexibility and confuses its customers. When you’re at the sharp end, selling products to the contractor, it is utter madness to have two of everything (FSC and PEFC) when all we need is one. The cost of running a business like this, along with the total bafflement of our customers, is incredibly frustrating – it needs changing, right now.

It’s this sort of narrow mindedness that typifies why timber is still not ‘mainstream’. We’re far too self-centred and unwilling to change. There’s an inherent fear of losing control, instead of going for growth. Timber will never be the only material; then again, neither will any other. We need to find ways to combine timber with all of the others.

While we think timber’s the only environmentally-friendly option, concrete and steel are making compelling points to prove that’s not correct – we must work together to put our case across, as one industry, united in every way.

The recent Accord of trade associations, our work to produce industry-specific training qualifications and all manner of other initiatives are positive proof that we know what to do and are actually doing it, but we need to move this up a few gears.

Only by working together, through our trade associations and organisations, will we achieve the common goal. Going it alone will just increase the confusion. Trade bodies then need to increase their combined work, at every possible opportunity.

So, are you going to work to that aim, or (if you’re not already actively involved) are you satisfied with timber’s current place in the market?

I think most people would agree we’re not satisfied and badly need more volume and sales – you are the person who will change this, not anyone else! Don’t walk away, do something, today!