Building on solid foundations

22 December 2014

Wood for Good executive director Dave Hopkins looks back at a year of real progress and forwards to exciting times ahead for the communications campaign

As I write, the chancellor George Osborne is due to make his Autumn Statement. This is happening in December, a time of year most of us rightly think of as winter!

If our politicians can't get to grips with a simple annual calendar, we may wonder if they are really best placed to decide our economic and political future.

Nevertheless, for a pan-supply chain communications campaign like Wood for Good, they remain a key target audience.

Indeed, our 2014 activity started with a focus on political stakeholders. Our wellpublicised survey of MPs shed new light on their lack of awareness about the timber industry or of the benefits of using wood products. The results of this survey then formed the basis of a roundtable debate in the House of Commons with stakeholders from timber, construction and MPs from across the political spectrum.

The discussion ensured our message was heard loud and clear and has allowed us to maintain continuing dialogue across some key policy areas.

One of the key themes identified in these debates is the increasing influence of the local agenda. With this in mind, we took our same arguments to decision makers in the construction industry, from local authority planners to developers, contractors and architects with our series of Growing Communities seminars.

The events discussed how projects in sectors including education and housing could be delivered more quickly, without sacrificing sustainability objectives.

The well-received events offered an overview of the various applications and end markets for timber, showcasing successful exemplar projects in each sector.

All of this work has been complemented with the launch of the Wood for Good Lifecycle Assessment (LCA) Database. Designed to help the industry overcome one of the main barriers identified to timber's increased use - a lack of empirical data - the LCA hub is set to become a powerful resource for the timber industry. The database includes LCA information on all major timber products from cradle to grave, helping contractors, architects and policy makers more easily understand and evaluate the merits of using timber over other materials.

The database is being supported with the publication of our Users Guide and a programme of educational seminars to ensure it is used to full effect. With carbon such a hot topic for the construction industry - and with the help of the data from the new LCA - we have created a series of dynamic animations to bring the subject to life.

Our Build With Carbon campaign demonstrates how timber products can be used to make our built environment into a safe carbon storage facility by following the path of wood from tree to building, in an accessible way any audience could understand.

The films show that if we achieved the Labour Party ambition of 200,000 houses using timber frame methods we could store a whopping 4 million tonnes of CO2 annually.

This is no small number and - along with the practical advantages offered by faster build times and energy-efficient end products - can turn heads in the policy making world.

With the run-up to the 2015 general election getting into full flow we have been working with the Timber Accord to launch a new manifesto - Growing our Low Carbon Economy - which highlights the timber industry's role in helping deliver the sustainable homes, jobs and growth that our economy so desperately needs. This report has been sent to local and national politicians and the full roll-out continues.

All these themes were brought together in a 15-page supplement in Building magazine in November. Using case studies and features, the supplement was distributed to the widest range of construction professionals, allowing us to communicate the reasons timber should be a first choice material for construction and giving the industry the ammunition it needs to negotiate with clients.

In addition to all of the above we have continued providing a full CPD programme for specifiers and major sponsorship of the Wood Awards, the main national showcase for timber in architecture and design.

We are now preparing our activity for 2015 - continuing our work on housing and carbon with a focus on interior design - and will be announcing a calendar of activity shortly.

We may even send a copy of the calendar to the chancellor. It looks like he needs it.

Wood for Good has been engaging with policymakers to highlight the role of the timber industry