Rising to the challenges of 2021 and beyond

18 October 2021

Sarah Virgo, campaign manager at Wood for Good, says the industry must make the most of the recent buzz around wood

Summer 2021 has served as a stark reminder of the converging global pressures and opportunities impacting the timber industry across the UK. From the ongoing fallout from Covid-19 and Brexit, to the increasing pressure on global timber supplies, and most recently, the blunt warnings on climate change issued by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Timber’s role in the fight against climate change is becoming more widely recognised and greater timber use is one of the recommendations made by the Climate Change Committee. However, the need to calculate the embodied carbon within a building is taking time to move into the mainstream, and the timber industry still faces barriers to wide-spread adoption within UK policy. In the UK, government policy focuses only on reducing the operational carbon emissions created by buildings. Indeed, the UK government’s Future Homes Standard, released at the start of 2021, missed an important opportunity when it failed to include the need to reduce embodied carbon.

In response, the UK timber industry has called on the government to take stronger action to reduce embodied carbon emissions through policy, supported by initiatives such as Wood CO2ts Less and Time for Timber, alongside campaigns such as Architects Climate Action Network (ACAN).

The combined impact of Brexit and Covid-19 have had a significant effect on timber supplies, with material shortages and price increases widely reported. Whilst many are experiencing increased demand for timber products, it may be tempting for those in the timber trade to reduce marketing effort during this time to avoid creating further pressure on demand. However, a joint statement from the Confederation of Timber Industries, the Timber Trade Federation and Swedish Wood suggests an expected easing of supply tension over the coming months.

The industry must continue to make the most of the recent buzz around wood. Considerations around embodied carbon combined with market pressure on the timber supply chain serve to remind us of the critical role that timber can play in the circular economy and potential of timber buildings in a net-zero future. Designing buildings that can be flexible during their lifetime is an increasingly important element of sustainable architecture and design, and timber is the ideal material for re-use. Designing for disassembly, both for furniture or joinery products, as well as whole building systems, means that timber products and buildings can have multiple lives.

With these economic and environmental factors adding to the challenges of 2021, remember that Wood for Good, the timber industry’s campaign designed to support the use of wood in design and construction, is here to support you. Supporters have access to a range of promotional opportunities and materials, from case studies and newsletter features, to promotion via social media and events. We also offer a host of resources that our supporters can download to use in their own campaigns, to promote the use of timber in construction.

For more information about how Wood for Good can help you, contact Sarah Virgo at woodforgood.com

Sarah Virgo