A new approach to UK hardwood timber supply
The UK imports over 90% of its hardwood and yet we leave huge amounts of the same material in our unmanaged woods.
The woodstock project is looking at the options to improve and streamline the complex supply chain that has been identified as one of the key barriers to using more homegrown hardwood, and in turn improve UK woodlands.
A Grown in Britain consortium, led by English Woodlands Timber, has been awarded funding by the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, to explore how hardwood supply chains in the UK could be improved.
Dougal Driver, Grown in Britain Chief Executive comments: “There are close to 100 million tonnes of timber in unmanaged woodlands and significant unused processing capacity throughout the UK, which the project will begin the process of unlocking. With the UK relying on high levels of imported timber this Grown in Britain project is vital to breaking down barriers within the supply chain for home-grown hardwood, making it much more accessible and readily available.”
Specifically aimed at construction supply chains, project partners include the BRE, the Forestry Commission, forest and wood charity the Sylva Foundation, building contractor Willmott Dixon, and other representatives of the timber and merchant sectors. Consultants Sustainable Construction Solutions and Resource Efficiency Services are special advisors on the project. The project started on the 1st October 2015, and will run for 12 months. The findings from work stream 1 are outlined below, and the full report is available at:
“MAKING THE GRADE”
INDUSTRY SURVEY RESULTS
As part of the initial market research, we asked processors, suppliers and consumers for their help in identifying the hardwood timber they use, how it is specified, and supply issues arising with home grown sources.
We found some interesting key points, many of which backed up the research team’s initial thoughts, including that a key reason why customers did not specify British timber was the lack of information on timber availability (quantity and species). Going forward this will be a major focus of the Grown in Britain WoodStock project.
However the research also showed that another barrier was that no appearance grading standard had been adopted for British timber, which means there is no way to maintain a consistent appearance grade across all suppliers. One of our partners, the Forestry Commission, has previously recognised this, and produced a guide called ‘Making the Grade’ which is available online at:
Charlie Law, Managing Director of research consultancy Sustainable Construction Solutions, said: “We always suspected that lack of information was a key reason why British timber was not specified; but to find out that there was no consistent appearance grading system in place surprised us! However we were pleased to see that this had been recognised and that the Forestry Commission had produced this excellent ‘Making the Grade’ resource, which we would advise the timber supply chain to adopt.”
HARDWOOD – CURRENT UK CONSUMPTION
UK HARDWOOD RESOURCE
The project aims to improve the flow of hardwood timber from UK woodlands to the end customer and has five main work streams:
- Market research to establish the timber species and section sizes being purchased by the UK construction industry, and identify what timber is available in UK woodlands to match this, and also identify the infrastructure required to process this.
- Timber stock funding options that will look to increase round wood and sawn timber stocks without imposing additional risks on the supply chain.
- Timber supply hub that will be able to locate available timber in independent saw mills around the UK.
- Material efficiencies, looking at how sawn wood yields could be improved.
- Industry engagement, to unite and galvanise the full support of the UK timber industry.
Key Points from Market Research
- Internal and external joinery are the main uses for hardwood
- Oak the predominant species specified
- Ash, Beech, Cherry, Maple, Tulipwood, and Walnut specified for internal joinery
- Iroko, Sapele and Utile specified for external joinery
- Lack of information a key barrier for not specifying British
- Lack of a consistent grading standard a key issue for all
- A belief that timber requirements cannot be met from British sources
- British timber is (wrongly) perceived to be more expensive
- Merchants unsure on the availability of British timber
- Chain of custody a must; required by 80% of customers
- Ash availability in UK woodlands would easily meet current demands
- Existing infrastructure could easily support a 100% increase in production
For more information on the project and details of how to get involved contact: firstname.lastname@example.org