Back to Insights

Why should we support Home Grown Timber?

Charlie Law 14 Oct 2013

Did you know that the UK construction industry used over 5million m3 of softwood in 2012, but less than a fifth of this came from UK sources?  This helped make the UK the 4th largest importer of timber and wood based products in the world, behind the USA, China and Japan, resulting in a trade deficit of around £4.6billion!

Grown in Britain is a campaign to help change this. It is the Government’s response to the backlash following its proposals to sell off large areas of UK woodland in 2010. It has brought together government and industry to identify the barriers restricting the use of home-grown timber, and ultimately overcome these to increase its use.

What does this have to do with construction?

With an increasing focus on local sourcing, life cycle assessments of buildings, and embodied carbon in construction, is home-grown timber the solution?

By procuring home-grown timber we can help to close the trade deficit as well as reduce the embodied carbon (a proportion of which is from the transport required to deliver timber to our projects). Increased forest management also has wider sustainability benefits such as increasing employment in rural areas, recreational access, health and wellbeing, water management and biodiversity.

BAM, as a supporter of the Grown in Britain campaign and member of the construction task group, is working with a selected number of major contractors to identify the barriers to the use of home-grown timber, and try and find solutions. An action plan and progress report, including our recommendations and actions to date, was published to coincide with Grown in Britain week. Read it here.

This outlines how Grown in Britain can be maintained from a commercial perspective and how the construction industry can contribute. For example, by reviewing designs to ensure they are not over-specified, allowing the use of C16 strength grade timber (as nearly all UK timber is C16 grade), rather than having to use C24 timber (nearly all of which is imported). Also using alternative tree species, such as the more widely available Larch instead of Western Red Cedar for timber cladding solutions, could also increase the amount of home-grown timber used on projects.

Can you tell the difference? English Western Red Cedar and English Larch

How sustainable is home-grown timber?

The UK Contractors Group has published a position statement which requires all timber to be from a certified legal and sustainable source. Nearly all commercially grown softwood in the UK is dual certified to both the FSC and PEFC standards (see also FSC Friday blog).

However many small scale producers of softwood and hardwood find it hard to justify the expense of registering with the FSC or PEFC, and are therefore excluded from a large part of the construction market. Grown in Britain is therefore looking at how it can tie the requirement for a felling licence in the UK (which requires similar sustainability requirements to those required under FSC and PEFC certification) to the chain of custody certification process, allowing small scale producers to take advantage of a wider market. This will mean that you can be confident in the sustainability of all British timber you specify.

UK Grown Douglas Fir on the Cowdray Estate in West Sussex

The result of the Grown in Britain campaign for the construction industry should therefore deliver a new and stronger market pull for the array of products derived from our woodlands and forests, encouraging private sector funding that supports the planting and management of woodland and forests, through harnessing the positive energy and feelings towards our woodlands and forests that many in our society share.

For more information about the campaign visit the Grown in Britain website.



Back to Insights