UK Timber Shortage

UK Timber Shortage

The “Grown in Britain” campaign this week launched a report detailing proposals to boost Britain’s domestic forest industry. The construction industry was hoping that the report would contain suggestions for increasing the amount of British-grown timber available for new buildings, said The Economist Thursday.

But the report merely suggests that there is a need for “generating more demand” for British wood by improving “wood culture” among the general public.

Although the UK’s production of sawn timber increased by 22 per cent between 2008 and 2012, according to the Forestry Commission, production is now levelling off due to bottlenecks in the timber-processing industry. A 2011 report said that 40 per cent of potential British timber production is lost due to a lack of business investment in processing facilities.

UK’s Timber Future

Other factors have increased demand for local timber over the last few years. For instance, a trend to build more houses out of wood rather than traditional clay brick has boosted demand for local supplies, said The Economist. Nearly 30 per cent of new houses in England are soon likely to be timber framed, according to the Structural Timber Association. In Scotland, that figure has already reached 72 per cent.

New regulations that force companies to use low-carbon materials have also boosted demand for locally-grown wood. New EU labeling codes have encouraged builders to use more locally-sourced materials by insisting that “embodied carbon” emissions, due to transporting materials, should be included in the environmental reckoning for new buildings. Firms have also become fussier about what materials their buildings use since big British companies are now forced to report the level of carbon emissions they produce.

But sourcing wood for new buildings in England has become a particularly tough task in recent years due to supply shortages. Benedict Binns, at the Centre for the Built Environment, claims that finding English-grown timber has become “very difficult” for their projects. Even those willing to pay premium prices, like building preservation experts, say they cannot find the locally-produced timber they need.

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