Delivering the Timber in Construction Policy Roadmap

With the clock ticking down to net zero, timber’s low-carbon credentials have placed it at the top of the construction agenda. Recently, the Government set out a forward-thinking plan to increase the use of timber in construction, as Andrew Carpenter, Chief Executive of the Structural Timber Association, explains.


The increased use of structural timber presents an exciting opportunity to transition towards a more sustainable and carbon-efficient approach to the way we build our homes and communal spaces. As the only truly renewable and environmental building resource, and with low embodied carbon, timber is an effective solution to achieving net zero and for remaining compliant with any future regulatory requirement for energy efficiency.

It’s encouraging to see this recognised by the Government, which published its Timber in Construction Policy Roadmap in December last year. Demonstrating a clear and actionable desire to explore low-carbon building materials, the report is an unprecedented move from the Government and is the result of many months of collaboration with industry.

It’s important to emphasise the scale of this project, which was headed by DEFRA, and involved organisations from across the sector, including the STA, who led the structural timber sector involvement alongside Timber Development UK (TDUK) and Confederation of Forest Industries (Confor).

The overall objective is to safely increase the amount of timber used in construction, with this higher goal divided into six and, later, seven key topics. Both opportunities and barriers were interrogated, recommendations outlined, with subsequent actions then split between ‘what Government will do’ and ‘what industry will do’. The priority themes are demand, supply, carbon, building safety, insurance, skills and innovation. Each topic had a separate working group made up of industry experts.

One major development that will help move delivery of the roadmap forwards is the appointment of the STA, TDUK and Confor as joint Secretariat of the TIC working group. Crucially, the Secretariat role will be tasked with leading the development and implementation of solid plans to deliver each of the seven key priorities. It’s encouraging that DEFRA has recognised the importance of ‘boots on the ground’ expertise and has given us this vital opportunity to shape the delivery of such a key piece of policy. Drawing on the combined experience and practical knowledge each organisation brings to the table, we have an exciting part to play in driving these policy goals forward – turning aspirations into action.

Another issue we are able to tackle now is around skills and training, which was highlighted as a key challenge within the roadmap. This one is quite apt from an STA point of view, as a series of new training schemes has just been announced, covering all aspects of the build process from design to construction. Ultimately, the industry will benefit from upskilling all parties, from architects to erectors and installers, and the STA is taking the responsibility to drive the solution in this area.

What is key now for the future of the industry and for driving practical results from the guidance and insight of the roadmap is to agree KPIs, measuring them, and of course, achieving them. The focus is now on turning plans into actions without delay in order to achieve the objectives of the roadmap and increase the use of structural timber in construction.

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