STA annual survey of UK structural timber markets

The STA’s annual survey of UK structural timber markets forecast continued growth within the sector as companies are taking advantage of market opportunities. These opportunities include factors such as advances in off-site construction supported by modern manufacturing processes and computerised technology. Alex Goodfellow, Chairman of the STA and Managing Director for Stewart Milne Timber Systems, discusses the findings of the report and outlines the STA’s priorities for 2018.



ur latest annual survey focuses on an analysis of timber trends across 2016, with emphasis on the quality, value and growth in market share – together with demonstrating the capability and available capacity within the timber frame sector. This report has been developed to illustrate to Governments and the wider construction industry that our sector delivers quality structural systems and has the ability and willingness to upscale to meet market demand.

The sector has made good progress again during 2016 with housing volumes holding up and I am delighted to report that the market share for timber frame has increased to 28.4% – with housing starts up to 52,705 and forecast to continue on this upward trajectory. Confidence remains high for those companies reporting – with volumes expected to grow to 88,000 by 2021. This represents an ambitious year-on-year growth forecast of circa 10% for timber frame. Both the NHBC and LABC are reporting unprecedented levels of housing starts in structural timber.

This is impressive enough but if we add to this the other construction sectors that are currently using timber solutions such as structural insulated panel systems, cross-laminated timber and glulam – it is obvious the whole sector is ‘on a roll’! We are currently compiling a report across these structural timber sectors which will be published shortly and will provide robust details to substantiate anecdotal evidence.

The Westminster and devolved Governments are focused on the UK housing crisis. This has generated numerous initiatives and discussion and whilst all have not delivered as they had set out – there is definite encouragement from the top to build more homes. This is an opportunity we cannot miss, and we must continue to influence and lobby all aspects of Government. We must also maintain our close contact with key industry influencers, specifiers and stakeholders.

Scottish Government is working with SFHA, Homes for Scotland, Sottish Innovation Centre and the STA – in an effort to build 50,000 affordable homes in the lifetime of the current Parliament. In addition, the STA has been working with the UK Government’s All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) and the Welsh Government in promoting the benefits of timber frame for house-building and the sector’s ability to deliver the additional volumes required.

The volume of opportunities from house-builders, developers, contractors and clients remains strong and there is an emerging market for more advanced off-site solutions. We have made significant strides throughout 2017 in the work we have done to represent our sector, promote our members and protect our industry. The STA’s principal objective is “to promote and increase the use of structural timber within the UK construction industry”. Through research, training and technical knowledge sharing across the structural timber industry, our mission is to raise the bar in terms of sustainability, quality, innovation, health and safety.

The STA is making a difference as we strive to amplify the professional way in which member companies go about their businesses. We represent a wide spectrum of companies who operate across the timber construction industry including suppliers, manufacturers, erectors and designers.

Our latest quality initiatives include the STA Assure Membership & Quality Standards Scheme and Site Safe.

STA Assure has received formal recognition from four of the industry’s leading structural warranty and building control bodies – LABC Warranty, Protek, CRL Management and Premier Guarantee. STA Assure is designed to benefit both clients and our members by offering reassurances to the construction community by promoting the differing accreditations and quality standards held by individual STA member companies.

Site Safe has been developed by the STA to ensure our members work closely with principal contractors and clients to give clear, concise information and assistance to the principal contractor regarding fire safety on construction sites.

The first 11 months of my time as Chairman of the STA have flown by and the next year is crucially important. The STA board have identified five strategic objectives for the year ahead. To grow market share and the use of timber structures and systems. Increase the efficiency and productivity of our sector. This will be underpinned by improving the quality of our sector to boost market perceptions, market capability and value. Enhancing risk management is important – supported by robust business systems that protect and serve the sector. And, finally, achieving a fair-trading deal for all our members in business trading.

We have a marketplace that is growing, and we are in demand. The STA will operate with integrity and provide a professional approach to all the challenges we face, but we can also push forward with confidence in 2018.

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