Timber industry calls for embodied carbon to be regulated


The timber industry is calling for embodied carbon to be regulated in response to the Environmental Audit Committee’s (EAC) recent inquiry into the sustainability of the built environment.

In response to the EAC’s inquiry, the industry has said the Government has not met the Climate Change Committee’s recommendations to decarbonise the structural fabric of new homes and must take stronger action to do so.

The industry calls on the Government to implement nationally mandated policies and actions to measure and reduce embodied carbon emissions. Retrofit should also be incentivised immediately through a VAT reduction and supported in the long-term through an enduring pipeline of work and national and local strategy.

As a low-carbon, naturally renewable, and sustainable construction material, timber is essential for the construction industry to reach its emissions reduction targets, the response shows.

Wood has a significant role to play in helping to decarbonise the structural fabric of new and existing homes, and decarbonising the construction and building industry as a whole. Timber can help to reduce the embodied carbon cost of a building by:

  1. Acting as a form of carbon capture and storage as the carbon dioxide sequestered by trees is stored in the wood product created for the product’s lifetime.
  2. Increasing the number of trees grown in sustainably managed forests, which helps to sequester more carbon dioxide.
  3. Displacing other carbon-intensive materials such as cement and steel with wood helps to reduce the carbon footprint of a building.

Additionally, timber can play a part in reducing the operational carbon costs of new buildings.

  1. Wood fibre insulation and other wood materials can reduce operational heating and energy costs thanks to wood’s natural insulating properties.
  2. Wood can be used in offsite construction solutions, this helps to reduce time, resource and energy spent on-site.

Timber Development chief executive David Hopkins said:

“The UK timber industry has the capacity, technical knowledge, and track record to deliver more homes, quicker, and to a higher standard.  We are a £10bn supply chain in the UK. It provides economic prosperity in every region of the UK, green employment, thousands of healthy, safe, warm, and beautiful low-carbon homes.

“Our ability to make a sustainable impact is widely recognised, with the Climate Change Committee (CCC), the independent advisor to Government on how to achieve net zero by 2050, repeatedly advocating for growing the use of wood in construction to reduce emissions as a way to achieve this.

“Timber in the UK is responsibly sourced to ensure all wood products come from sustainably managed forests, with several trees being planted every time one is harvested. This means that by using sustainable timber we support the future of forests, both in the UK and overseas, all the while creating a healthier built environment.”

Structural Timber Association chief executive Andrew Carpenter said:

“The timber industry is at the forefront of driving low-energy manufacturing, producing high-performance low-carbon goods, and helping achieve UK carbon reduction targets. There is existing capacity within timber frame manufacturing to increase output, with timber able to turn our built environment into a form of carbon capture and storage.

“Timber frame systems are already recognised by industry as providing cost effectiveness, speed and energy-efficiency advantages ‘from inception to construction’. Using offsite construction also allows us to reduce waste by up to 90%, make fewer deliveries to site, and build homes up to 30% quicker than can be achieved with traditional masonry.

“The CCC has highlighted that by using timber frame to build the 270,000 homes per year required in England to overcome the housing crisis, 3 million metric tonnes of CO2e could be absorbed and stored in our built environment per year – the equivalent of taking 648,131 cars off the road. We must decarbonise our construction industry now.”

You can view the response of Timber Development UK to the inquiry online.

For more information on how using more wood can help reduce overall carbon emissions, visit Wood for Good.

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