The use of timber in construction is growing and the actions of a consortium of organisations is aiming to boost the usage of home-grown wood through the establishment of the first ever engineered timber manufacturing plant in the UK.
Innovate UK has granted funds from their Sustainable Innovation Fund to Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC), Edinburgh Napier University (ENU) Centre for Offsite Construction & Innovative Structures (COCIS), Scottish Forestry, Confederation of Forest Industries (Confor) and SNRG. The consortium of organisations will now use the funds to present a business case for using Scottish timber as the main structural components of new buildings.
Their aim is for local timber produced in Scotland to become mainstream for use by the UK construction industry and the development of the UK´s first engineered timber manufacturing plant.
Sam Hart, innovation manager at CSIC, said: “The project is an important milestone in the move towards more mainstream use of home-grown timber in the UK’s construction sector, the majority of which is grown in Scotland. Research has proven that, with the right treatment and processing, our timber can be used for a wide variety of higher-value purposes beyond its relatively limited set of current applications. Through its increased use in commercial construction and housebuilding, we can also reduce our reliance on imported timber.
“The next step from there will be to make the industry aware of this transformational potential and make it a reality. Greater use of our natural and renewable resources will deliver a range of environmental, cost, and economic benefits for Scotland and the wider UK. COP26 is a once in a generation opportunity to showcase what can be achieved.”
Home-grown timber can bring a range of benefits. As well as increasing the number of green jobs in the UK, it could achieve significantly lower construction costs for the industry by as much as 10%. In terms of importing timber the UK was the second largest importer in 2018, only second to China and the production of our own timber would reduce not only import costs but reduce carbon emissions by reducing the need for transportation and would also open up the UK to potential new markets to the UK-based timber sector. This means that we could supply our own timber to the 85% of new builds in Scotland that use timber.
Timber use in the UK has typically been used in the past for non-structural use although research and development has been carried out to test the viability of using timber in the production of mass timber products and systems such as Glue Laminated Timber (GLT), and Dowel Laminated Timber.
Following the pilot manufacturing, testing and analysation of UK timber, it has now progressed to trialling it in a live environment, hence the funding for presenting an investment case for developing a Scottish manufacturing facility to offer an alternative to the products that are being imported from abroad.
Head of the Centre for Offsite Construction & Innovative Structures, Professor Robert Hairstans said: “Scotland has the renewable resource, internationally recognised expertise and technical capabilities necessary to be at the forefront of a new approach to delivering a sustainable built environment in response to the climate crisis. Leveraging this potential Scotland can deliver the human capital and built assets necessary to form the fabric of a circular economy. Digitally enabled, these assets can instigate an ecosystem of organic growth unlocking the potential of a sector that can lead the way in making the new normal a sustainable future.”
Head of business development at Scottish Forestry, Jason Hubert said: “Scottish Forestry, and the wider Scottish Government, recognises the importance of increasing Scottish timber in construction as a means of storing carbon for the long term as well as generating green jobs for the country. This project will provide the springboard for the sector to start manufacturing a great engineering product which can be used in large-scale buildings using home-gown timber.
“The Scottish Government is committed to getting more Scottish timber into construction and aims to increase the current 2.2 million cubic metres to 2.6 million cubic metres each year by 2021/2022.”
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