Use of material a ’key part’ of net zero strategy, says minister

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has published a roadmap to increase the use of timber in the construction of homes and buildings. 

According to the department, using timber in construction is one of the best ways to reduce emissions from buildings, which account for around of 25% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. 


Source: Forestry Commission

The government wants to increase tree canopy and woodland cover in England to 16.5% by 2050, which should increase planting levels

However, 80% of timber currently used in the UK is imported, and the new roadmap sets out plans for driving up domestic capacity. 

Forestry minister Rebecca Pow said promoting the use of timber as a building material was a “key part” of the government’s net zero strategy and would help create innovation and jobs. 

She gave the example of parliament’s own Westminster Hall, which has the largest medieval timber roof in Northern Europe, as a “fantastic case in point” for the use of wood as a building material and said the roadmap signalled “the next evolution” in the UK’s use of the material. 

Key actions include improving data on timber and whole life carbon, promoting timber as a construction material and boosting skills, capacity and competency across the supply chain. 

It also outlined its intention to address fire safety concerns relating to the use of engineered mass timber and to work on issues with insurers, lenders and warranty providers.  

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Andrew Carpenter, chief executive of the Structural Timber Association, said: “We are delighted that the UK Government has recognised the critical need to safely increase the use of timber in construction and we applaud the leadership that has been shown in setting this objective.”

He said that the roadmap would be a “beneficial driver” in the push towards net zero and would give “clarity and guidance to stakeholders throughout the construction industry”.

“It has been a pleasure to participate in such important work and we look forward to continued collaboration between Government and industry as we move to the next stage of implementation,” Carpenter added. 

The government says increasing domestic capacity will also create new green jobs in the UK’s forestry and wood processing sectors, which currently contributed more than £2bn to the economy. 

“It will innovate the economy, play a role in creating green jobs and also help meet our tree-planting targets,” said Pow. 

DEFRA has already awarded £7.6m through the Woodlands into Management Forestry Innovation Funds to develop new technologies and working practices that boost homegrown timber.  

There is also a statutory woodland cover target to increase tree canopy and woodland cover in England to 16.5% by 2050, which should stimulate tree planting of both hard and softwoods. 

Elsewhere in government, use of the product has been advanced by the Department for Education’s Gen Zero project, which has created a prototype low-carbon classroom made from UK-sourced-and-manufactured timber products.