Wood for Good SBE0072

Written evidence submitted by Wood for Good

About Wood for Good:

Wood for Good is the UK timber industry’s campaign which aims to promote the use of wood in design and construction. Wood is nature’s most versatile building material and modern engineering methods have expanded possibilities for its application beyond traditional uses. Launched in 2000, its objective is to make wood a first-choice material for specifiers and designers by demonstrating what can be done with wood.

Reason for submitting evidence:

As a campaign for the timber industry, we share, collect and promote industry knowledge around the aesthetic, biophilic and environmental benefits of wood products. Wood for Good has a supporter network of over 20 timber and forestry organisations including trade and public sector bodies, which help to inform the work we do.

In 2020 Wood for Good launched a targeted messaging campaign focused on CO2 and climate change called Wood CO2ts less. This campaign promotes the role sustainable forestry and wood products can play in reducing CO2 emissions and mitigating the effects of climate change.

We are submitting evidence as sustainability in the built environment is of interest to our supporters and our audiences. We are keen to work with and help inform any further actions that are made as a result of the inquiry.

Contact:

Sarah Virgo, Campaign Manager, Wood for Good

Answers:

To what extent have the climate change committee’s recommendations on decarbonising the structural fabric of new homes been met?

The Government has not met the Climate Change Committee’s recommendations as there has been no policy developed to incentivise the use of low carbon materials or building systems in construction over traditionally higher unsustainable carbon products and systems.

How can materials be employed to reduce the carbon impact of new buildings, including efficient heating and cooling, and which materials are most effective at reducing embodied carbon?

When managed sustainably, timber is a naturally renewable resource for wood products which can contribute significantly to reducing the carbon impact of new buildings by:

-          Acting as a form of carbon capture and storage as the carbon dioxide sequestered by trees is stored as carbon in the wood product created for the product’s lifetime and sometimes second life.

-          Sustainably managed forests are quickly restocked to continue the cycle of removing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it long term in construction wood products.

-          Using wood can displace other carbon-intensive materials such as cement and steel.

-          Modern timber-based construction systems are lightweight and require less foundations than traditional builds, consequently reducing the use of high embodied carbon concrete.

Timber also reduces the operational carbon costs associated with new buildings.

What role can nature-based materials play in achieving the government’s net zero ambition?

The Climate Change Committee have already recognised that natural materials, such as wood, are essential in achieving the government’s net zero targets.

Wood products from sustainable managed sources are naturally renewable, easily recycled, repaired, and reused into other products as well giving wood products a longer lifespan. There is an opportunity to use more homegrown timber and further reduce the carbon costs by reducing supply chains where possible. It fits into the government’s net-zero ambitions and contributes to a circular economic model.

What role can the planning system, permitted development and building regulations play in delivering a sustainable built environment? How can these policies incentivise developers to use low carbon materials and sustainable design?

There are several ways that policies could incentivise the use of low carbon materials and sustainable design.

-          Nationally mandated policies for reducing embodied carbon through fabric first and the use of natural materials would require firms to consider the full embodied carbon cost of construction and encourage more sustainable material selection and design. Embracing some of the suggestions in ACAN’s report to reduce embodied carbon.

-          Targets for use of low-carbon materials or sustainable design whether for a specific product like wood or general embodied carbon targets would further incentivise firms to use more sustainable materials. Such policies have been used in other countries, for example French public buildings must now be built with 50% wood products.

-          Leadership by example in using sustainable design in public buildings would provide a positive example for developers.

-          Clear guidance and support for developers on selecting low-carbon materials and design should be provided in an accessible way with consultation from trade bodies and experts.

 

What methods account for embodied carbon in buildings and how can this be consistently applied across the sector?

The method for accounting for embodied carbon emissions for construction works is laid out in ‘BS EN 15978 sustainability of construction works. Assessment of environmental performance of buildings. Calculation method.’ RICs professional statement on ‘whole life carbon assessment for the built environment’ provides requirements and supporting guidance, and together should be adopted as the nationally agreed methodology for measuring embodied carbon emissions.

Should the embodied carbon impact of alternative building materials take into account the carbon cost of manufacture and delivery to site, enabling customers to assess the relative impact of imported versus domestically sourced materials?

Yes, where possible. Embodied carbon impact should account for the cost of manufacture and delivery to site in accordance with ‘BS EN 15978 sustainability of construction works. Assessment of environmental performance of buildings. Calculation method.’

How well is green infrastructure being incorporated into building design and developments to achieve climate resilience and other benefits?

There are limited examples available of green infrastructure being implemented on scale. There are a variety of examples seen in smaller and specialist buildings and these are often led by firms who have a vested interest or passion in sustainable design.

Future public infrastructure should seek to fill this gap by leading by example.

How should we take into account the use of materials to minimise carbon footprint, such as use of water harvesting from the roof, grey water circulation, porous surfaces for hardstanding, energy generation systems such as solar panels?

When considering a building we should take a holistic and circular approach to materials and choose materials that help to reduce the operational or embodied carbon footprint of the building.

How should re-use and refurbishment of buildings be balanced with new developments?

Re-use and refurbishment should be the first choice for the construction industry, and remain so, unless it can be clearly demonstrated that a new build is a more pragmatic option for a building site.

Timber and wood products can play an important part in the redevelopment of existing buildings, as lightweight timber structures can be placed on top of existing structures to increase floor area and land utilisation, and products like wood fibre insulation can be used increasing the energy performance of the building as well as being a source of carbon storage.

What can the government do to incentivise more repair, maintenance and retrofit of existing buildings?

To encourage reuse and retrofit first, it is imperative the government should reduce vat on refurbishment, on a par with new build, help speed planning application processing for these projects, and provide consistent definitions of repair, maintenance and retrofit.

By embracing initiatives such as the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) ‘National Retrofit Strategy’ which provides a clear pathway, actions and deliverables to level up the market and workforce, the government could incentivise retrofit first.

May 2021