News story

New timber roadmap launched to boost UK construction and reduce emissions

New plan sets out vision to boost the safe use of sustainable UK timber in construction and increase domestic supply

  • The built environment makes up around 25% of UK greenhouse gas emissions; reducing its use will be key to reaching net zero
  • Currently 80% of the timber the UK uses is imported - increasing domestic capacity will create new green jobs in our forestry and wood processing sectors

A new ambitious roadmap to increase use of timber in the construction of homes and buildings has been set out by government today (Monday 11 December) in a move designed to reduce emissions and reach net zero. 

Using timber in construction is one of the best ways to reduce emissions from buildings. Around 25% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions are from the built environment, and larger buildings can store up to 400% more carbon when built out of engineered timber products rather than concrete.

The announcement comes following COP28 urbanisation day where ministers met to discuss urbanisation – stepping up domestic timber production and its use in construction will significantly reduce emissions and lock up carbon in buildings, helping to meet net zero ambitions.

The Timber in Construction Roadmap sets out the vision to increase the use of timber in construction, whilst also presenting valuable opportunities for economic growth, rural jobs and levelling up. Currently only 80% of the timber the UK currently uses is imported. Increasing domestic capacity will create new green jobs in the forestry and wood processing sectors, which contribute over £2bn to UK economy.

Key actions set out in the plan include:

  • Improving data on timber and whole life carbon 
  • Promoting timber as a construction material
  • Boosting skills, capacity and competency across the supply chain
  • Increasing the supply of sustainable timber products
  • Addressing fire safety concerns to safely expand the use of engineered mass timber
  • Building collaboration with insurers, lenders, and warranty providers
  • Promoting innovation and high performing timber construction systems 

Forestry Minister Rebecca Pow said:

Investing in timber is investing in growth and levelling up. The built environment is responsible for a huge proportion of UK carbon emissions, and using home-grown timber in construction is key to reducing emissions.

Promoting the use of timber as a building material is a key part of the government’s Net Zero Strategy. It will innovate the economy, play a role in creating green jobs and also help meet our tree-planting targets.

Forestry Commission Chief Executive Richard Stanford said:

If we are to achieve net zero we must produce more timber through home grown trees and lock up carbon using the timber in our buildings. We need to boost productive forestry in England to support timber security and reduce our over reliance on imports at the same time as tackling our nature crisis by improving biodiversity, improving water quality and giving people access to green spaces.

We look forward to working closely with partners across the timber, forestry and construction industries in this hugely important area of our work for years to come.

Confor CEO Stuart Goodall said:

Confor welcomes the “Valuing Timber in Construction” report and was pleased to be a partner in drawing it up. The report recognises the climate change mitigation benefits and additional economic activity that can be delivered from a thriving and growing domestic wood supply chain.

Given support and encouragement from the UK Government, UK wood producers can help supply quality wood products that will reduce the UK’s reliance on imports, contribute positively to decarbonising the construction sector, onshore added value manufacturing and increase quality jobs in rural England. A key part of this will be securing an increased future supply of wood from England’s forests.

Timber Development UK CEO David Hopkins said:

Timber construction has been recognised as essential to tackling built environment emissions by key advisory bodies such as the Environmental Audit Committee and Climate Change Committee. We are delighted to see the government action the recommendations of these bodies through the long-awaited Timber in Construction Policy Roadmap.

By expanding low-carbon timber construction, particularly in the housing sector, we can decarbonise our built environment whilst simultaneously building high quality, efficient buildings. Expanding timber construction also offers a range of economic benefits, helping regions to ‘level up’ with green jobs, and creating localised manufacturing bases across the country which add value to raw timber products. Timber Development UK welcomes the policy roadmap, which marks a crucial point in our bid to reach net zero by 2050.

Structural Timber Association CEO Andrew Carpenter 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.

The TIC Roadmap will be a beneficial driver in this effort, which is so vital to meeting the UK’s net zero carbon commitments, giving 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.

Today’s announcement fulfils a commitment within the Net Zero Strategy, to help the construction sector improve reporting on embodied carbon in buildings and to explore the potential of maximum embodied carbon levels in new buildings in the future.  

Further information

Harris Academy, Sutton opened in 2018. It is a four-storey 10,000m2 school accommodating, at the time of opening, 1,275 pupils and nearly 100 members of staff. It is the UK’s largest Passivhaus school and was built with innovation and wellbeing at the centre of its design. Timber plays a large part in the construction of the building. While a concrete half frame was sunk into the ground, the frame for the upper storeys consist of Cross Laminated Timber (CLT). This was specified for its non-toxic and structural qualities. Douglas fir timber, brick and copper were used as cladding.  

The school is also orientated as a result of extensive daylight, overheating, noise and ecology surveys. Careful orientation and sizing of windows together with selective shading, including brise-soleil on south facades and vertical fins on east & west facades, help optimise solar gains in winter and prevent overheating in summer. 

Passivhaus, refers to buildings created to rigorous energy efficient design standards so that they maintain an almost constant temperature. The Passivhaus standard adopts a whole-building approach with clear, measured targets, focused on high-quality construction, certified through an exacting quality assurance process. 

Built as part of the local authority’s One Planet Sutton vision, Harris Academy has boasted a better learning environment for students with minimal operational carbon, certainty of energy savings, and an excellent indoor environment through exposed timber. It was shortlisted for the Wood Awards 2020 in the Education & Public sector, and was the winner of Civic Building of the Year at SPACES Awards 2021.

Published 11 December 2023