Building to net zero: costing carbon in UK timber construction an environmental ‘must’

We want all members to know they are connected to a supply chain doing its best to reduce carbon emissions.

Tue 20 Dec 22


By TDUK – Originally published 10 August 2022

THE UK government must increase the use of timber materials in construction projects, according to a recent report from the British Environmental Audit Committee.

Timber Development UK offers insight into how the supply chain can unite to make this goal a reality.

In 2016, less than one-third (28%) of new-build homes across the UK were built using timber frame, with most of those homes constructed in Scotland. The use of timber in England, Wales and Ireland was comparatively low, but the Climate Change Committee has recommended that the use of timber be increased to 40% by 2050.

Now, a report from the government’s Environmental Audit Committee has warned that urgent action is needed to help reduce the levels of carbon emissions in construction.

Charlie Law… we are only at the start of the journey and just beginning to scope out the industry’s emissions profile.

The report, ‘Building to net zero: costing carbon in construction’, highlights the limited incentives that have been introduced to encourage the use of timber in construction, as well as the need to close the skills gap in the construction sector by improving training and knowledge among structural engineers and construction teams in how to design and build with modern timber products.

Sustainable timber has a fundamental role to play in the move to creating a net-zero carbon supply chain within the construction sector and built environment. It is inherently a low-carbon commodity, and a strong carbon capture and storage solution that can significantly reduce the embodied carbon impact of construction. And yet, for many years, the timber supply chain has perhaps struggled to effectively communicate the strength of the material to government, local authorities and to contractors and architects who are often less experienced in using timber than with other less sustainable materials, such as bricks, steel and concrete.

Timber Development UK sustainability director Charlie Law believes the merger of the Timber Trade Federation and TRADA to form Timber Development UK gives a perfect opportunity to implement real change.

Mr Law says the timber supply chain consists of many players and many thousands of businesses. This can make the kind of collective effort required to achieve net-zero carbon emissions as an industry quite difficult.

“With the arrival of Timber Development UK, this is already changing. The energy that already surrounds this new organisation is lending itself to taking on the big challenges we all face as an industry, including the creation of a net-zero carbon roadmap for the timber industry,” he said.

“From sawmiller through merchant to specifier and end-user, we want all our members to know that they are connected to a supply chain which is doing all it can to bring carbon emissions to net zero. By working together, we become more than the sum of our parts.”

Timber Development UK’s net-zero roadmap is designed to help the UK meet its legal commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 78% compared to 1990 levels by 2035, joining the UK government’s legal target to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

 Over the past six months, the organisation has brought together a partnership of all the trade associations who are active in the timber supply chain. Together, these associations represent a multi-billion-dollar network of thousands of businesses. “Together, we can make a real difference to the construction industry and encourage the use of timber in every part of the built environment,” Charlie Law said.

“We are only at the start of the journey, and just beginning to scope out the industry’s emissions profile and understand where our material carbon emissions sit. While we know that timber itself is inherently low-carbon, now we need to understand the relationships between our processing, our kilning, and transport emissions – and how these can be improved.

“Once we have done this, we can move onto the next step – which is to identify opportunities for decarbonisation, and at the end of this process we will have a public facing net-zero carbon roadmap and a user toolkit to support the industry in reducing their carbon emissions.

“By understanding our carbon footprint, both as an industry and as individual businesses, we can start to target the key areas of carbon intensity and bring these down in line with our 2050 target. With many of the pieces now in place, we look forward to working with our members, and the wider timber supply chain, to demonstrate that timber is the ultimate, low-carbon solution for creating a modern, circular economy.”

  • Timber Development UK is the largest supply chain body for timber in the UK. They connect, inspire and support businesses to build a better world through wood.
  • Originally published in Timber Trader’s Summer 2022 Issue. Keep up with all the very latest net-zero carbon news at

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