Climate Active Millionaires Fund Scottish Prefab Timber Start-Up

Solar entrepreneurs embrace low carbon materials to achieve net-zero.

Tue 12 Sep 23


At a time when carbon-intensive steel and concrete buildings are literally crumbling before our eyes, two Scottish climate campaigners are looking to offsite timber construction to drive the push to net zero.

Dr Jeremey Leggett and Paddy Padmanathan have invested in Makar Timber Engineering (MTE) – a prefab company using timber engineering to assemble fully circular wall panels in the Scottish highlands.

The investment signals a radical shift away from the “short-sighted steel, plastic and concrete built environment”.

Both are directors of Highlands Rewilding, which seeks to help “rewild and re-people the Scottish Highlands” through increasing carbon sequestration, growing biodiversity, creating new green jobs and generating sustainable profit for purpose.

An introduction to Highlands Rewilding, our purpose and our vision for nature recovery and community prosperity in Scotland. Footage courtesy of @highlandsrewilding.

Wood Central understands that timber from the Highlands Rewilding project will not initially be used as a source for the company.

MTE uses locally grown Scottish timbers and a unique n-SIP panel system, creating ‘Breathing Walls’ free from plastic membranes or petrochemical and synthetic insulation materials. Fully circular, the panels are made from natural materials linked together by screws.

In addition, they use untreated Scottish pine, cellulose insulation and recycled paper or wood fibre, and can efficiently be designed for disassembly at the end of the building product lifecycle.

The “Breathing Walls” use laters of hygroscopic and vapour-permeable natural materials, helping the walls dry out, improving air quality and reducing the risk of mould, meaning that wall panelling promotes ‘healthy buildings.’

Dr Leggett claims start-ups like MTE are essential to change the construction paradigm as the short-term view of the built environment has led to buildings that fail us.

Dr Jeremey Leggett is recognised as a global pioneer in solar technologies and has worked to establish solar programs throughout Africa. (Photo Credit: Supplied)

A world-renowned solar entrepreneur, before setting up Solarcentury and SolarAid, Dr Leggett was Greenpeace’s Director of Climate Change science.

“The places we construct are both pragmatic and symbolic of our lives and relationship to the world.”

“MTE’s focus is on net-zero buildings will lead to an acceleration in the delivery of a built environment that is far more appropriate for the challenges and opportunities of the twenty-first century.”

Dr Leggett said the time for timber is now with it being a win-win for the developers and for the Scottish government.

“We now see how cutting corners and taking a short-term view of our built environment can cause our buildings to fail us.”

“Using the UK’s natural timber resource, MTE can deliver equally fit-for-purpose if not better net-zero and even carbon-negative buildings with long life spans, all while stimulating the rural economy through short supply chains.

According to Paddy Padmanathan, the former CEO of Saudi Arabia’s leading energy utilities company, the Scottish Government has failed to move on carbon and push the construction industry to decarbonise.

“In the four years since the Scottish Government declared a climate and biodiversity emergency, we have all moved far too slowly,” Mr Padmanathan said.

“We must reduce our operational carbon requirements and the embodied carbon within our built environment.”

Paddy Padmanathan was, until March 2023, the CEO of Saudi Arabia’s state-owned utilities company. He has been critical of the Scottish Government for its failure to act on climate change. (Photo Credit: Supplied)

Neil Sutherland is the founder and Director of MTE and supports Mr Padamanthan.

“It is deeply frustrating to watch public and private organisations continue to commission such unnecessarily carbon-intensive builds amid a climate crisis mindlessly.”

“MTE’s focus is on net zero buildings will lead to an acceleration in the delivery of a built environment that is far more appropriate for the challenges and opportunities of the twenty-first century.”

Neil Sutherland is the founder and director of MAKAR Timber Engineering and MAKAR. (Photo Credit: Supplied)

MAKAR Timber Engineering’s sister company, MAKAR, targets residential time framing and has been at the forefront of Design for Manufacture and Assembly for over twenty years.

It uses Sitka spruce in its N-SIPs, European larch for its external cladding, and Douglas fir for its post and bream frames and is one of the few UK manufacturers which can design and build a Passivhaus using a standardised offsite manufacturing approach.

According to the directors, there are no current plans for MAKAR or MAKAR Timber Engineering to use timber from forestland owned by Highlands Rewilding.

However, that may change if all three companies succeed in growing “since it makes both financial and environmental sense to use timber as sourced as locally as possible”.


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    Wood Central is Australia’s first and only dedicated platform covering wood-based media across all digital platforms. Our vision is to develop an integrated platform for media, events, education, and products that connect, inform, and inspire the people and organisations who work in and promote forestry, timber, and fibre.


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