Why a ‘Wood First’ Policy Stacks Up

As construction makes up a total of 45% of carbon emissions in the UK, sustainability is an important issue for the industry and one that should be addressed throughout every aspect of the build – from the sourcing of materials through to the long term impact of the final structure. As one of the most renewable mainstream construction materials, the increased use of engineered timber as the core structural component enhances the construction industries credentials not only from a sustainable perspective but equally from achieving optimum speed and performance.

Greg Cooper, Pre-Construction Manager of the X-LAM Alliance, discusses the positive impact of cross laminated timber (CLT) within the built environment:

“Identifying and measuring carbon properties are now a fundamental part of any construction business. There are two ways of decreasing CO2 in the atmosphere – either by reducing emissions, or by removing CO2 and storing it. Wood has the unique ability to do both.

We may commonly hear the term ‘carbon sequestration’, which is the process of capturing and long-term storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). Solid wood products such as cross laminated timber (CLT) are natural, renewable and are far less energy-intensive to produce and apply. When compared to other building materials such as concrete or steel, the environmental credentials of CLT are far superior. Not only is it a renewable material, it involves very little waste during production and is extremely carbon efficient to transport. When we consider the whole manufacturing processes for the production of each m3 of CLT, -676kg of CO2 will still be stored after the production process.

Taking on board the importance of monitoring and reducing environmental damage in construction, the X-LAM Alliance has developed a Carbon Calculator, an innovative digital resource that gives carbon estimates to help assess the best ecological solution. Material resolutions and transport factors are entered into the system and the calculator then produces carbon estimates, to act as a guideline for different project scenarios. This enables professionals to gather early information about the ecological impact of their future development.

As one of the companies leading the way in sustainable construction, we apply best practice principles throughout all aspects of our processes, from raw material procurement through to manufacturing and offsite processes as well as onsite assembly.

The Chain of Custody Certification for both PEFC and FSC® outlines requirements for the ability to track certified material from the forest to the final product. This ensures that both the wood contained in the actual product and wood used throughout the production line originates from certified forests.

For the wood-processing industry, Full Chain of Custody Certification can improve efficiency and production systems by enhancing traceability and accounting. This means that all legal requirements are met, forest cultivation of sourced timber is managed well and forestry workers are treated fairly.

Traditional building processes are noted to be highly wasteful in terms of materials and figures indicated that around 32% of landfill waste comes from the construction and demolition of buildings. However, cross laminated timber as an offsite solution can dramatically improve these statistics, producing significantly lower amounts of wastage, due to the factory controlled methods of construction. Recycling is far easier to implement in a factory environment, therefore cutting materials to size before delivery to site significantly reduces onsite waste and the associated expense of disposal.

Cross laminated timber, as a rapid, robust and reliable offsite manufactured solution, delivers many benefits during the construction process and beyond. From reducing loading on foundations through to impressive thermal, acoustic and airtightness performance – cross laminated timber construction enhances projects across all sectors.

Reducing the loading on foundations is particularly important for inner city construction where the underground infrastructure results in loading restrictions. Using CLT, as a lighter weight structural solution, can increase, for example, the amount of storeys in a residential build – offering a better return on investment.

Manufactured to exceptional levels of accuracy in factory controlled conditions ensures minimal defects and improves construction and project delivery time, reducing costs and maximising efficiency on all levels – providing cost and programme certainty.

However the benefits do not end after the construction phase.

Due to the enhanced performance values and robust nature of cross laminated timber, the on-going lifecycle costs of the building is vastly reduced through fewer maintenance requirements and lower energy consumption.

Finally and most importantly the design of a building can be critical to the well-being of its occupants. Much has been written about the impact construction can have on the environment but very little on the effect a building can have on its occupants. The influence construction materials can have on the comfort and wellbeing of end users is an area where more research is required, however evidence is now emerging about the role cross laminated timber can play in enhancing internal environments.

Engineered timber, as a core structural solution, is gaining traction across the industry and from my professional standpoint, a wood first policy not only ‘stacks up’ from a construction cost and performance perspective but also in creating better buildings for people to live, work and relax.”

Learnings and Understanding

The X-LAM Alliance can assist at every stage of your construction journey – from pre-tender design through to onsite delivery and everything in between. As industry specialists, they offer one hour CPD sessions. These development sessions are tailored to meet the requirements of architects, engineers, specifiers and cover the technical and performance benefits.

To find out more information or to book a CLT CPD Session, please email: info@xlam-alliance.com or visit: www.xlam-alliance.com