Looking past the uncertainty

Gavin Knowles of Howarth Timber & Building Supplies on why scrutiny needs to be applied to ensure correct product specification, which is also being applied to the industry

The construction sector is the second largest consumer of plastics behind retail, however the industry is now starting to focus on ways in which it can improve its sustainability and green-credentials. A way in which this can be achieved is replacing plastic and PVCu products, such as doors and windows, with timber alternatives. However, there is potentially a real danger of unintended consequences from making the switch, especially if the replacement products don’t reduce the environmental impact. One way in which to check the sustainability of timber products is through life cycle analysis and Environmental Product Declarations, as well as chain of custody certifications. Technology can now be used to target the tracking of timber as it moves through the supply chain to guarantee authenticity of the timber’s origin, while other technologies focus on aggregating, analysing, visualising and verifying supply chain information. However, both are still quite rare within the industry.

More is now being done to highlight the importance of using sustainable products within construction. The WWF (2020) accord on biodiversity has gained significant traction within the EU, and has resulted in stepped up efforts when it comes to implementing strong nature and environmental laws, including timber logging. The new reality is that wooden windows and doors are kinder to the environment, biodegradable and absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. Recent studies have found that when properly protected with paint or woodstain, timber windows and doors last twice as long as PVCu. Reducing the number of windows and doors that become landfill is good for the planet and they sport top-end, performance double glazing; ensuring that any loss of energy is further minimised – keeping heat inside the home where it is most beneficial.

Reaching new heights

One area where timber products have come under particular scrutiny is cladding, following the Grenfell disaster. New legislation has shaped how timber cladding can be used, with it no longer being allowed to be used more than 18 metres above the ground.This has had a significant impact and means there is no definitive answer on the next steps. What we do know is that the only materials allowed will be those classed as A1 or A2 under the European Reaction to Fire classification system, which includes materials such as metal, stone, glass and plasterboard. Any product that is combustible cannot be used within anything classified as a new building, while anything above 18 metres has to be fully non-combustible, which will rule out all current timber products. Testing is currently underway to try and find a solution which will allow timber products to meet the new stringent fire regulations.

Timber doors make their mark

While internal doors have nearly always been timber, there has been a shift into requiring an internal timber door that is both sustainable and adds value and saleability to new builds. Increasingly specified by leading housebuilders, doors such as the Suffolk door from Howarth Timber are chain and custody certified, while aesthetics can be significantly superior to pine or white moulded doors. Regarded as the new ‘wooden door effect,’ this style of doors is proven to make a property more sellable, while offering it as an upgrade offers an extra revenue stream for homebuilders. Available at three separate price points depending on the specification level, even the most affordable option still offers the same levels of green credentials, giving peace of mind to both the builder and their buyers.

Gavin Knowles is marketing manager at Howarth Timber & Building Supplies