Timber’s sustainability: Are we running out? What can be done?
Timber is a 100% renewable resource. We know this because trees grow from Earth.
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean its use is 100% sustainable. If forests are being harvested quicker than they are being replenished, then there’s a real possibility that we could run out - and there’s no shortage of news stories that warn of an impending dearth of woody goodness.
So, if you want to learn more about whether timber is running out, you’re barking up the right tree.
Are we running out?
As we never tire of saying, timber is an extremely versatile, dynamic building material; and it seems that word is spreading. The WWF estimates that that global demand for timber is set to triple by 2050; some of this for new developments, but also because of a growing need for wood products in emerging economies.
“Leading countries that supply timber to the UK are either at the point of expiry or running at a deficit as forest resources are used without adequate provision for sustainable timber supply.” (World Wildlife Fund, August 2016 Report)
According to the WWF, UK businesses are ‘risking a timber resource crunch’ - and that in the future, the availability of timber is threatened.
Closer to home in the UK, the Committee on Climate Change warned in 2019 that a rise in tree planting in the UK 'needs to happen quickly' — with planting levels dropping under 10,000 hectares per year (halved from the 1980s). This has effects not only for timber supply, but also the environment.
So, evidence suggests that there could be an impending timber shortage; what’s caused it, and what could exacerbate it?
Our timber supplies are in danger of ‘running low’ because of irresponsibility in the supply chain of timber - which starts with forest management.
Poorly-managed forests with overzealous harvesting contribute to deforestation, which has a variety of associated ills. A shortage of wood supply is caused when trees are not replanted, resulting in a rise in the cost of timber.
To ensure the world’s forests are sustainable, we need companies selling timber or wood products to avoid sourcing their wood from these non-sustainable forests - so irresponsible forest managers are forced to end or adapt their business practices.
So, what can be done to avert this potential timber supply crisis?
What can we do?
The WWF has set the target of a totally sustainable timber industry by 2020 - with a net deforestation level of zero. They’re calling on companies to ensure their buying practices don’t contribute towards deforestation - part of this means buying what is called ‘FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified wood’.
This is wood that comes from forests that are managed responsibly. FSC-controlled wood has a low probability of falling into the following categories:
Harvested in violation of traditional and civil rights.
Harvested in forests in which high conservation values are threatened by management activities;
Harvested in forests being converted from natural and semi natural forest to plantations or non-forest use
Wood from forests in which genetically modified trees are planted.
The WWF is currently monitoring the progress of many companies in this regard. Their 2017 timber ‘scorecard’ grades a range of companies on the sustainability of their timber buying policies. They find that 25% of companies score ‘zero trees’ - that is, they aren’t disclosing their policies on sustainable timber. 27% of companies surveyed are only taking ‘limited’ action to ensure their products don’t contribute to deforestation (‘one tree’)… not great news.
What is The Stable Company doing now?
The less non-FSC-certified wood that is used, the better for limiting deforestation - and ensuring a bountiful supply of wood for UK businesses in the future.
That’s why we’re proud to say that all of our timber suppliers are FSC or PEFC certified - all the redwood and whitewood we use is responsibly sourced. We’re also TRADA members - an international organisation committed to ‘informing best practice design, specification and use of wood’.
Not only that, but we also always make sure stay abreast of the latest developments which will help us further reduce the environmental impact of our timber buildings. In projects we work on, we encourage clients to make use of the wide range of cutting-edge, energy-saving technologies and living roof installations.
Not to brag, of course — we just want you to know that we’re doing our bit!
Timber’s the go-to material for green credentials. We know it’s 100% renewable, so let’s make sure it’s also 100% sustainable - by encouraging everyone involved to act responsibly in its harvest and use. Here’s to a fully-sustainable timber market!
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