Circular economy, Guest writer, Timber | 08 April 2022
Wood for Good — championing wood as a hero of change.
Wood for Good is the UK timber industry’s leading campaign raising awareness of the benefits of using timber in construction.
They advocate for design and construction with wood through the support of changemakers in the industry.
Construction is devastating in terms of emissions and pollution. It is responsible for 40% of global carbon emissions, 23% of global air pollution, 50% of climatic change, 40% of drinking water pollution and 50% of landfill waste!
With the urgent need for change comes huge opportunity for innovation and doing things differently.
This is where the work of those championing timber as a hero of sustainable construction and change comes in. Timber is one of the most effective ways to use limited biomass resources and mitigate climate change.
It is also great to work with as recently explained in Construction Manager magazine by Andrew Waugh of Waugh Thistleton Architects:
“Let me tell you a secret about timber, it’s really easy to build with…. Construction treats its workers pretty badly — we expect them to work on muddy sites with grinders and jackhammers. We wonder why there are few women in the industry. But with timber buildings it’s different; wood is a warm material; smells great, the components are accurate and easy to fit together. The mood among workers changes.”
We asked Sarah Virgo, Campaign Manager for Wood for Good, to tell us more about the work of Wood for Good and how timber can positively impact our health and environment.
Here’s what she had to say.
“Our message is simple. For a host of reasons, wood is good. We want to ensure specifiers and designers understand these reasons so that we can make wood a first-choice material in construction and support our forestry economy.
A new landscape
Wood for Good was set up around 20 years ago. Back then people were not talking about carbon, particularly not within the built environment.
Founded by two forestry bodies — Confor and Swedish Wood — Wood for Good’s aim was to promote the low-carbon, environmental benefits of timber in the built environment and the inherent biophilic benefits of wood in design. Its aim remains the same today but the landscape we operate in has made it easier to have these conversations.
There is a growing understanding of carbon and its role in the built environment. Campaigns such as Regulate Embodied Carbon from ACAN, our Wood CO2ts less campaign and Time for Timber are all showing professionals within the design and construction sector just how important material selection is in helping to reduce the environmental impact of buildings. The Climate Change Committee has previously recommended increasing the use of wood in construction and developing policies to minimise the whole life carbon impact of new buildings.
The new challenge that we face is ensuring that we break down the jargon used in the conversations around carbon, making information accessible for all audiences. We also seek to improve understanding of the entire lifecycle of wood products. Forestry is a crucial part of the low-carbon story of wood, so educating construction and design audiences on sustainable forestry management is also a key priority for us.
Wood isn’t just good for our environment, it’s good for us as well. Promoting the biophilic, health benefits of using wood in design is another essential strand of our work promoting wood. From interviewing experts in the field to promoting research and providing advice on how to involve more wood in homes, we think explaining the health benefits of wood is important for our audiences.
We’ve delved into three of the core reasons we believe Wood is Good below.
Wood is Good for fighting the climate crisis
In 2020 we launched a messaging campaign, Wood CO2ts less. The purpose was to show how wood can help us to combat excess carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, a major contributor to climate change. It is based on the following key facts:
- Trees sequester and capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they grow and store it as carbon.
- Mature trees are harvested, and that carbon is stored in wood products.
- More trees are planted to replenish the forest area harvested, and more carbon dioxide is sequestered.
- By using wood products, carbon is displaced as wood replaces other more carbon-intensive materials that may have been used.
- Using wood in construction is a cost-free and simple solution to capture carbon and reduce CO2 in the atmosphere.
The facts were founded on a variety of research reports and data, you can view them all on our website.
The campaign easily communicates the low-carbon benefits of wood in an accessible format. The material is all evidence based and is visual and simple in design. Most importantly, it illustrates the whole lifecycle of wood — from seed to sawn timber product.
“The new challenge that we face is ensuring that we break down the jargon used in the conversations around carbon, making information accessible for all audiences.”
Promoting our work
We work with a range of ambassadors from different sectors to promote low-carbon timber projects in our PR work as well. We’re glad that Kiss House is one of these champions, along with other businesses from engineering, architecture and construction circles.
During 2021’s COP26 in Glasgow, we sponsored an action-packed day conference at the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC) in South Lanarkshire. Featuring a range of engaging speakers on forestry and timber construction, we threaded the campaign throughout the event.
We’re looking forward to bringing even more content to our channels including animated videos and new infographics, with the aim of continuing to spread the message of Wood CO2ts less, while emphasising the relationship between sustainable forestry and timber in construction.
The wealth in good health
As our living environment has been increasingly urbanised, we have become less connected with the natural world. The increased time indoors because of the pandemic further amplified this. This is where biophilic design can make a dramatic difference.
Biophilia is the link between humans and nature and is about bringing natural elements indoors. One of the identified patterns of biophilic design is our material connection with nature. Several studies have linked the positive effect of natural materials such as wood on humans and their health.
Research shows that exposure to wood in homes helps to reduce stress, promote connectivity and creativity, and lower blood pressure. A study conducted in 2010 in an Austrian school compared ‘timber’ classrooms versus ‘standard’ classrooms. The children in the timber classroom found their heart rates were lowered by up to 8600 heartbeats.
We work with experts in biophilic design and the latest research to present wood as the healthy, natural material it is to our audiences. We also have a library of over 250 case studies that showcase the best in timber design and construction — they are there to inspire, and I think it’s clear when looking through some of them that the use of wood creates a warm, comforting and stress-free environment.
In addition to its biophilic properties, wood has other attributes that contribute to it being a healthy material. It helps to improve air quality and thermal comfort and it can also be an acoustic buffer. These are important points to consider for any home, but even more so for homes with no outdoor access.
“Wood has the advantage of fitting neatly into a circular economy. ”
Wood is good for a circular economy
In the architecture and construction worlds, conversations are moving on from discussions about embodied carbon in buildings to circularity. To ensure that we are keeping wood at the forefront of conversations, going forward, we will be promoting timber’s inherent circular properties even more.
Wood has the advantage of fitting neatly into a circular economy. That’s because wood is easily repaired, reused and recycled.
When a sustainably sourced wood product does come to the end of its useful life, trees will have already been re-planted to replace the tree originally used in the product. It’s another reason why sustainable procurement is so important, accreditation schemes such as PEFC and FSC are fantastic resources. Looking out for their logo on suppliers’ products is a good way to ensure that the product you’re purchasing comes from a sustainably managed forest.
As with any material, when protected and treated correctly, timber will last for years. Many timber merchants will provide advice and suggestions for which products can give their product the longest life. However, in the absence of any advice, the WPA are always on hand to provide expertise.
One example is timber flooring. When compared to alternatives like carpet, it is very hardwearing. Hardwood flooring can be sanded down and restored several times before needing replacement, giving it an extended lifecycle, whereas carpet tends to be replaced every 7-10 years. This means less material waste in our landfill, leaving less of a mark on our planet.
What does the future hold for wood?
The last couple of years have seen huge hikes in demand for timber; the volume of timber imported in the UK between January and October 2021 was 28% higher than the same period in 2020. Despite this success, we don’t want to be complacent about promotion of wood. We want to continue to harness the positive buzz around wood in the construction and design sector.
This year, we’re looking forward to sharing more gorgeous case studies, engaging videos and useful information for architects, designers, specifiers, engineers and developers looking to use more wood.
Keep an eye out for all the latest news on the Wood for Good website, where you can also view a host of infographics, videos, articles and case studies highlighting the benefits of designing and building with timber, and to receive our news straight into your in-box, you can sign up for our regular e-newsletter here.
Thank you so much for supplying a fantastic insight into Wood for Good, Sarah! It was great to really understand the message and vision behind the campaign, and we hope we can collaborate more in the future.
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