Against the grain: Britain’s timber construction must grow to save emissions

Writing in the Environment Journal on 18th April Martin Guttridge-Hewitt explores the potential of wooden structures to reduce carbon footprints, and asks if a new UK roadmap can finally unlock the material’s potential to drive net zero development.

He firstly reports back on his visit to Skellefteå, a small Town in northern Sweden, where the region’s Market and Business Development Manager, Bo Wilkstrom tells him, specialised industries are fuelling rapid population growth, and turning this small town into Sweden’s net zero transition testbed. Authorities now have a big ambition to ‘become global frontrunner, take risks, and build a new society’ around principles of renewability and sustainability.

Once complete, this Skellefteå will span 60 acres, and provide 2,000 houses and 7,000 business units. A grand masterplan developed because real estate and asset management giant Atrium Ljungberg AB needed to begin working on climate-friendly projects to meet its own targets, and understood the benefits wood offers, from emissions savings, carbon capture and storage, to air pollution mitigation, and speed of completion.

Martin goes on to talk about the use of Timber in UK Construction following the publishing of the UK Government’s Timber in construction roadmap in December last year in which it aims to level up huge regional differences in the prevalence of timber buildings. In England, just 9% of new build homes have a wooden frame, go to Scotland and it’s 92%. The new plan will also help deliver on a legally binding target of 16.8% forest cover in England by 2050, helping support habitat recovery and reverse the country’s shocking biodiversity crisis.

He then sets out the steps critical to achieving the objectives and addresses the issues of cost and safety.

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