Beam up new business | Glulam for the merchant sector
Do glulam beams offer merchants an opportunity to branch out? Uptake amongst architects is increasing, as witness the rising availability of stock glulam beams from TTF member producers.
“There are already a few UK builders’ merchants holding their own stocks of glulam beams, so there’s evidently a market,” says Andrew Nichols, Managing Director at Holmen Martinsons Timber. “We stock Glulam beams as demand is rising,” agrees Tony Shelton, Director at Taylor Maxwell Timber. “It’s up to the architects to decide which to use in relation to the load-bearing capacity needed for the structure but essentially the higher the strength grade number – GL24 versus GL30 for example – the higher the quality.”
Neil Lewis, Sales Manager for Engineered Wood Products at Södra Wood, concurs on market potential: “We’ve seen our glulam business grow four-fold in five years as timber is becoming so popular with builders and architects. Glulam is being used in a variety of ways here in Britain: for primary members in a structure, or as trimming joists around flooring, as purlins in roofing, or rim boards, or to replace steel lintels.
“Glulam beams have the advantage of visual aesthetics: people want to see the wood when it’s installed,” Södra Wood’s Neil Lewis continues. “It’s also a ‘familiar’ material for the builder: everyone knows what to do with wood. This removes barriers to its use in residential projects. Our glulam beams are mainly Pine or Spruce – the latter is particularly good for internal visual applications with its more even colouring within the lamella, varying less than in Pine. Pine tends to be used in situations where it’s not seen. We also offer Larch glulam for external applications.”
Are glulam beams difficult to handle, store, or order? “It’s easier for the supplier to carry stock than the merchant, as each installation will be different, and regularity of sales will be hard to predict,” confirms Södra Wood’s Neil Lewis. “We carry around 60 different sizes of glulam beams which we sell through our customer base across the specification and merchant sectors. We service the merchant sector as part of full load deliveries of other products and can fulfil orders falling within our standard range in around two days. We can turn around non-standard special sizes in around two weeks. We hold stocks at one UK location and one in the Irish Republic.”
Made from parallel solid timber sections glued together under high pressure, glulam beams combine strength, stiffness and dimensional stability. A spokesman for producers Moelven UK, told us: “Glulam is in widespread use across Scandinavia, and at more of a residential scale. Take-up in the UK has been slower, but that’s perhaps because its possibilities have not yet been widely communicated to general builders, self-builders and renovators. It’s perceived as ‘something for specifiers’.
However working in partnership with suppliers, merchants can expand their markets and their customer service by looking again at glulam’s potential.”
Bill Urmston, managing director of Setra Sales UK, agrees that education could be improved: “We find there are mixed levels of knowledge about the products: some are familiar with their potential but many potential buyers have yet to recognise their benefits, particularly on the sustainability side. But markets are moving in glulam’s direction: our plant in Sweden now produces up to 45,000m3 of glulam products in a year.
“There’s huge potential for glulam in the UK which hasn’t yet been tapped,” Bill Urmston continues. “We maintain a landed stock at our King’s Lynn facility of high- specification whitewood glulam, which, using the Nordic grading system, rates from G28-G30. Setra’s glulam is used in both residential projects and major construction, selling either via merchants or direct to specifiers.”
“Don’t let a lack of knowledge be a barrier to sales opportunities – suppliers are here to help. We’re open to working with merchants to increase sales,” adds Holmen Martinsons’ Andrew Nichols, while Taylor Maxwell’s Tony Shelton concludes by affirming: “Everyone in a progressive business needs to be looking at engineered wood construction products. For stockists, the question is how to adapt to the changes in product supply. The answer will be led by your customer base.”
[This feature is by Communications Consultant Camilla Hair]