Climate change report urges the UK to increase wood in construction

Climate change report urges the UK to increase wood in construction


Ramping up the use of wood in construction, investing in a long term retrofit programme, and planting two billion new trees in the UK are listed by the latest Climate Change Committee (CCC) report as crucial to achieving Net Zero 2050, and must be adopted by Government.

The Sixth Carbon Budget report has set out a detailed and achievable ‘Balanced’ route for the UK to drastically reduce emissions by 2050. This includes reducing emissions from the built environment, both embodied and operational, which contribute up to 40% of the UK’s total carbon emissions.

The report recommends rapidly increasing the use of wood in construction to serve as a form of carbon capture and storage, as well as to displace carbon-intensive materials such as concrete while noting that increasing the use of wood is an action that comes at no extra cost.

Timber-framed houses and engineered wood systems currently account for between 15-28% of total construction materials in new homes. This figure, if increased to 40% by 2050, could sequester up to 0.25 MtCO2/year by 2035, and 0.44 MtCO2/year by 2050.

The CCC also called for £12bn to be invested across all buildings (both households and commercial) per year to be more fuel-efficient. In the short-term, this means broadening and extending the Green Homes Grant, fuel poverty programmes, and making further investments into social housing.

This investment into a long term retrofit programme would be partially offset by a £5bn reduction in operating costs and deliver an extra 200,000 new full-time jobs to the economy by 2030.

The report also recommends the UK plant two billion new trees, to grow woodland areas by 40% by 2050. This would mean an increase in tree-planting to reach 30,000 ha annually by 2030, up from 13,000 hectares per year today.

This report again headlines the importance of increasing the use of wood in construction, both in new build and retrofit, if we are to get the UK on track to be Net Zero by 2050.

By taking bold action and rapidly implementing these recommendations, the Government will be placing our nation, and our economy, on a path towards sustainability. In the lead up to COP26 in the UK, and as we depart the EU, now is the time to display this leadership, initiative and vision.

We need to raise the standard of housing in the UK, and the longer we delay this, the more costly it becomes. A previous CCC report found that retrofitting dwellings can cost up to five times the cost of designing inappropriate standards from the start.

Using wood, we can build houses quicker, of better quality, and to a high energy efficiency standard, all the while reducing embodied carbon by using sustainable timber.

The Structural Timber Association estimates there is the existing capacity to double the number of homes built using timber frame to 100,000 right now. This demonstrates we have the technology, means, and capacity to solve both the housing and climate crises.

With the Government introducing more policy documents next year, including the Construction Playbook and Heat and Buildings Strategy, we trust the Government implements this vision of a greener Britain.

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