A cross-party report into how the timber frame industry can play a major role in helping solve the housing crisis has been welcomed by insulation specialist Actis.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Timber Industries says the government must commit to a long-term investment into the industry to give individual timber frame companies and timber producers the confidence to ramp up production.
The report, How the Timber Industries Can Help Solve the Housing Crisis, highlights not only how the build speed plays a vital role in enabling the government to meet its housing targets, but also stresses the ecological imperative of using timber, rather than man-made materials, to protect the environment and the economic and employment benefits of increasing production.
Actis UK and Ireland Sales Director Mark Cooper, an advocate for increasing offsite production, says he hopes the evidence in the report, combined with the recent appointment of Mark Farmer as government MMC champion, will create a sea change in the construction industry.
Cooper says: “We work with a good many timber framers in the UK. Offsite production is much quicker than brick and block, making it an ideal way to build the homes we so desperately need. It also presents a solution to the fact that we simply do not have enough skilled tradespeople to build traditional houses. And, of course, they can be very energy efficient.”
The report states that the current government target of 300,000 new homes per year is not achievable without a change to the mechanism by which homes are delivered.
Chair of the parliamentary group, Martin Whitfield MP, says all the elements required to increase timber frame production are in place – with the exception of a long-term commitment by government to invest in the industry.
He says: “I passionately believe that if we can continue to provide home-grown timber and maintain sensible customs relationships on imported wood, this material is best placed to build the millions of new homes we will require over the next 25 years.
“We are in the midst of a climate emergency and this requires fundamental changes to our built environment and our future infrastructure. Housebuilding should be part of an environmental revolution that is firmly integrated into our net-zero emissions targets.
“Using timber will sequester carbon within homes for generations and is markedly more environmentally friendly than other core building materials such as concrete.
“Throughout the UK we seem to have all the jigsaw pieces on the table, a thriving wood and forestry sector, world-leading technical expertise, architects at the forefront of design, and an enthusiastic potential workforce. It is up to the UK government to help complete the jigsaw for the sake of future generations.”
A report from the Home Builders Federation estimates £38 billion of economic growth is generated by housebuilding each year in England and Wales, while the economic benefit of each home built in the UK has been estimated as twice the cost of construction. This is made up of job creation, increased council tax revenue, spending in local shops and services and investment in local infrastructure.
The Structural Timber Association adds that there is enough immediate capacity to create an additional 100,000 homes a year in the UK.