A pilot project involving Scottish timber has been tipped to play a key role in reducing the construction industry’s carbon footprint.
A consortium comprising of Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC), Edinburgh Napier University (ENU) Centre for Offsite Construction and Innovative Structures (COCIS), Scottish Forestry, Confederation of Forest Industries (Confor), and SNRG – has secured funding from Innovate UK’s Sustainable Innovation Fund to prove the business case for using home-grown timber to create the structural elements of buildings.
The scheme will manufacture the first Scottish-sourced cross laminated timber (CLT) and nail laminated timber (NLT) housing unit – including wall, roof, and floor – using the UK’s only vacuum press at CSIC’s Hamilton-based innovation factory.
Set to complete by the end of this year, the CLT and NLT superstructure will be showcased at next year’s COP26 United Nations conference on climate change, which will be held in Glasgow in November.
Sam Hart, innovation manager at CSIC, said, “The project is an important milestone in the move towards more mainstream use of home-grown timber in the UK’s construction sector, the majority of which is grown in Scotland. Research has proven that, with the right treatment and processing, our timber can be used for a wide variety of higher-value purposes beyond its relatively limited set of current applications. Through its increased use in commercial construction and housebuilding, we can also reduce our reliance on imported timber.
“The next step from there will be to make the industry aware of this transformational potential and make it a reality. Greater use of our natural and renewable resources will deliver a range of environmental, cost, and economic benefits for Scotland and the wider UK. COP26 is a once in a generation opportunity to showcase what can be achieved.”
The use of home-grown timber is tipped to bring a range of benefits including lower costs for the construction industry and a reduction in carbon emissions through reduced need for transportation.
Around 85% of all new homes in Scotland are currently built using timber. Timber grown in the UK has historically been used for non-structural applications, such as fencing and palettes.
Professor Robert Hairstans, head of the Centre for Offsite Construction and Innovative Structures, commented, “Scotland has the renewable resource, internationally recognised expertise and technical capabilities necessary to be at the forefront of a new approach to delivering a sustainable built environment in response to the climate crisis. Leveraging this potential Scotland can deliver the human capital and built assets necessary to form the fabric of a circular economy. Digitally enabled, these assets can instigate an ecosystem of organic growth unlocking the potential of a sector that can lead the way in making the new normal a sustainable future.”
Jason Hubert, head of business development at Scottish Forestry, added, “Scottish Forestry, and the wider Scottish Government, recognises the importance of increasing Scottish timber in construction as a means of storing carbon for the long term as well as generating green jobs for the country. This project will provide the springboard for the sector to start manufacturing a great engineering product which can be used in large-scale buildings using home-gown timber. The Scottish Government is committed to getting more Scottish timber into construction and aims to increase the current 2.2 million cubic metres to 2.6 million cubic metres each year by 2021/2022.”