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Seeing the Wood from the Trees

February 2016

Grown in Britain WoodStock project launches enlightening research report

The UK currently consumes over ½ million m3 of hardwood each year, much of which are species we grow in the UK, but less than 10% of this is obtained from UK sources. Our research reveals that a 20% increase in UK production is quite possible in the short term, with a 100% plus increase possible over the medium term.

Our January news item revealed some of the findings from our survey of UK timber suppliers and customers, which showed that more information was required by customers and timber merchants on the availability of home grown hardwood. It also gave us a picture of the hardwood timber requirements of our customers.

Further research revealed that many of the hardwood timber species we are importing have UK alternatives available and that, in most cases, there is believed to be sufficient quality logs available in our woodlands to meet the UK demand. In our report we have focused on five key UK species:

Ash – Our Ash is the same species as that currently imported from the continent, and UK White Ash has a similar appearance and properties to American White Ash. UK Ash also has the added advantage of coming in a slightly darker Olive Ash. It can also be used for many internal joinery applications, and when thermally modified, can be used externally. Current imports of Ash amount to 25,000m3 per annum, however there is potential for the UK to supply over 70,000m3 per annum.

Beech – Our Beech is the same species as that currently imported from the continent, and can be used as a substitute for tropical Maranti. Current imports of Beech amount to 40,000m3 per annum, and this could potentially be met by a UK supply.

Oak – Our Oak is the same species as that currently imported from the continent, and has a similar appearance and properties to American White Oak. It can also be used in lieu of tropical species from West Africa such as Iroko and Sapele. However there are currently insufficient quantities of quality Oak logs in our woodlands to meet all of our demand.

 

Sweet Chestnut – Although we import very little Sweet Chestnut, there is potential for this to be used as a substitute for tropical species from West Africa including Iroko, Sapele and Utile. Current UK supply is around 1,000m3 per annum, but this could be increased to as much as 49,000m3!

Sycamore – Again, we import very little sycamore, but many are unaware that this is a species of Maple. We currently import around 5,000m3 of Maple from the US, and this could easily be met from UK supplies, with the potential for 39,000m3 per annum.

As for saw milling capacity, although much has been lost over the last 50 years, there is still sufficient milling capacity to cope with an increase in production. We spoke to 29 saw mills in the UK, of which 14 were still sawing logs. It was found that the current throughput could be increased from just under 26,000m3 per annum to over 53,000m3 per annum without any significant investment in machinery, a 100% increase. However, there would be a need to increase the skills base in this area to cope with this increase in demand.

As for kilning capacity, 14 of the 29 saw mills were still kiln drying timber, and again this was not at capacity for most. It was found that the current throughput could be increased from around 15,000m3 per annum to around 24,000m3 per annum without any investment in new kilns, a 60% increase. This capacity could be increased further quite quickly with investment in new kilns.

So to conclude, it is clear that there is a demand for the hardwood timber species we grow in the UK, and that much of this could be supplied from a home grown supply in the medium term. A full copy of the report can be downloaded from here.

If you would like to see what British timbers are available, come and see us on stand E5132 (next door to TRADA) at Ecobuild in London from the 8th to 10th March 2016.