West Fraser Comment: Q2 2021

Simon Woods, European Sales Marketing & Logistics Director West Fraser (formerly known as Norbord) is BMBI’s Expert for Wood-Based Panels.

As sales through UK Builders’ Merchants continue to grow strongly across all timber products, the sector is challenged to supply the increased demand. With Covid restrictions being lifted and a worsening picture on the haulage front, the second half of 2021 could be more challenging than the first.

As recently reported, the UK has a 60,000 HGV driver shortage and this position is mirrored in mainland Europe too. With almost 50% of UK drivers currently over 50 years old, a backlog of 28,000 HGV tests and an estimated 12,000 EU drivers who have returned home due to Covid/Tax changes – our industry is facing the very real probability of goods not being delivered. As an industry, building products needs to review its processes to understand how we can move product around the country more efficiently – fewer drops (time stealers), maximised pack sizes (load utilisation) etc. We should consider a “think tank” exercise, with all interested parties represented.

Most timber products are in high demand and will be for the foreseeable future. One of the reasons for this increasing demand is the sustainability of wood and its positive contribution to reducing the climate crisis. Wood from managed forestry actually stores carbon as opposed to emitting it: as trees grow, they absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. As a rule of thumb, a cubic metre of wood holds the equivalent of around a tonne of absorbed CO2 (depending on the species of tree). As we use these trees and replant more, the removal of CO2 continues, making timber products Carbon Neutral.

There is a strong move from many architects to dramatically increase their use of wood and return it to be the primary building material in construction. Not only does wood remove more CO2 from the atmosphere than it adds through manufacture, but by replacing carbon-intensive materials such as concrete or steel it doubles its contribution to lowering CO2. As a sector, Builders’ Merchants are also tasked with reducing their carbon footprint. Driving the use of wood-based products is a way to play a large part in the movement towards sustainable building and reduce the impact of the construction process on our increasingly fragile climate.

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