Let’s pull together for the greater good

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What with the announcement of Government’s Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener and the media buzz around COP26, how and why the construction industry should be using widespread sustainable building practices and materials to reduce the embodied carbon of buildings is the big topic. And quite rightly so; the construction industry contributes 39% of global carbon emissions – and with embodied carbon accounting for 11% of that total – it is clear that reducing the carbon footprint of the materials we use will have a significant impact. So, it’s very encouraging to see that the Government has listened to the many industry voices that have been calling for regulatory guidance on embodied carbon and that the strategy intends to improve carbon reporting and explore maximum limits on future new builds.

Of course, the STA believes that timber is an excellent building material when used in an appropriate context and our objective is to promote its many benefits. However, we firmly believe that this should be achieved by providing fact-based, unbiased information that supports informed specification choices.

Sadly, our industry has not always played fairly though, with some brands going to great lengths to put down competitor technologies. Whether it’s making unfair comparisons or through downright misinformation, it’s always disappointing to see marketing campaigns that try to mislead readers about the attributes of a particular building technology in order to promote their own product. There is a place for all technologies in the correct application and such ‘fake news’ only serves to undermine confidence in the whole sector.

Building materials such as timber, concrete, steel and glass, each have their own particular profile of attributes and benefits. Logically then, optimum product specification should be about choosing the right combination of products and materials for the individual application and client requirements – whether the priority is cost, carbon, speed of construction or aesthetics.

Ultimately, there’s no right or wrong answer and the decision will be driven by your own or your client’s agenda. So, it’s disappointing to see so many brands continuing with this negative approach to communication. Focusing on the individual merits of their own solutions would be a much more productive way forward.

Fortunately, efforts are being made throughout the industry to establish a transparent and consistent approach to sharing product information, which should go a long way towards mitigating some of the more unhelpful tactics that we’ve seen. For example, in response to Dame Judith Hackitt’s 2018 report Building A Safer Future, the Construction Products Association (CPA) established its Marketing Integrity Group (MIG) to address the issues raised within the report and to tackle the challenges of obtaining clear and credible product information.

Following a significant industry research project in 2019, the MIG has developed a new Code for Construction Product Information (CCPI). The 11-point Code sets a level playing field for all construction product manufacturers to ensure that the information they provide passes the five acid tests of being Clear, Accurate, Up-to-date, Accessible and Unambiguous.

At the STA, this is a move that we wholeheartedly support – as it echoes our own long-held commitment to providing fact-based, unbiased information that supports informed specification choices. Naturally, we believe that timber is an excellent building material when used in an appropriate context, but we firmly believe that this should be done in an honest and transparent way, that doesn’t engage in petty ‘bun-fights’ or putting down other technologies.

After all, there are bigger issues here to deal with. Shouldn’t we be working together; to collectively help the construction and housebuilding sectors build more, build better and achieve its net zero obligations?

For more information about the STA, please visit: www.structuraltimber.co.uk