25th November 2021
Use of Mass Timber in Construction. What is the government policy?
In a recent exchange with senior policy leads at DEFRA, they told Lamella MMC Ltd:
“we have committed to increasing timber in construction. With this in mind, we are setting up the cross industry group who will help build a policy ‘roadmap’ for implementing ETAP actions”.
ETAP is English Trees Acton Plan (2021-2024). Its report says:
“Guided by market analysis, fire safety and structural considerations, key opportunities for the safe growth of timber use will be in low-rise buildings using traditional and certain modern methods of construction, and in a wide range of commercial and non-residential settings”
So far so good but we are left with the conundrum that the use of timber, whether timber frame or mass timber (which performs much better if you try to set fire to it-it chars on the outside and retains its structural integrity) is limited to residential buildings of less than 18 metres in height . There remains a threat that this height limit will be reduce to 11 metres.
Why 18 or 11 metres? In New York they are legislating to limit the height of timber buildings to 25.9 metres and other countries are talking about building much higher still in timber.
This uncertainty alone is a major disincentive to building in CLT. We are calling on the government to quash any move to reduce the height limit, and review the 18 metre limit in the light of modern fire engineering advice and acceptable practice in other countries.
We hope that the “cross industry group” will include advocates for the Mass Timber industry but we are not optimistic.
When this was discussed DEFRA was seemingly unwilling to offer a place on the group for Andrew Waugh, who is probably the best known proponent of mass timber in the country, but regularly finds himself working internationally because the mass timber market in the UK is being held back.
Waugh is highly critical of policy in this area- calls it a “policy car crash” because the government says it wants to encourage the use of timber while simultaneously legislating against it and creating uncertainty where there need be none.
DEFRA goes on to say that the government
“will also consider what more we can do to increase the use of timber in construction in both the public sector and in the private sector, to enable more use of structural timber in line with the CCC’s recommendation”.
The CCC is the Climate Change Committee, which, while it talks about operational carbon (eg heating systems and insulation) in its latest report to Parliament is silent on embodied carbon ie what the buildings are made of- so it is hard to see what DEFRA means when it talks about more use of structural timber in line with the CCC’s recommendation.
We think that this change needs government leadership. To start with they could stop the move to reduce the height limit for the use of mass timber in residential buildings and secondly they could set an example by mandating the use of timber in public buildings, as the government has done in France.
There is much to be done.
At least the DEFRA policy leads are open to being educated and are visiting a mass timber office building going up in Shoreditch to see what we are talking about!
12th August 2021
The Lamella Manifesto.
One way we and the Construction Industry need to change to address climate change.
We are facing a climate crisis. Our response in the UK has been to mandate by law that we reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases (principally carbon dioxide) to net zero by 2050.
The manufacture of the materials used to build most projects in the UK, cement, concrete, steel and brickscurrently contribute significantly to our carbon dioxide emissions.
We established Lamella MMC to consult on sustainable development and distribute and install Cross Laminated Timber, CLT, which, being made of engineered trees, stores carbon dioxide in its fabric and is therefore carbon negative.
CLT is a carbon sinkas well as being a strong, lightweight material with many other remarkable benefits.
If we in the UK were to build more buildings of CLT and fewer of concrete, brick and steel, we could contribute significantly to the achievement of the UK’s carbon goals. This can be done while improving the quality, liveability and insulationof our built environment at little or no cost to either the public or private sectors.
However, there are governmental policy and supply problems which in our view need to be fixed before CLT is likely to become a truly mainstream and accepted construction material.
Our thinking about the expansion of our industry falls into three parts;
- Promotion of the use of CLT in construction- “Make CLT Mainstream”;
- The 18 metre height rule- remove the ban;
- Adding value to UK forestry.
Make CLT Mainstream
Engineered timber construction is the only solution to building new mass housing without exacerbating climate change. The material is strong, low carbon, fast and the prefabricated nature of construction ensures efficient build times, low transport and zero waste.
The production of cement, concrete, brick and steel are some of the most polluting in the UK. The rest of the World are changing their building codes and planning laws to promote the use of engineered timber – the UK is alone in revising theirs against timber.
The UK Emissions Trading Schemebecomes applicable to all carbon emitting materials in 2024, so steel and concrete will inevitably become more expensive as the producers either implement carbon capture technology or pay for the carbon emitted in their manufacture. In contrast timber prices, all other things being equal, should remain stable.
Building with CLT falls squarely into the category of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) and brings with it the promise of huge improvements in productivity and efficiency in the construction industry.
In France all government buildings must be built with at least 50% timber content.We would like to see the UK government taking the lead by building in CLT and note with interest and pleasure that as a small start the Department for Education in the UK is developing a model CLT secondary school. More please.
The 18 Metre Height Rule
Our friend, Andrew Waugh of Waugh Thistleton (probably the foremost mass timber architect’s practice in the UK) spoke to Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MCHCG) in March this year to discuss the change in building regulations that bans the use of combustible materials through the entire external wall for residential buildings of over 18 metres in height.
This ban effectively stopped the use of structural timber in the external wall and negatively transformed the perception of the material.
Since the ban not a single multifamily multi storey residential building has been completed in the UK.
In our view this was a mistake, which seems to have happened because at the time other government ministries did not make the case for an exemption for CLT. This was evident in Andrew’s discussions with MHCLG in which they referred to the inclusion of CLT as “collateral damage”; sacrificed to get the policy through.
It is clear that buildings over 18 metres in height built of CLT can be designed to be safe in the event of fire. In some respects,they are safer than either steel or concrete under the same conditions.
CLT chars but retains its structural integrity in a fire whereas steel melts and bends and concrete spalls, both losing their strength. With the coming use in Europe of high temperature resistant glues, CLT will become even safer.
As things stand, we as a country are held back by a paradox of our own making. We need to build more housing. We need to build it relatively cheaply and we need to build it out of zero or negative carbon materials. Yet we have legislated to restrict the use of the technology that could achieve all this.
If the ban were restricted to the cladding rather than through the whole wall it would deal with the problem. This is the change that we think needs to happen and for which we are working.
Adding Value toUK Forestry
We are very pleased that the government is committed to a substantial tree planting programme, however we would like to see that programme linked to an overhaul of UK Forestry policy so that we could begin to develop an indigenous mass timber industry.
The benefits of doing so are obvious: more jobs, increase in supply (there are already shortages in Europe), shortening the supply chain and adding value to our forestry industry.
What is more our climate goals could be achieved with the investment of much less public money.A recent report from the EU (CEI Bois) found that in each nation that produces engineered timber the area of forested land had increased since the production began.
The topics addressed in the three sections of this letter are all linked and if implemented we believe will produce a virtuous circle allowing us as a country to become richer, less polluting, better housed, better employed and more productive.
And this is achievable, we submit, with a few changes to government policy, some direction for the forestry sector and some very limited government expenditure.
TAX TAX TAX
17th March 2021 Stop Press
Carbon Pricing is coming. Here’s how CLT will out-compete its carbon emitting competitors on cost.
If you have read the UK government’s Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy you will have noticed that the government intends to use the market to “determine the most cost-effective pathways to de-carbonisation”
Therefore, the first action in their plan is to “Use carbon pricing as a tool to send a clear market signal”. What this means in simple terms is that products that emit carbon will be taxed. We expect CLT which sequesters carbon not to be taxed.
In simple terms, steel, cement, concrete and bricks are likely to be subject to a carbon pricing tax, while CLT will not. Once that happens, CLT can be expected to have a significant market advantage over those other materials.
We can’t say when this will happen, or how high the tax will be, but what we can say is that it seems certain that the tax will be imposed and given the speed of the push to decarbonise, this is likely to happen sooner rather than later. Maybe even in the timescale needed for planning and building a new project.
Our message is this; think about carbon pricing when starting a new project. Carbon taxes could add significantly to your build costs. We recommend that you avoid the taxes and the cost uncertainty by planning and building your project in CLT.
20th April 2021 STOP PRESS
UK enshrines new target in law to slash emissions by 78% by 2035
The UK’s sixth Carbon Budget will incorporate the UK’s share of international aviation and shipping emissions for the first time, to bring the UK more than three-quarters of the way to net zero by 2050.
UK government to set in law world’s most ambitious climate change target, cutting emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels
for the first time, UK’s sixth Carbon Budget will incorporate the UK’s share of international aviation and shipping emissions
this would bring the UK more than three-quarters of the way to net zero by 2050
The UK government will set the world’s most ambitious climate change target into law to reduce emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels, it was announced today (Tuesday 20 April).
In line with the recommendation from the independent Climate Change Committee, this sixth Carbon Budget limits the volume of greenhouse gases emitted over a 5-year period from 2033 to 2037, taking the UK more than three-quarters of the way to reaching net zero by 2050. The Carbon Budget will ensure Britain remains on track to end its contribution to climate change while remaining consistent with the Paris Agreement temperature goal to limit global warming to well below 2°C and pursue efforts towards 1.5°C.
For the first time, this Carbon Budget will incorporate the UK’s share of international aviation and shipping emissions – an important part of the government’s decarbonisation efforts that will allow for these emissions to be accounted for consistently.
This comes ahead of Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressing the opening session of the US Leaders’ Summit on Climate, hosted by President Biden on Earth Day (22 April). The Prime Minister will urge countries to raise ambition on tackling climate change and join the UK in setting stretching targets for reducing emissions by 2030 to align with net zero.
The government is already working towards its commitment to reduce emissions in 2030 by at least 68% compared to 1990 levels through the UK’s latest Nationally Determined Contribution – the highest reduction target made by a major economy to date. Today’s world-leading announcement builds on this goal to achieve a 78% reduction by 2035.
The new target will become enshrined in law by the end of June 2021, with legislation setting out the UK government’s commitments laid in Parliament tomorrow (Wednesday 21 April).
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
We want to continue to raise the bar on tackling climate change, and that’s why we’re setting the most ambitious target to cut emissions in the world.
The UK will be home to pioneering businesses, new technologies and green innovation as we make progress to net zero emissions, laying the foundations for decades of economic growth in a way that creates thousands of jobs.
We want to see world leaders follow our lead and match our ambition in the run up to the crucial climate summit COP26, as we will only build back greener and protect our planet if we come together to take action.
Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said:
The UK is leading the world in tackling climate change and today’s announcement means our low carbon future is now in sight. The targets we’ve set ourselves in the sixth Carbon Budget will see us go further and faster than any other major economy to achieve a completely carbon neutral future.
This latest target shows the world that the UK is serious about protecting the health of our planet, while also seizing the new economic opportunities it will bring and capitalising on green technologies – yet another step as we build back greener from the pandemic and we lead the world towards a cleaner, more prosperous future for this generation and those to come.
The UK over-achieved against its first and second Carbon Budgets and is on track to outperform the third Carbon Budget which ends in 2022. This is due to significant cuts in greenhouse gases across the economy and industry, with the UK bringing emissions down 44% overall between 1990 and 2019, and two-thirds in the power sector.
Moreover, the UK continues to break records in renewable electricity generation, which has more than quadrupled since 2010 while low carbon electricity overall now gives us over 50% of our total generation.
Prior to enshrining its net zero commitment in law, the UK had a target of reducing emissions by 80% by 2050 – through today’s sixth Carbon Budget announcement, the government is aiming to achieve almost the same level 15 years earlier.
Through its presidency of the crucial UN climate summit, COP26, which will take place in Glasgow later this year, the UK is urging countries and companies around the world to join the UK in delivering net zero globally by the middle of the century and set ambitious targets for cutting emissions by 2030.
COP26 President-Designate Alok Sharma, said:
This hugely positive step forward for the UK sets a gold standard for ambitious Paris-aligned action that I urge others to keep pace with ahead of COP26 in Glasgow later this year. We must collectively keep 1.5 degrees of warming in reach and the next decade is the most critical period for us to change the perilous course we are currently on.
Long term targets must be backed up with credible delivery plans and setting this net zero focused sixth Carbon Budget builds on the world leading legal framework in our Climate Change Act. If we are to tackle the climate crisis and safeguard lives, livelihoods and nature for future generations, others must follow the UK’s example.
The government has already laid the groundwork to end the UK’s contribution to climate change by 2050, starting with ambitious strategies that support polluting industries to decarbonise while growing the economy and creating new, long-term green jobs.
This includes the publication of the Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy, an ambitious blueprint for the world’s first low carbon industrial sector, slashing emissions by two-thirds in just 15 years, as well as over £1 billion government funding to cut emissions from industry, schools and hospitals.
Further, the UK is the first G7 country to agree a landmark North Sea Transition Deal to support the oil and gas industry’s transition to clean, green energy while supporting 40,000 jobs. Through the deal, the sector has committed to cut emissions by 50% by 2030, while the government, sector and trade unions will work together over the next decade and beyond to deliver the skills, innovation and new infrastructure required to decarbonise North Sea production.
Everyone needs to play a role in tackling climate change and bringing businesses and the public along is vital to reach the UK’s climate change goals. Ahead of COP26, the government launched the campaign, Together For Our Planet, calling on businesses, civil society groups, schools and the British public to take action on climate change. This UK-wide initiative contributed to last month’s milestone achievement of securing pledges from a third of the UK’s largest businesses to eliminate their contribution to climate change by 2050.
Each of these leading measures to tackle climate change, alongside the Prime Minister’s 10 Point Plan for a green industrial revolution and the government’s Energy White Paper, will help the UK’s trajectory towards meeting the new sixth Carbon Budget.
The government will look to meet this reduction target through investing and capitalising on new green technologies and innovation, whilst maintaining people’s freedom of choice, including on their diet. That is why the government’s sixth Carbon Budget of 78% is based on its own analysis and does not follow each of the Climate Change Committee’s specific policy recommendations.
The UK is bringing forward bold blueprints setting out its own vision for transitioning to a net zero economy and how the government can support the public in transitioning to low carbon technologies, including publishing the Heating and Building Strategy and Transport Decarbonisation Plan later this Spring.
The cross-government Net Zero Strategy will also be published ahead of COP26, with Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng currently commissioning work across Whitehall to help inform the ambitious plans across key sectors of the economy.
Moreover, government analysis finds that costs of action on climate change are outweighed by the significant benefits – reducing polluting emissions, as well as bringing fuel savings, improvements to air quality and enhancing biodiversity. The government expects the costs of meeting net zero to continue to fall as green technology advances, industries decarbonise and private sector investment grows.
Reaching net zero will also be essential to sustainable long-term growth and therefore the health of public finances, as well as open up new opportunities for the UK economy, jobs and trade – and the government’s ambitious proposals are essential to seizing these opportunities.
HM Treasury will publish its Net Zero Review in the coming months setting out how government plans to maximise economic growth opportunities from the net zero transition while ensuring contributions are fair between consumers, businesses and the British taxpayer.
Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change Lord Deben said:
The UK’s sixth Carbon Budget is the product of the most comprehensive examination ever undertaken of the path to a fully decarbonised economy. I am delighted that the government has accepted my Committee’s recommendations in full.
CBI Chief Economist Rain Newton-Smith said:
Setting the sixth Carbon Budget in line with the Climate Change Committee recommendations puts the UK on a credible path to achieve its net zero emissions target.
As COP26 hosts, the UK government is leading by example by setting this stretching target. Business stands ready to deliver with the latest low-carbon technologies and innovations that are driving emissions down every year. By tackling this together, we can reap the benefits of transition to a low-carbon economy.
The target emphasises the importance of the 2020s as a decade of delivery on our climate ambitions, and urgent action is needed now to make this a reality.
Executive Director of Green Alliance Shaun Spiers said:
By accepting the Climate Change Committee’s recommendations for the sixth Carbon Budget, the government has sent out a resounding message, domestically and internationally, that the UK is taking its net zero emissions target seriously. The inclusion of international aviation and shipping is particularly important, showing climate leadership in the year we are hosting the Glasgow climate summit. What we need now is to ensure there is no gap between ambition and policy, so the UK has the right tools in its armoury to meet these targets.
Executive Director of the Aldersgate Group Nick Molho said:
The government should be commended for adopting the ambitious and evidence-based recommendations from the Climate Change Committee for the sixth Carbon Budget. The emission cuts set out in the Budget represent essential next steps the UK needs to take to ensure a credible, cost-effective, and timely pathway to net zero emissions by 2050. The inclusion of the UK’s share of international aviation and shipping emissions is a particularly welcome addition and will help to accelerate the development of sector-specific decarbonisation plans.
Focus must now turn to strengthening the UK’s policy framework to meet this new target, by putting in place a detailed and cross-departmental net zero strategy that will drive private investment in low carbon goods and services, supply chains, jobs and skills.
The UK is the first country to enter legally binding long-term carbon budgets into legislation, first introduced as part of the 2008 Climate Change Act. Since then, 5 carbon budgets have been put into law putting the UK on track to meet our ambitious goal to eliminate our contribution to climate change by 2050 and achieve net zero emissions.
Notes to editors
The sixth Carbon Budget will commit us in law to the fastest fall in greenhouse gas emissions of any major economy between 1990 and 2035, making it one of the most ambitious climate targets in the world
on 9 December, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) published its advice on the level at which to set Carbon Budget 6 (CB6), covering 2033 to 2037. The CCC recommended that CB6 should be set at 965 MtCO2e, reducing emissions 78% from 1990 to 2035 (including international aviation and shipping emissions)
the government is laying legislation on 21 April to set the budget at the level recommended by the CCC. This is a highly ambitious target for the mid-2030s – close to the UK’s previous 2050 target (an 80% reduction on 1990) just 2 years ago and consistent with the Paris Agreement temperature goal to limit global warming to well below 2°C and pursue efforts towards 1.5°C
setting CB6 is about the government’s ambition to cut emissions, rather than announcing specific policies that will deliver that reduction in emissions. We will bring forward policies to meet carbon budgets, and the Net Zero Strategy, to be published before COP26, will set out our vision for transitioning to a net zero economy
CB6 includes emissions from International Aviation and Shipping (IAS) for the first time. Previous carbon budgets have formally excluded these emissions, instead leaving ‘headroom’ for them. However, IAS emissions were included in the CCC’s advice, and are included in our 2050 net zero target, which was set on a whole economy basis
the CCC also recommended in December 2020 that the UK government set a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) of at least 68% (excluding International Aviation and Shipping emissions) by 2030. The government accepted this advice and communicated its NDC to the UNFCCC on 12 December. Carbon Budget 6 continues the ambitious trajectory recommended by the CCC through the 2030s
following the CCC’s recommended budget level does not mean we are following their specific policy recommendations. Our published analysis is based on the government’s own assumptions and does not, for example, assume the CCC’s change in people’s diet. Ahead of COP26, we will be setting out our own vision for net zero, and ambitious plans across key sectors of the economy to meet carbon budgets
15th April 2021 STOP PRESS
Green Finance…..the net closes in on non carbon friendly development as finance takes a stand against traditional building materials .
13th February 2021 STOP PRESS
Economist … Is the future of skyscrapers WOOD ?
Wooden skyscrapers are an ambitious and innovative solution to the problems posed by urbanisation. Not only are they faster to build, they have smaller carbon footprints than high-rises made of concrete and steel.
The Above Content is freely available on YouTube
11th February 2021 STOP PRESS
The housing Minister, Robert Jenrick, has announced today that the government will pay for the replacement of combustible cladding for residential towers over 18 metres high. This is an interesting limit. Does it mean that they will not reduce the limit to 11 metres? If they do there will surely be pressure to reduce the cladding subsidy limit to match and government spend will increase significantly.
We think the limit will stay at 18 metres. Let us know your thoughts
27 June 2019 STOP PRESS
New target will require the UK to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.
The UK today became the first major economy in the world to pass laws to end its contribution to global warming by 2050.
The target will require the UK to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, compared with the previous target of at least 80% reduction from 1990 levels.
The UK has already reduced emissions by 42% while growing the economy by 72% and has put clean growth at the heart of our modern Industrial Strategy. This could see the number of “green collar jobs” grow to 2 million and the value of exports from the low carbon economy grow to £170 billion a year by 2030.
Energy and Clean Growth Minister Chris Skidmore said:
The UK kick-started the Industrial Revolution, which was responsible for economic growth across the globe but also for increasing emissions.
Today we’re leading the world yet again in becoming the first major economy to pass new laws to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050 while remaining committed to growing the economy – putting clean growth at the heart of our modern Industrial Strategy.
We’re pioneering the way for other countries to follow in our footsteps driving prosperity by seizing the economic opportunities of becoming a greener economy.
The UK’s 2050 net zero target — one of the most ambitious in the world — was recommended by the Committee on Climate Change, the UK’s independent climate advisory body. Net zero means any emissions would be balanced by schemes to offset an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, such as planting trees or using technology like carbon capture and storage.