Lack of willpower and politics are holding back the Welsh Joinery sector delegates at recent wood windows event are told.

Over 30 delegates representing clients, suppliers, processors and architects travelled to Bala for our event on, “Developing the Welsh Joinery Sector. Barriers and opportunities for windows.” This event is part of Woodknowledge Wales Campaign for Wood Windows and was delivered as part of the Home-Grown Homes Project with sponsorship from the British Woodworking Federation and Wood Window Alliance.

The first event in the Campaign for Wood Windows looked at the barriers to housing associations (HAs) and local authorities (LAs) specifying wood windows in their properties. That event helped to identify and challenge some of those barriers showing how modern wooden windows provide high performance, high quality, low maintenance and cost-effective options for HAs and LAs.

 

This second event looked at how the Welsh Joinery sector can respond to that real and growing demand from the social housing sector to supply wood windows and ultimately how the joinery sector can access home-grown timber to be used in making those windows.

Kevin Underwood from the Wood Windows Alliance (WWA) gave a comprehensive overview of the regulatory requirements for timber windows, factors affecting high performance windows and also considerations for extending service life and reducing maintenance costs.

Secured by Design (SBD) has proved to be a barrier to some Welsh joinery manufacturers supplying certain projects. Following meetings between SBD, WWA, WKW, Welsh Government and window manufacturer Vintage Joinery, Kevin Underwood gave an update on progress in this area. An approach is being considered that could allow small businesses to become certificate holders who manufacture an approved SBD window system. This approach could have considerable cost savings for individual joinery companies.

Mike Lewis from Accsys Group Plc described the acetylation method for wood modification. Acetylation essentially blocks the chemical sites in wood which attract water. When the water content in wood rises above a certain moisture content this results in swelling, distortion and fungal degradation. Thus acetylation is an effective method at improving durability. Modified wood now makes up 13% of all wood used in windows. And the cost? Mike responded to this question from the audience by saying that most joiners will sell their Accoya products at 5-10% more than hardwood, whilst for cladding and decking Accoya is comparable to the price of cedar.

Same species, different growth rates reflected in ring widths. But here the highest density is actually the fastest grown.

Dainis Dauksta from Woodknowledge Wales challenged our perceptions that Welsh (and UK) forest plantations provide low grade softwood which is only fit for fence posts and biofuel. He urged us all to learn more and not to make the mistaken judgement that fast grown is always inferior to slow grown or that large ring width means low density. His talk illustrated how large Welsh logs can provide high grade joinery timber – but that grade sorting of logs is required. Smaller logs can also be utilised using techniques like finger jointing to make more stable elements.
“Select and grade your timber to get the best. It is just lack of willpower and politics that is holding us back”

Kevin Underwood listening to questions

A lively and informative questions and answers session, chaired by Gary Newman, followed the three presentations. The session covered three broad areas

  •  Clients – what are the barriers to them specifying Welsh wood products?
  •  Manufacturers – what are the supply barriers to manufactures supplying the social housing market and
  •  Processors – what are the barriers to using home grown timber?

Jim Knight, Powys County Council – which has a unique Wood Encouragement Policy in place said that switching to wood is a positive not a barrier but that the blockages come in the supply chain.

Craig Lovatt from Custom Precision Joinery pointed out that joinery manufacturers in this area are not short of work at present with many having full order books. Craig pointed out that Secured by Design is only a barrier to his company at the moment because they are rarely asked for it – so it is not worth paying £10k to achieve certification for just one or two orders.

Wood processor Clifford Jones Timber, which has sawmills in Wales and Scotland, highlighted the difficulty of raw material supply which is holding back not only existing production but also potential expansion. Loss of long-term contracts (LTCs) and the renewable heat incentives (RHI) scheme has resulted in loss of supply for sawmills like themselves with good quality saw logs as they are being diverted from sawmills to (subsidised) biomass schemes. Added to this, concerns were raised about the lack of planting and future security of timber supply. National Government needs to take a strategic approach to timber supply.

In conclusion the event identified that there is a real and growing demand for timber joinery products in social housing but that the supply chain is currently not able, for a number of different reasons to supply that demand. Woodknowledge Wales will continue, through the Home-Grown Homes Project and other projects and activities to work towards unblocking that supply chain and help to transform Wales into a high value forest nation.

To some of the presentations from both the first and second event please visit the Resources Section of our website here and scroll down to find the Campaign for Wood Windows 2018.

 

Windows Event opens New Doors for Welsh Timber