Following a meeting of Welsh Structural Timber Association (STA) members in February 2018 a follow up meeting was arranged in Cardiff on 15 June to look at issues around the establishment of a Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) processing facility in Wales. This was prompted by interest from Welsh Government who have driven the agenda.

Group of people around a table in hotel room for a meeting

Present at the meeting were Andrew Carpenter (STA), Gary Newman and Ceri Loxton (Woodknowledge Wales), Andrew Mitchell (Natural Building Technologies), Gareth Mason (Stora Enso), Darren Jarman (Lowfield Timber Frame), Milica Kitson and Gordon Brown (Constructing Excellence Wales), Charlotte Hale (Hale Construction Group), Colin Taylor (Taylor Lane).

Prior to the meeting the STA had previously agreed with Welsh Government a three phase approach to introducing CLT to Wales, this meeting explored with those present how these aims could be addressed:

Short Term – How do we deliver 20,000 homes in 4 years? Welsh Government have indicated that timber frame is part of that solution.
Medium Term – Establish a CLT facility in Wales.
Long Term – Align needs of CLT facility with forestry

Wales and the rest of the UK is facing a housing crisis. CLT is a building material that can help to build those homes so desperately needed. CLT is particularly suited to multi storey, mass manufactured projects. Smaller, low level and individual projects that tend to be design driven are more suited to timber frame methods, either open or closed panel.

Gareth Mason, Business Development Manager for Stora Enso was invited to give a brief summary of CLT manufacture and an overview of what would be required to set up a facility in Wales. Stora Enso are in the process of establishing their third CLT processing facility, this factory is located in Sweden – chosen for its location to a forest resource and seaport for exporting finished product. The mill is due to open in January 2019 with a capacity of 65-70,000 cubic meters and representing an investment of £32m.

A discussion followed on about timber availability in Wales / UK for such an undertaking and the market for CLT.  In the UK alone the market for CLT has been growing at about 5% a year for the last few years. A factory the size of the one being built by Stora Enso in Sweeden would be able to supply current UK demand but not for long if CLT keeps going at the rate it is.

Currently CLT is manufactured from timber which has been graded to C24 strength.  Whilst Wales is able to produce timber of this quality the supply chain is currently insufficiently developed to deliver the quantity and quality required. Welsh sawmills do however grade to  C16 and this could be used to manufacture CLT but a strategy would need to be developed for utlising this grade of timber.

It was an interesting, lively and positive meeting with clear pathways identified for what needs to be done next. Woodknowledge Wales will continue to work with the STA and give input into the feasibility study of manufacturing CLT in Wales .