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Welsh Timber Futures - Building your Business with EU Knowledge

Wales GATE Handover Workshop

Friday 14 September 2007

Hope Community Church Conference Centre

Dolfor Road, Newtown, Powys

The GATE Handover Workshop
The GATE Handover Workshop

The objective of this event was to ensure that the good work and achievements of GATE would continue within Wales long after the close of the project on 31st December 2007.

It was an opportunity for the timber sector in Wales to see and discuss the achievements of GATE and have their say on how best the knowledge and experience gained in Europe could benefit the whole sector in Wales.

Together the GATE partners have collected a valuable pool of knowledge on the use of timber and the triumphs and pitfalls of the latest construction methods, engineered wood solutions and timber treatments have been shared between the partners. Valuable lessons have been learned through networks across the European partner regions and just as valuable are the networks that have been established throughout Wales.

The project has proven how valuable these linkages can be, and that there is merit in working together to provide a continuation of this kind of service to the sector. This event showed how we intend to ensure that the success of GATE in Europe is continued within the sector in Wales via Wood Knowledge Wales, an initiative of the Wales Forest Business Partnership.

The day began with an opening introduction and welcome to delegates from Ian Forshaw, Director of Forestry Commission Wales. Mike Over, GATE Project Manager, then explained the format for the day and specifically how the Forestry Commission Wales led GATE project will hand over to the industry led Wales Forest Business Partnership.

Introduction and Agenda for the Day - Mike Over - Wales
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Ian Forshaw, Director of Forestry Commission Wales
Ian Forshaw, Director of Forestry Commission Wales

Professor Michael Benfield, from the Wales Forest Business Partnership Leadership Group was introduced as the chairman for the day and gave an overview of the WFBP.

Welcome and Overview of the Wales Forest Business Partnership - Professor Michael Benfield - Chair
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Professor Michael Benfield, Wales Forest Business Partnership
Professor Michael Benfield, Wales Forest Business Partnership

Nick Tune from BRE Wales then gave a presentation on Wood Knowledge Wales and the exciting projects that are currently ongoing.

Wood Knowledge Wales - Nick Tune - BRE
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Nick Tune, Wood Knowledge Wales
Nick Tune, Wood Knowledge Wales

Mike Over then gave a presentation on GATE, describing how it works, the partner regions, a summary of the project achievements to date and how the work will be handed over to the sector in Wales.

GATE - Project Description and Summary of Achievements - Mike Over - Forestry Commission Wales
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Mike Over, GATE Project Manager
Mike Over, GATE Project Manager

The remainder of the day was given over to a series of three workshop sessions where the delegates were split into small working groups and were each asked a different question relating to each of the workshop themes. By doing this, we ensured that everyone was given their chance to have their say on important issues affecting the timber, construction and forestry elements of the sector. It was a chance to bring all these elements together and, hopefully, to take their ideas and reach a consensus allowing the sector as a whole to put forward a common message.

Workshop topics under discussion
Workshop topics under discussion

Three workshop sessions asked five questions each of the delegates. These three themes all followed the underlying themes of the GATE project:

Firstly, Sustainability - timber for adaptation and mitigation to climate change, the zero carbon house, home grown versus imported timber, social and affordable housing

Secondly, Improving the sector in Wales - securing strong supply chains and collaborative networks, policy and procurement - what's holding the sector back, how do we measure added value and the multiplier effect, what more can the sector bodies do for SMEs and how do we increase awareness

The final session looked at the European perspective - what does the sector in Wales want from Europe, what more can Wales learn from Europe and what more can Europe learn from Wales, how can we harness the EU knowledge to protect and build businesses in Wales and what regions and types of partners would we wish to work with in the future

Facilitators then worked with the delegates to prioritise all the issues raised
Each group reported back on their top three priorities to each question

Workshop outputs being prioritised
Workshop outputs being prioritised

We are now at the stage where these results will be closely analysed by Wood Knowledge Wales. Points raised will be grouped into common themes. We will then identify which points raised require action and if they do, are they already in hand. If they are, who is dealing with it and what is the percentage complete. This will identify which new actions should be taken forward and what is their priority.

Each of the workshops also brought up other issues for discussion and between the workshops open discussion took place between all the delegates on a whole host of related topics. Everything said was recorded in detail and appears below. Thanks go to all the facilitators and recorders on the day for their hard work.


a) Climate Change - what can timber contribute to mitigation and adaptation?
1) Adaptability (life time house)
2) Reduced construction time (less time / wastage)
3) Local construction resource (reduced miles)
4) Lightweight construction (less foundations)
5) Carbon sink (forestry is good)
6) Renewable energy source
7) Eat local - build local (local resources)
8) Can be used on poor sites (flood areas)

b) What is the role of timber in the zero carbon house?
1) Sector must understand zero carbon
2) Mandatory
3) Bring in low embodied energy
4) Lower running costs
5) Thermal performance
6) Better for innovation
7) Biomass - heating / cooking
8) Lower footprint / weight

c) Home grown versus imported timber - what is the message from the sector?
1) Multiple benefits from home-grown forests - therefore forests are more important than just timber
2) Increase of financial return to forest owners
3) Limitations of home-grown requires R & D to develop
4) Not enough timber in GB to only use local
5) Change the way we grow timber to suit future requirements
6) Timber engineering to suit home grown
7) Building regulations need to be flexible to use home-grown
8) Home-grown timber use 'difficult' - imported use 'easy' (in terms of specifiers, architects, builders etc

Other issues?
1) Short term reliance on imported timber but use home-grown where suitable
2) Timber engineering to suit use of home-grown

d) How can sustainable use of timber play a greater role for social housing / Housing Associations?
1) Government led
2) Seen in action with exemplars
3) Exemplars
4) Maintenance costs seen as issue
5) Training for industry
6) Education for customers and procurement officers
7) Cost of timber
8) Source of timber
9) Perception of timber

Other issues?
1) Linking value added to sustainability
2) MMC - essential to future development of sustainable use

e) Affordable housing - how can timber really make a difference?
1) Retrofit existing homes:
• Timber can improve insulation of buildings i.e. joinery, cladding, studding, extensions
• Sliding scale of adjustment for existing houses
• Refurbishment of low quality housing to meet BREEAM or other 'sliding scale' standards

2) Additions and extensions:
• Ancillary buildings

3) Culture change:
• Takes time
• Retrofit is best to achieve most impact
• Target professionals and legislation

4) Insulation:
• Wood fibre
• Focus on energy, running costs and sustainability of houses

5) Local manufacturing opportunities:
• Local goods and services

6) Lightweight construction nature of wood (new build):
• Opens up potential of additional land for development i.e. hillsides / flood plains
• Possible relocation of buildings
• Reduce foundation works / materials criteria

Other issues?
1) We should drop the word "affordable"
2) Build upon "carbon footprint"
3) Timber product is sustainable, therefore affordable


a) How can we secure strong supply chains and establish collaborative networks / clusters?
1) Education of specifiers (architects)
2) Supply v demand (marketing resources)
3) Funding 'package' (materials / systems / equipment / labour)
4) Adding confidence (fit for purpose)
5) Information readily available (to all users / suppliers)
6) Level playing field (certification - FSC)

b) Policy and procurement - what's holding the sector back?
1) WAG should purchase local goods and services based on sustainability (Action 3 of 'One Wales' document
2) NO simple guide to procurement policies
3) Procurers do not know enough about timber and sustainability
4) Procurement policies should not favour large companies
5) Policies should be climate change proofed
6) Lack of consistency on policy and procurement
7) Supply chain in Wales not able to deliver
8) Too much tendering against low price only

Other issues?
1) Limited understanding amongst SMEs to get on tender list
2) Too many policies

c) How do we measure and quantify "value added" and the "multiplier effect"?
1) Case studies - business analysis
2) Benchmarking - other sectors / regions
3) Technical audit
4) Methodologies already exist i.e. annual Welsh farm survey
5) Employment figures

Other issues?
1) Why measure?
2) Must know why to influence policy or demonstrate progress
3) This will determine what you need to know and how you collect it
4) Must be accurate

d) What more can the sector bodies in Wales, such as WFBP, WKW, WSW, UKW, WTF, FCW etc do for SME's?
1) Easy access to support - technical & marketing (ideas, niche markets)
2) Financial incentives for SME's from Government
3) Marketing - policy level - outcomes - publicity
4) Lobbying - influence on Ministers - advocacy
5) Simplification - more talking, less forms - cut red tape
6) Defined roles and responsibilities of sector bodies
7) Procurement to favour SMEs
8) Sector bodies should stop bickering and work together

e) Spreading the message - how do we increase awareness?
1) Determine audience and needs (link to policy)
2) Assembly Ministers and staff
3) Fact sheets i.e. a series of packs to identified audiences:
• Learn from Wood for Good campaign
• Wood as an insulator
• Wood as a joinery product

4) Through existing mechanisms and networks:
• Wood Source Wales
• Wood Knowledge Wales
• More joined-up integrated approach

5) Advertising campaign
6) Industry newsletters
7) Sector business to business marketing support

Other issues?
1) What is our audience?
2) Professionals, i.e. architects, specifiers, procurement teams etc
• Assembly staff and Ministers - legislation, services support
• The sector
• The general public

3) Awareness of what?
• What message?
• Exemplar projects / products
• Resource

4) Focus on what the sector can offer and deliver
• Assembly policies / targets

5) Capabilities of sector plus benefits plus educate
6) Low carbon footprint i.e. HIBS rating
7) Sustainable / renewable
8) Culture / attitude


a) What does the sector in Wales want from Europe?
1) Gain knowledge from the full range of European Countries not just GATE Partners
2) Gain overall ideas in relation to construction / housing and adapt to Welsh conditions
3) Less regulation
4) Gain knowledge from other parts of the world outside Europe
5) Gain knowledge / ideas that are exploitable in Wales
6) Money
7) Statistics in relation to climate / site types / species
8) Continued collaboration

Other issues?
1) Gain ideas in relation to forest management for products and adapt to Wales conditions
2) May allow us to take a forward look in climate change issues

b) What more can we learn from Europe?
1) Long term vision
2) Integration between public & private sector
3) Technical training & education
4) Information systems
5) Public awareness of forests
6) Learn together sustainable use of timber

c) What more can Europe learn from Wales?
1) Innovation i.e. small diameter round wood
2) Forests for recreation (cycling / walking etc)
3) Project management (EU funded projects)
4) Forest management (grey squirrels)
5) Community engagement ('your forests')

d) How can we harness EU knowledge to protect and build businesses in Wales?
1) How does the EU apply regulations to facilitate / accommodate new products and processes (industry development?)
2) Identify and modify relevant existing technology and processes (do not re-invent the wheel)
3) Commercialise - how?
4) Ask members what ideas can be used for WKW to evaluate and identify

Other issues?
1) Dissemination of ideas and knowledge
2) What have we learnt and what knowledge is available?
3) Old industries are protected by EU state funding and engaging with people, businesses and communities
4) Culture - direct link between people and the sector who respect the link between local goods and services
5) Tradition of familiarity of wood and first choice as a building material

e) What regions of Europe and types of partners would we wish to work with in future?
1) New & developing member states
2) In need of knowledge transfer
3) Similar markets
4) Similar forests, economies and climates
5) Politically stable
6) Preference for Eastern Europe
7) Old Yugoslavia countries, i.e. Croatia
8) Ireland
9) Not Scandinavia

Other issues?
1) Industries in Europe get more support from their governments

Other Points Raised During Open Discussions

2) Traditional use of timber

3) Effects of climate change - issues relating to design for different weather conditions

4) Timber is not mainstream in GATE partner regions

5) Need to develop timber systems to suit our climate, not just use systems straight from other countries

6) Passive House standards in Europe which are much drier, therefore air tightness may become a problem because of our climate

7) We need to start by increasing all timber use, once it's established we can then encourage use of Welsh timber

8) Construction targets should include embedded carbon constraints in products used

9) Timber frame housing in Wales is approximately 10%. 1/60th embodied carbon in timber housing compared to concrete / brick construction

10) Zero carbon means no heating or electricity brought into the house

11) In Wales currently 'building regulations' and not even BREEAM standard so there is a huge leap to zero carbon

12) There are 36 Timber frame manufacturers in Wales but the number of erectors is not known, so the total number of timber frame homes is unknown

13) We need to ensure that we do not only concentrate on structural timbers as there are many other applications in houses for the use of timber

14) "Zero carbon by 2011" in Wales is unrealistic

15) Need more understanding available for estate agents, building societies, insurance companies as well as surveyors therefore data needed; information needed; training forums needed; scheme needed to ensure the information gets out; guidance needed

16) "Knowledge" drivers

17) Look to other regions with similar climates to ensure that we do not go off half cocked and that all bases are covered so that we do not end up with the situation in the 70's with timber frame

18) Need to "lobby" Ministers - which ones - Jane Davidson. This should be described as "advisory" because a government funded organisation cannot lobby. It should be called persuasion

19) Link to 'One Wales' document for all of this engagement with the politicians

20) How do we influence changes in building regulations?

21) GATE HAS WORKED especially in relation to forest management and integration of forest management and industry / community

22) We need to talk with one voice in Europe across the member states

23) There is a European Forest Week next year (2008)

24) Joint knowledge in relation to the sustainability benefits of forestry and what forestry has to offer in terms of climate change for all of Europe

25) Welsh history is at the root of our dilemma. All of our partners in GATE began their programmes of re-aforestation in the 18th and 19th centuries. German foresters played a prominent role as they did here. From the very beginning of the 20th century they began to adapt those systems to diversify species and age structures. That process has had 100 years to bed in whereas we have only just started to think about it

26) All the GATE partners are net exporters of timber. Their processing industries are based on their own produce. They have developed expertise appropriate to the species, quality and scale of local production. (In much of what we saw economics was secondary in communist times). The forest is the driver. The health and productivity of the forest comes first

27) Wales has a processing industry founded on imports. We don't have the respect for the forest because it's usually a long way away. If our home-grown production stopped tomorrow the gap would be closed in a short time by a flurry of emails

28) Softwoods are used primarily in conventional build and as such they link nicely with local bricks, glass and concrete

29) Timber frame as we have it was designed around the properties of Baltic timber so no link to home-grown

30) There is a link to energy supply for home-grown softwoods

31) There is a link for home-grown hardwoods in specialist joinery and furnishings

32) Clarification required for the quote: "Welsh forests will be net producers of CO2 by 2010"

33) Wales has a mild wet climate and it's getting milder

34) Use of wood fuel requires ventilation

35) Existing technology is not right for us. We need to press on with our own R+D.
Our supply chains are primitive. Public and private sectors must work harder at this.
We can spend our time preaching or we can get on and fix it.