Nick Moss, of the Central Point of Expertise on Timber Procurement externallink, discusses the importance of the UK government timber procurement policy and its relevance to BREEAM.

The UK government timber procurement policy

Properly managed, timber is the world's most renewable building material and is extensively used in construction. As the world's 4th biggest importer of timber products, the UK has the responsibility to ensure that timber it uses is from sustainable sources.

Across government, awareness of issues such as illegal logging, deforestation and sustainable forest management are more prominent than ever. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), with support from colleagues across government, is implementing a range of measures to tackle the issues through procurement. Developing a timber purchasing policy is a valuable step in helping to tackle the challenges of illegal logging, deforestation and climate change. The UK government has recognised the importance of this issue and since 2000 has had a timber procurement policy in place.

From April 2009 there has been a step-change in timber procurement policy. Central government departments, their executive agencies (EAs) and non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) are now required to procure timber and wood-derived products originating from:

  • Legal and sustainable sources or
  • FLEGT licensed or equivalent sources or
  • Recycled timber products.

The policy is mandatory for all central government departments, EAs and NDPBs, and Local Authorities and other public bodies are encouraged to adopt responsible timber procurement policies, in line with government policy.

The requirements apply to all timber and wood-derived products, such as paper, furniture and construction timber, including temporary site works and material supplied by contractors.
With central government procurement accounting for about 20% of all timber consumption in the UK, the timber policy plays a vital role in promoting sustainability. Adding local authority timber consumption, this figure rises to about 40%.

BREEAM and the UK government timber procurement policy

BREEAM has been developed by the Building Research Establishment to assess the likely environmental performance of buildings, and can be used on construction or refurbishment projects. BREEAM is a key driver of sustainability in the construction and building sectors, and the government has used the method to assess its own buildings' environmental performance.

Since 2002 government departments have been required to conduct a BREEAM assessment, or equivalent, on construction and refurbishment projects above a certain value. The Office of Government Commerce (OGC) has mandated that all new government buildings achieve a rating of “EXCELLENT”. Additionally, the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) has deemed it a condition of capital funding that new build and refurbishment projects above a certain value achieve a 'VERY GOOD' rating under BREEAM Schools.

Within the government's push for sustainability in construction, timber is a key resource. In the current BREEAM standards, credits can be awarded for buildings which use timber from legal and sustainable sources. But it is not mandatory to achieve this credit. The UK government timber procurement policy, however, requires all government departments, their executive agencies and non departmental bodies to procure timber from legal and sustainable sources. Contractors and suppliers on government building projects should be aware of these requirements and also recognise that this is an important opportunity to achieve credits towards their BREEAM award.

Evidence of meeting these requirements can be demonstrated through the provision of 'Chain of custody' certificates from forest certification schemes by the supplier. These demonstrate that the forest from which the timber has been sourced is managed sustainably and legally and that that same timber has then been passed along the supply chain. The two most recognised schemes are the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) schemes.

As a renewable material used extensively in construction, creating a requirement for sustainable timber is also important. With only 25% of the world's productive forests certified, and the majority of that in the northern hemisphere, purchasing policies are key in increasing demand and getting more forests managed sustainably. By demanding certified timber, contractors are giving a clear signal of the market demand which filters down the supply chain and translates into incentives for managers to invest in certification of their forests. In the case of BREEAM this increase in the use of certified timber within new build and refurbishment will also be rewarded with credits towards your BREEAM award.

The Central Point of Expertise on Timber

The Central Point of Expertise on Timber (CPET) is a Defra funded body established to provide advice and guidance, assess evidence of compliance with the policy, and support implementation across the public sector.

They run regional workshops, a website and an enquiry hotline which is available for public sector buyers and their suppliers free of charge. The workshop and the website cover a range of themes around the timber procurement policy and its implementation. This includes guidance on responsible purchasing, model contract requirements, and definitions and types of evidence that are available and how you check them.

Additionally, the CPET, WWF and the Timber Trade Federation (TTF) are working with Local Authorities to help to implement sustainable timber procurement policies which promote sustainable and legal forest management. Together we provide advice and assistance to Local Authorities to implement a timber policy through responsible purchasing.

Further information is available from the CPET website at externallink and a helpline is available 01865 243766 for enquires related to the policy.