As the lead trade association that represents the interests of the British grown timber industry, we were disappointed to learn that ambitious plans to use the Earth Centre at Doncaster as a pioneering test bed for environmentally friendly construction techniques have been largely abandoned (NCE 3 September).
There is no reason why British grown timber, both softwoods and hardwoods, could not have been used for various purposes in this project with confidence in its satisfactory performance in service. British grown timber should play a part in this project as an environmentally friendly construction material. The high quality of forest management in the UK is already recognised and timber traceability schemes, such as the FICGB Woodmark, guarantee the provenance of the timber having been derived from a managed British forest.
We note comments on the presence of knots in British timber and that this has resulted in a high rejection rate. While it is the case that 'clear' grades of Douglas Fir can be obtained from Canada, it should be appreciated that Douglas Fir grown in the UK, which is subject to different climatic conditions and silvicultural practice, both of which affect timber quality, does not yield significant quantities of clear grade material. The presence of knots in timber does not preclude its use in either structural or non-structural applications. This fact is demonstrated by their acceptance in British Standards and European relating to the use of timber.
Civil engineers and others who wish to specify British grown timber are recommended to contact specialist timber suppliers to obtain guidance. Members of this Association, several of whom specialise in the supply of British grown Douglas Fir, would be pleased to have provided such information to the project team. Liaison between specifier, contractor and timber supplier at an early stage in the project would have given a thorough appreciation and understanding of timber quality and availability.
David Sulman, executive director, UKFPA, John Player Building, Stirling Enterprise Park, Springbank Road, Stirling, FK7 7RP