Look for alternative species and sources, CPET and Defra visit supplier
Buyers have a tendency to specify well-known species and request specific species for historical and traditional reasons. The UK Government’s Timber Procurement Advice Note requires that ‘fit-for-purpose’ is specified in the bid rather than specifying certain species. This provides the timber supplier with some room for manoeuvre in the quest to find well-managed forests for their sources of timber. The Advice Note also states that recycled wood of any description is preferable, if it meets the technical specification.
One company that has worked to promote alternative species of legal and sustainable timber is Capricorn Timber. Capricorn stocks recycled timber as well as lesser known species, and is trying to encourage customers to focus on the sustainability and legality of the timber when requesting timber for a specific purpose. FSC certified Siberian Larch is presented as an alternative to non-certified hardwoods. ‘’Siberian larch has proven to be extremely durable and can be used for fence posts without treatment’’ says Roger Arveschoug, director of Capricorn. Capricorn is also experimenting with recycled timber and has therefore recently procured a batch of Douglas fir, previously used in vinegar production for many years. Roger Arveschoug says ‘’This batch of recycled timber is fine and we hope that people will see the value in having a door made of timber with history’’. The company also stocks thermo-wood as an alternative to rare, tropical wood which might be difficult to source as verified legal and sustainable. The thermo treatment is an innovative technological process that involves heating the timber to 200 degrees centigrade, which naturally preserves the wood without the need for toxic chemicals or dyes. The heat-treated softwood is available as certified and no preservative treatment is required.
This example highlights how certain variant such as thermo-wood can be used instead of more widely known hardwoods, and it is therefore paramount that public sector procurement officials specify the use of timber rather than a certain species of timber. This is especially important with the step change in timber procurement policy coming into effect in April 2009. Central departments will be required to procure legal and sustainable timber or timber licensed under the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) initiative, which removes the minimum requirement for legal timber. This upgraded policy will mean that procurers have to be even more stringent in meeting the sustainability requirements and they should, therefore, ensure that they are not constrained by individual species.