WPA Conference 2016 highlights essential role wood protection plays in helping to make the most of wood

WPA Conference 2016 - Proceedings

The WPA’s annual conference took place on 7 April at Breadsall Priory Hotel, Derby. Attended by over seventy delegates the conference focused on the essential role that the industrial pre-treatment of wood has to play in helping to make the most of wood as a sustainable, low environmental impact material. This WPA News provides a summary of the proceedings. Copies of all the slide presentations can be found in the Members’ Area of the WPA web site or by clicking the following link


Opening the conference, WPA Chairman Chris Coggins said that the use of pre-treated wood was a very complementary fit with modern materials thinking. Specifiers want to be able to keep materials in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them whilst in use before recovery, re-use or regeneration at the end of the products desired service life. Wood protection technology has expanded the range of species available for use in long-term applications by conferring durability on non-durable species and by providing fire protection properties to solid timber and panel products. Such technologies enhance the performance of wood significantly, they enable the embodied carbon stored in wood to be stored for longer and are highly compatible with the sustainability and circular economy objectives for materials that were increasingly important factors in the construction sector.

Introducing the programme of speakers, WPA director Steve Young said that without any question the message of the moment is: “Wood is good - but treated wood is better! Wood is enjoying a renaissance and the conference programme reflects both the opportunities for wood and the challenges to growing demand for treated wood.” He added that the role and strategy of the WPA as the technical, quality and regulatory champion for the timber treatment industry will also be under the spotlight and encouraged delegates to ask questions at any stage. He said: “ WPA strategy is focused wholly on adding value to the business activities of our members. Listening to your views is a vital part of our strategy-setting process so please do not be shy about speaking out in conference or afterwards with me, our Chairman or any WPA board director.”

Timbers’ contribution to the circular economy in construction and how good timber treatments can help achieve circular economy goals Charlie Law MIEMA, ICIOB

Sustainability consultant Charlie Law described how the use of quality pre-treated wood is totally consistent with the pursuit of sustainability and circular economy strategies as a design ethos. He said that the Take, Make and Dispose approach that had characterised the use of materials and products was coming to an end. Against the background of a low carbon footprint construction strategy, the aim is to design out waste, maximise the value of a material during its service life and then recover it for further use. All materials are considered a resource for other applications.

Charlie explained that for biological materials, value creation lies in extracting optimum value from a material by cascading it through other applications. For example, felled trees going straight into biomass eliminates the value that could be harnessed through successive uses as timber, recycled timber products, anaerobic digestion, and eventual use as a fuel to generate energy. In circular economy strategies the service life of materialises must be maximised. Structural design increasingly focuses on the use of modular easily dismountable components which can be re-used or re-manufactured or used in other applications. Timber treatments and treated wood adds significant value and benefit when they perform effectively in accordance with the service life desired. Charlie pointed out that whilst treatments might be seen by some to compromise the circular economy ethos business models were now being considered that would include end of service life recovery. The point was made that there are many up-front benefits to making a non-durable, natural and sustainable material like wood last long-term and this should not be underestimated in circular economy thinking. Incineration to generate heat and power after a long and useful life is an acceptable final re-use option in the overall scheme of things.

Wood in Construction – an architects view Peter Wilson

Leading pro-timber Architect, Peter Wilson, gave an impressive presentation about how wood is becoming the global construction material of choice. Driven principally by woods sustainable credentials, low environmental impact and practical benefits in use, architects worldwide were now turning to wood to create innovative approaches to building design and construction. Peter Wilson says: “Wood is the future. Only dinosaurs are still building with brick and concrete.” And judging by the projects in his presentation which ranged from simple structures in harmony with nature to multi-storey timber buildings the claim is well made. Peter Wilson emphasized that wherever wood is used there are questions about durability performance and resistance to fire and the wood protection industry had a role to play in helping designers realise the full potential of wood in modern construction.

Ensuring the availability of UK softwoods for treatment – Martin Bishop, Confor

Many WPA timber treater members use softwoods from home grown sources in the manufacture of their treated wood products. Reports that there may be insufficient forest resources to meet the demand for homegrown timber in future years prompted WPA to invite Confor to set the record straight for WPA members. Martin Bishop set out the facts relating to forestry in the UK where only 13% of land area was covered by forest & woodland compared with the average in EU member states of 36% cover. He said that the various devolved governments across the UK had ambitious planting targets but progress against these targets had fallen short significantly in the last two years. For example England’s target was 5,000 hectares (ha) but it only achieved 2,400ha whist in Scotland the target was 10,000ha and 7,600ha was achieved. On softwood planting the figures achieved in the UK excluding Scotland was a mere 100 ha. Martin Bishop proceeded to explain that UK had actually lost an estimated 20-30,000ha of productive forest to schemes such as open habitat creation and wind farms in the last 10 years and that a significant area has been felled as diseased and not replanted. Confor believe it is vital that more planting of commercial species takes place. UK forestry is a £2 billion low carbon industry that provides over 40,000 jobs and Martin Bishop outlined why it was vital that forest and woodland investment was encouraged by improving the business environment and planning consent procedures. Such initiatives would also have wider benefits for future carbon sequestration, flood prevention and air quality.

As the lead body on forestry Confor was actively pursuing a strategy across several fronts to deliver a significant change to forest and woodland planting. Lobbying was taking place of politicians, government officials, the public and landowners to challenge and overcome barriers and misperceptions about planting schemes and persuade interest groups about the benefits that would ensue. Progress has been achieved as reflected in the launch of the Confor and Woodland Trust planting target of 7,000 ha per year and the galvanising of political opinion through the Cofor sponsored all party group of MP’s at Westminster.  However, this is just a start and there is much more to do if the industry is to be sustained and demand for UK sourced commercial timber is to be met in the future. Martin Bishop emphasised that Confor was committed to achieving this task.

What drives changes to British Wood Preservation Standards? - Chris Coggins

Chris Coggins is chairman and principal technical consultant of the WPA. He is also chair of the BSI advisory committee B/155 for BS8417 the British Standard for industrial wood preservation and of the National Highways Sector Scheme 4 preservative treated wood advisory committee.

A combination of factors are driving changes to BS8417. These include Regulatory influences affecting availability of preservatives, active ingredients, wood types and sources etc; the emergence of new information such as concerns about the variability in the durability of the heartwood of plantation-grown species compared with natural forest material; new performance data and

international standards influences such as CEN and ISO. A new raft of CEN standards emerged in the 1980s and 90s that changed the whole basis of the British Standard system of specifying wood treatment. Currently, the CEN standard for natural durability (EN 350) is now in the final stages of revision and is covering natural durability, and durability of modified and treated wood.

Another key factor in shaping standards is market and end user experience. Market concerns emerging in 2008 about premature failure of 15 year life treated wood in ground contact (Use Class 4) drove a review of preservative performance and treatment standards in BS 8417.  A WPA assessment of premature failures at that time highlighted both CCA and copper organic treated materials were involved and that analysis showed penetration and retention that did not conform to BS 8417. Chris Coggins said that the newer copper organic preservatives have good evidence on efficacy, increasingly reinforced by field test data and it was a misperception that failure was a consequence of using a less effective preservative.

In response to the extent of heartwood exposed in sawn components that are required to meet the BS 8417 30 year specification the standard was upgraded to require increased penetration of the heartwood. As regards the specification for the 15 year desired service life materials in UC4, BSI has agreed to await data from the WPA initiated a BRE managed and assessed field trial of UK softwoods that commenced last year at sites in Scotland and England. The first inspection is now underway to check of untreated posts and small stakes will determine if treated material is to be inspected.

Looking forwards, Chris Coggins said that the big changes covered in the draft EN 350 (yet to be approved) would drive a review of BS 8417 and WPA members would be kept fully briefed and consulted in this process. He also emphasised that successful market implementation of the 30 year changes is important for the future of wood in safety-critical end uses such as highway fencing.

Development of incising equipment fit for UK species – Derek Tweddle

Derek Tweddle is managing director of Tweddle Engineering Ltd, a company specialising in the development of incising and timber treatment equipment.

This presentation focused on how the timber treatment industry was achieving the penetration requirements of BS8417 by investing in incising equipment. Incising had become the go to technique particular for resistant species like spruce and for species with more dense heartwood such as Douglas fir. The presentation summarised the benefits of incising for timber treaters and their customers before moving on the technical details and capabilities of the ‘Excalibur ‘incising machines specifications and operational configurations.

Creosote – what are the long-term prospects? - Willie Clason

Willie Clason is Chairman of the WPA Creosote Group and is leading the European creosote sector campaign to seek continued approval for the use of creosote as a wood preservative.

Willie Clason sets out the programme work that has been invested the campaign for continued EU approval for creosote. A fullLegislative review has been carried out together with a comprehensive technical description of alternatives and the supply chain response should an EU-wide ban on Creosote take place. He said it was encouraging that over the past 15 months there has been growing support across members states for the continued use of creosote in wood pole applications in particular enabling the production of a robust Socio Economic Assessment (SEA) for presentation to the EU competent authority for creosote, Kemi in Sweden. Creosote treated wood delivered best performance in the Life Cycle Assessment element when compared with use of materials such as steel, concrete, composite and fibreglass.

Kemi announced recently that, based on the data submitted, it was granting approval for creosote to be used for poles and sleepers until 2021. Willie Clason said that this was good news and gave added momentum to the industry’s work on an SEA for Fencing which would be submitted to Kemi in the near future.

A social impact study on the consequences of taking creosote out of the wood protection industry is in the final stages of review by industry for submission as supporting reasons for continued approval.

On the back of the Kemi announcement, Creosote manufacturers are now applying for mutual recognition in other member states including UK where the process began on 6th March 2016 with HSE. The mutual recognition process can take up to 6 months but the good news is that HSE

HSE will now decide on applications for continued use and the mutual recognition process can take between 2 and 6 months in our experience, mainly due to resource issues at HSE will consider sleepers, poles and fencing/tree stakes as part of the process.

Fire Retardant treated wood and panel products – Gordon Ewbank

Gordon Ewbank is Chairman of the WPA Fire Committee and the WPA’s Regulatory Affairs Advisor.

Fire protection is a critical safety issue under the Construction Products Regulations (CPR) and compliance throughout the supply chain is vital to protecting lives, property, UK jobs and the reputation of timber in construction and the timber supply chain. Gordon Ewbank emphasises in this presentation that the inability of UK government to enforce CPR compliance is the biggest challenge facing the UK fire retardant wood treatments sector at the moment. The presentation highlights the two very specific concerns where claims made about fire performance and CPR compliance do not stand up to close scrutiny. These are:

- The emergence of site applied coatings that claim to meet all performance standards and

- Timber sheet materials used in structural situations that are non-CPR compliant

The presentation looks in detail at these two issues and the inability of Trading Standards to get to grips with the situation due to lack of resources and the campaign of lobbying that WPA is about to commence.

IED permit conditions – is the UK at a competitive disadvantage? -Gordon Ewbank

This presentation focuses on the permitting of timber treatment plants under the EU Industrial Emissions directive (IED) and the reality of the absence of EU wide consistency in interpretation and implementation. Gordon Ewbank describes the current situation across the various regions of the UK and the positions adopted by the various regulatory authorities such as SEPA in Scotland compared with the patchy implementation in other member states where differences in capacity interpretations are being applied or permitting has been put on hold pending the publication of the EU best techniques reference document, known as BREF, for wood preservation with chemicals is published. The presentation looks at how the BREF Note is progressing and the role being played by the WPA in the EU industry wide input to the permitting process.

How the WPA Benchmark scheme is helping to raise the bar on treatment quality and reduce customer complaints – Chris Coggins

Chris Coggins describes the work of the WPA over many years to raise standards culminating with a focus on the introduction of the WPA Benchmark quality scheme and wood preservative product approval scheme for wood preservatives. The presentation explains how the Benchmark scheme focuses on the key factors such as establishing the safe relationship for each commodity and species to ensure WPA Manual and BS8417specifications are achieved consistently.

The WPA Benchmark preservative approval scheme is a voluntary scheme introduced to further reinforce the quality of a treated commodity. It provides an independent expert assessment of manufacturers research and efficacy data and approves the minimum retention of a preservative required to deliver that deliver a 15 or 30 year desired service life for treated wood in ground contact.

Full details of the WPA Benchmark Schemes are available by contacting the WPA office.

Turning WPA strategy into action

WPA Director Steve Young talks about the WPA Mission Statement, the principal objectives of the Association and how the strategy and priorities are set by a board drawn from the membership. Steve describes how the board is structured, with the majority of places going to individuals representing timber treatment companies both large and small, and how feedback from members results in driving the priorities and actions of the WPA.

The importance of maintaining the technical, quality and regulatory leadership on wood protection affairs provided by the WPA is emphasised. The WPA has an ability to influence that cannot be replicated by an individual commercial company or timber industry organisation and this should never be undervalued says Steve who then goes on to review the highlights from WPA operations in 2015 and how the WPA has a vital role to play in helping the wood protection industry to grow and flourish.

WPA Priorities for the future

In the final Conference session, Steve Young takes reviews the Challenges and opportunities to grow demand for wood protection products and processes. Key elements in this process will be the ability to educate specifiers in better understanding the benefits of wood protection and leveraging the growing popularity of wood in construction. Performance of treated wood was still a concern in some sectors of the market and this needed to be addressed. In this respect the WPA had put in place the tools needed by industry in the form of the Benchmark quality schemes and wider adoption of Benchmark is key objective. Membership and funding growth would be essential to achieving these aims and the WPA board is very much focused on helping members to succeed.

A big thank you to our Sponsors

The WPA annual awards for wood protection excellence and the annual WPA Conference are major events and could not be staged without sponsorship funding. On behalf of the WPA Steve Young closed the 2016 conference by thanking all the companies whose generosity had made these event possible



Posted at 2:52 pm on May 10th, 2016