Cedar standing the test of time

I was looking through some 1930’s back-copies of Timber Trade Journal yesterday, amazed to see the enormous efforts made to promote western red cedar by the British Columbia Trade Commissioner in London who had offices at 1–3 Regent Street. A series of
one-page advertisements illustrated a collection of inspirational buildings made from western red cedar with Douglas fir framing, designed and built in England.

The records coincide with the construction of the Cedar House in Chobham, designed by Lutyens and made by Colt Houses in the 1930’s. The building has recently been restored by its current owner and photographed by Canada Wood UK. It illustrates how well established cedar is in the UK, how it has inspired design through the ages, that it is sustainable (i.e. it hasn’t run-out since, and we are now using second-rotation material), and how its durability is evident and proven.

Environmental NGOs virtually impossible to work with

Lumber importers learn about Canada’s sustainably and legally harvested forests

The timber and wood products industries appear to find it virtually impossible to work with environmental NGOs. The apparent differences in culture and suspicion on both sides results in missed opportunities to join forces and campaign on issues of mutual interest and concern, and better understand each others’ viewpoints. I remember one rare
occasion, when working in a past life for The Malaysian Timber Council we arranged a joint stand with Greenpeace at an exhibition, both advocating the use of responsibly sourced wood for windows manufacture instead of environmentally harmful PVCu. Currently in the UK, ENGO Rainforest Rescue (Rettet den Regenwald) is campaigning against proposals to construct four large biomass power stations in Scotland, claiming that the resultant demand for fuel will exacerbate deforestation, increase carbon emissions, cause local pollution, cost the public £300 million in subsidies, and be so inefficient as to contradict Scottish Government and EU policy on biomass. Meanwhile, quite separately a timber industry supported campaign called Stop Burning Our Trees is lobbying government saying that burning trees results in increased CO2 emissions, puts up the price of electricity and wood products, and costs jobs in the UK. Wouldn’t it be so much better if the two sectors joined forces to put forward their shared messages, and position themselves as the pragmatic force for good?

Western Red Cedar Fitting in the UK

The Western Red Cedar Export Association and Canada Wood UK have worked together to develop Canadian exports of western red cedar. A design-led marketing initiative successfully translated into mainstream demand in the UK. The principal use for cedar has been as exterior cladding, and opportunities remain to extend its scope of application, such as for interior fitting. 

A crucial element of marketing has been to advise specifiers about the potential for colour change, and of ways to prepare for and manage that change. It is vital that customers are made properly aware of the fact that cedar will turn silver grey, chocolate brown or even black on exposure to rain, sun and air-borne particulates, and informed about the role that coatings and maintenance regimes can play in managing transition. Most of all, it is important that buyers have realistic expectations so as to avoid any disappointment with their product. Too many brochures show freshly installed wood, and not the attractive colours that will prevail subsequently in most circumstances. 

We have been informed of occasions where planning permission has been denied to builders intending to install western red cedar exterior cladding left uncoated. The application of some coating on freshly cut cedar maybe advisable and desirable in many instances, but the fact that planners are resorting to a degree of enforcement implies some level of disenchantment. 

Experience shows that effective marketing must be supported by complementary education and technical support.

Designers are turning to wood

The Financial Times’ style magazine titled ‘How to Spend It’ (2 July 2011) published an article introduced with the words “Designers are turning to wood to create bespoke and artful kitchens that replace the white-box formula with striking timber textures.” The trend appears to be inclusive of most temperate hardwood species, with special mention given to walnut, maple, cherry, pippy-oak, painted beech, ripple-sycamore, and olive-ash.

An opportunity in the UK for Canadian bio-fuel suppliers?

The UK government is poised to introduce a scheme intended to reduce emissions from fossil fuels by providing long-term financial support for renewable heat installations. The Renewable Heat Incentive involves making tariff payments to owners of private, public and domestic properties that generate heat from renewable sources such as biomass and solar. Continue reading