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Climate Clowns Call For Timber Building Boom–Despite Safety Fears

May 28, 2020

By Paul Homewood


h/t Dennis Ambler


Fears of another Grenfell-type fire are stunting the spread of wood-based buildings in England.

The government is planning to reduce the maximum height of wood-framed buildings from six storeys to four.

The move’s been recommended by the emergency services in order to reduce fire risk.

But it contradicts other advice to increase timber construction because trees lock up climate-heating carbon emissions.

In France, President Macron has ruled all new publicly-funded buildings should be at least 50% timber or other natural materials by 2022.

And in Norway a new “ply-scraper” stretches fully 18 storeys – that’s the height recently deemed safe by standards authorities in North America.

18-storey "ply-scraper"

Members of the timber trade say the Government in England has misunderstood the science behind timber construction.

They say timber walls can be made safe by methods including flame-retardant treatments and fire-resistant claddings.

They point out that it is futile planting millions of trees if they are left to rot and release the CO2 they previously captured.

New FGR stadium Image copyright Zaha Hadid Architects Image caption Plans for Forest Green Rover’s new wood-based football stadium have been approved

In a consultation ending on Monday, ministers propose the height of timber-based flats, hotels, and boarding houses should be limited to 11 metres – that’s 3-4 storeys.

In higher buildings timber would be permitted in floors but banned from outside walls.

This further tightens rules introduced after the Grenfell disaster, following representation from fire authorities.

Matt Linegar from the Finnish timber giant Stora Enso told BBC News: “Obviously no-one wants to see another tragedy like Grenfell; protecting life is the main concern.

“But the government is over-reacting. Properly-constructed timber buildings can be safe in a fire – it depends on the design.

“Even with the current guidelines introduced after Grenfell there has been a chilling effect on the industry. People commissioning buildings think ‘I’d better not use timber’. The market has virtually dried up.”

‘Safe home’

A study from the Germany’s Potsdam Institute (PIK), found that a global boom in wood buildings could lock in up to 700 million tons of carbon a year.

It said a five-story residential building structured in laminated timber can store up to 180 kilos of carbon per square metre – three times more than in the trunk, branches and leaves of natural forests.

PIK’s Hans Schellnhuber said: “Societies have made good use of wood for buildings for many centuries, yet now the challenge of climate stabilisation calls for a very serious up-scaling.

"If we engineer the wood into modern building materials and smartly manage harvest and construction, we humans can build ourselves a safe home on Earth.”

The head of the Committee on Climate Change, Chris Stark, told BBC News: “Timber buildings can be tall and safe. Displacing cement, brick and steel with wood means more than double the carbon savings in buildings overall.

“With encouragement from the Government, we could triple the amount of carbon locked into buildings – one of the simplest steps we can take to help meet the UK’s climate goals.”


Quite astonishing! Apparently, in the minds of our climate lobby, people’s safety is less important than “storing carbon”.

The image of the proposed new wooden football stadium must be particularly alarming to those who recall the tragedy at Bradford City’s stadium in 1985, when a tiny fire under the stands engulfed the whole of the wooden built terrace within minutes, killing 56 fans.

As for the hard left Schnellhuber’s claim that “societies have made good use of wood for buildings for many centuries”, I suggest he studies the history of the Great Fire of London.

  1. bobn permalink
    May 28, 2020 2:16 pm

    Talk about focusing on the irrelevant. The important point is to build to a fire safe standard. Doesnt matter what material as long as it reaches the safety standards. Grenfell was metal, foams, composites, paint – so all those should be banned! No. Just make them fit for purpose. Timber can be highly flammable and also less flammable than some metals. Remember how well the metal HMS Sheffield burnt – so ban aluminium?

  2. jack broughton permalink
    May 28, 2020 2:21 pm

    I’ve just seen an article in Power Engineering International that says that Spain’s cabinet is to ask their parliament to ban all new fossil fuel projects immediately.
    Even worse they are to make climate change a compulsory subject in schools.
    The claim is that it will cost €200 b investments and make 350 000 jobs over the next decade.

    Slade were right….. “Weer all crazy now”.

  3. JerryC permalink
    May 28, 2020 2:22 pm

    Isn’t it good, Norwegian wood.

  4. May 28, 2020 2:27 pm


    *Great Fire of London caused the city to ban wood construction

    Long before London’s most recent demonstration of why you have to avoid concentrating flammables in construction.

    Besides fire, CLT construction is very vulnerable to water damage. (CLT cross-laminated timbers) dimensional stability, appearance, mold, decay. Concrete and masonry are more forgiving of bad design.

    • CheshireRed permalink
      May 28, 2020 4:15 pm

      So we’d be regressing by the odd 350 years or so. How progressive.

  5. Broadlands permalink
    May 28, 2020 2:46 pm

    “…because trees lock up climate-heating carbon emissions.”

    Climate heating?? Among the major problems for planting trees by the billions is maintaining them and protecting them from natural (and man-made) forest wildfires. Not to mention never using them for other uses…wood construction. How clown-stupid is all that?

    • May 28, 2020 7:40 pm

      Burning trees by the millions of tons is no problem though. Call it biomass and suddenly it’s a climate saver, despite producing more CO2 than coal. What a joke.

  6. MrGrimNasty permalink
    May 28, 2020 2:51 pm

    …..making lots of things big and small out of wood, and the ‘sustainable’ life style we are supposed to embrace; it has such a great history of doing wonders for the natural environment!

    “The Dwindling Forest”.

  7. MrGrimNasty permalink
    May 28, 2020 2:53 pm

    When this fire was in the news, my first thought was that the timber sectional construction was more likely the main factor.

  8. Phil permalink
    May 28, 2020 3:14 pm

    “A study from the Germany’s Potsdam Institute (PIK), found that a global boom in wood buildings could lock in up to 700 million tons of carbon a year.”

    Up to… whatever THAT means. And how much is 700 million tons? 1% of global emissions? That’s really going to make a difference.

    • Broadlands permalink
      May 28, 2020 3:48 pm

      700 thousand million tons? That is less than ONE part-per-million of oxidized carbon…7,800 million tons. Unoxidized carbon is 2127 million tons. Unlikely to make any difference to a climate with 415 ppm of oxidized carbon already in the atmosphere.

    • Gamecock permalink
      May 31, 2020 3:13 pm

      What is that in Hiroshima Bombs?

  9. Curious George permalink
    May 28, 2020 3:45 pm

    “A study from the Germany’s Potsdam Institute (PIK), found that a global boom in wood buildings could lock in up to 700 million tons of carbon a year.”
    Trees capture so much more “carbon” when used in construction than when growing.

  10. CheshireRed permalink
    May 28, 2020 3:52 pm

    Roger Harrabin continues with his egregiously exaggerated use of the word ‘heating’, which in no reasonable way whatsoever is a fair description of ~1C of warming over 150 or so years. Totally (and willfully) misleading.

  11. May 28, 2020 4:23 pm

    Common sense Harrabin prevents a timber building boom. I spend most of my time in Norway where wooden houses are the norm and I can tell you not only
    do they burn well but they are rubbish to maintain. No matter what you do in our climate soft woods rot in double quick time “LIBERATING CO2”!. In the rest of Western Society because of the Enlightenment people tend not to think out loud, rather they do some research and draw a balanced conclusion. That is the difference between ideology climate fanatics like yourself and scientifically minded adults is the fanatics jump on anything without thinking it through IF they can attach their Gween Wing of Confidence around it. As for “locking up carbon DIOXIDE” my dear science free Harrabin, learn some geological history after you have learned some physics because firstly you will learn that CO2 is NOT anything but beneficial in the atmosphere and oceans. it is the gas of life and in fact the 5% of temperature flux at most caused by your gweenhouth ethect is caused by water Vapour! Secondly you will learn that we are in a CO2 crisis which has been developing for 160million years which projected forward ( based on 160 million years of data that is reasonable) in less than 2 million years atmospheric CO2 levels will fall to the level at which photosynthesis stops. Plants stop, even you Harrabin or who ever comes after you stop! What real scientists not political scientists should be doing is working out how to free up all the trapped CO2 in organic ( carbonaceous) rocks.

  12. tom0mason permalink
    May 28, 2020 5:03 pm

    “As for the hard left Schnellhuber’s claim that “societies have made good use of wood for buildings for many centuries”, I suggest he studies the history of the Great Fire of London.”
    Maybe he should study the link in this Wikipedia page

    Oddly they do not mention 1700 or 1701 —

    The Lesser Great Fire of 1700 in Edinburgh.
    3rd of February, 1700, just over three years before the formation of Edinburgh’s first ever official Fire Brigade, a severe fire destroyed many buildings around Parliament Close. At that time, the population of Edinburgh was estimated to have been between 50,000 and 60,000 souls – that’s live human beings, not imagined ‘afterlife-lings’. The Lesser Great Fire of 1700 was truly dreadful and, according to ‘Maitland’s History of Edinburgh’, it “broke out at the north eastern corner of the Meal Market, about ten of the clock on Saturday night, on the third of February, all that magnificent pile of buildings (exclusive of the Treasury Room) on the eastern and southern sides of the Parliament Close, with the Exchange, were destroyed.” From

    1701 —
    Grand_Bazaar, Istanbul in Turkey “The fire of 1701 was particularly fierce, forcing Grand Vizier Nevşehirli Damad Ibrahim Pasha to rebuild several parts of the complex in 1730–1731. In 1738 the Kızlar Ağası Beşir Ağa endowed the Fountain (still existing) near Mercan Kapı.” (from,_Istanbul )

    Needless to say many of the fires, if not caused by all the timber buildings with open fires in them, were greatly exacerbated by all the timber buildings lining the narrow streets.

    Maybe some useful lessons can be learned from history. Maybe these experts will come to understand that no amount of “flame-retardant treatments and fire-resistant claddings” will resist a major conflagration as well as stone, brick, and concrete.
    Or maybe it is a lesson they wish us all to learn again.

    • MrGrimNasty permalink
      May 28, 2020 6:00 pm

      Fiery death or cancer chemicals in your sofa? Some choice.

      Cold house/high energy bills or cancer chemicals in your insulation……..etc. etc.

      Every solution to a problem has a dark side it seems!

  13. A C Osborn permalink
    May 28, 2020 5:19 pm

    I particularly liked this statement.
    “They point out that it is futile planting millions of trees if they are left to rot and release the CO2 they previously captured.”
    I wonder how long they think a Tree takes to grow to maturity, age, die and then rot?
    100 years, 200 years 300 years, depending on the tree type.
    I am convinced that these people do not live in the real world.

  14. John189 permalink
    May 28, 2020 7:18 pm

    Roger Harrabin employs the term “climate-heating” just as the Guardian recently decided should henceforth be the correct usage. Closed circle of intellectual stimulus, closed minds!

  15. mwhite permalink
    May 28, 2020 7:40 pm

    Wasn’t London made of wood once?

    Then something happened in Pudding Lane

  16. Joe Public permalink
    May 28, 2020 8:01 pm

    Love the “(the timber trade) point out that it is futile planting millions of trees if they are left to rot and release the CO2 they previously captured.” that Harrabin mentions.

    As a BBC Energy Analyst, he of all people must know Drax burns up 7 million tonnes of firewood every year, nearly all of it bought from the US/Canada!

    What an idiotic statement he published.

  17. Colin MacDonald permalink
    May 28, 2020 8:38 pm

    Patrick Moore, renegade escapee from Greenpeace holds wood in high esteem as a building material, maybe stems from his upbringing in a BC logging camp. Here in Little Blighty we build our houses with brick, one the reasons ours are the pokiest homes in Europe. And in Scotland we historically built from stone, and ended with the Gorbals, one of the dankest most overcrowded slums anywhere.

  18. John, Uk permalink
    May 28, 2020 9:30 pm

    I was hummmg and harring all week as to whether or not to go to Valley Parade for that end of season game with my young daughter in May 1986 but as we were due to visit Shropshire for a week I decided to give it a miss and head down in the morning. Arrived at the holiday let just before 1700, owner showed us in, put the TV on whilst he made us a warm drink and there was the Bradford stand going up in flames on the tv. A friend passed his young son up to a policeman on the field side of the barriers just before his coat and hair caught fire. He couldn’t remember anything after that until he came to in hospital 3 days later. The policeman had somehow managed to lift him over the 6 foot barrier saving his life. There but for the grace of God…

    • May 28, 2020 9:53 pm

      I remember switching on the TV just as it was starting.

      I am still shocked at how quickly it spread from a little fire in a corner of the stands. Fans at the time were not in the least concerned, until it was too late.

      I remember a very poignant programme a year or two ago, with Gabby Yorath describing the events. She was just a kid then, but her dad of course was Terry Yorath, the Bradford coach. Quite frightening.

    • Is it just me? permalink
      May 29, 2020 9:28 am

      Horrendous – I didn’t see your comment @John UK – but I’ve echoed it below. One of the victim’s and his son lived in our village. Horrific. If public buildings go back to harnessing timber – what about the insurance costs? Thirty thousand people standing in a wooden arc – the risk premiums will be telephone numbers – all because some dead-head environmentalist lobby group – think it’s ‘eco’. It’s not eco at all – there are umpteen materials that are ecologically sound yet are a tiny fraction of the risk. It’s madness on a level I can only shake my head at. Someone really ought to be investigating the ‘sustainable’ timber business here. A lot of diverse peduncular and duramast woodland is probably being cleared to make way for this crap. Grants were available for years – and many are making a fortune – whacking up species-poor hectarages of one or two timber types. Follow the money……

  19. John, Uk permalink
    May 28, 2020 9:34 pm

    sorry that should read May 1985.

  20. Ben Vorlich permalink
    May 28, 2020 9:39 pm

    Saw an interview with Dale Vince, at least I assume that’s who it was, talking about that stadium. i did wonder about fire proofing which wasn’t mentioned

  21. Geoff B permalink
    May 28, 2020 10:20 pm

    USA electrical wiring regulations are concerned with preventing fires due to timber frame building style. The wiring is PVC insulated but with the addition of a layer of Nylon, which is much stronger and harder to get burning. Arc protection circuit breakers are used in new buildings, particularly for bedrooms, they detect the zero crossing distortion of the current when an arc is taking place in a circuit, even though the total current is within limits. They are 5 times the price of normal overload breakers but because of the fire risk with timber buildings they are worth it. In fact owners of older buildings are encouraged to retrofit them in place of existing overload circuit breakers.

  22. howardpaul permalink
    May 29, 2020 2:20 am

    Just a light-hearted memory prompted by this ridiculous article (When the names Harrabin, Schellnhuber and Potsdam appear in the same article, there should be a trigger warning for those medicating for blood pressure.)

    Long ago I worked in a country where timber-framed housing was the norm. And each evening the TV news would have at least one story and video of houses burning down. No one seemed to make a connection. But the timber industry was very powerful politically and economically.

    Light steel house framing was beginning to make inroads, and my organisation published a specification for safe steel framing of houses. To market the publication via a brochure I decided on humour – along the lines ‘Build houses that go PING in the night, rather than creak and groan”. Very lame, but when trying to market such desiccated topics, it was genius. And too clever by half. In a single strap-line I managed to upset both the steel and timber industries. But, much worse, I had the temerity in the brochure to suggest that steel was safer than timber, as timber burns.

    Talk about little boy and emperor’s clothing! To feel the whole weight of a mighty industry association and their political satraps come crashing down on me was a life-changing experience. I learnt new depth of grovelling. Timber never burns. Gross error of judgement on my part. Re-education underway. Corrective advertising undertaken. Timber good, steel bad. Me stupid.

    A happing ending, however; the law of unintended consequences kicked in. Because of the furore and corrective advertising, I sold more copies of the steel framing specification than I expected in my wildest dreams. Probably saved a life or two as well.

    • Is it just me? permalink
      May 29, 2020 9:18 am

      Lobbying is the scourge of the modern age @howardpaul. It’s like a cancer to progress and common-sense. Indeed the well-worn adage should be amended to: “Don’t tell my mother I’m a lobbyist – she presently thinks I’m a pimp in a bordello”. If I was in authority – all lobbying would be in Room 101, along with ‘cultural and diversity’ officers…and a fair number of other bits of nonsense.

      • Gamecock permalink
        May 31, 2020 3:30 pm


        Lobbying is the natural result of excessive government power. Restrain government and lobbying will disappear. The problem is government, not lobbyists.

  23. Is it just me? permalink
    May 29, 2020 9:13 am

    Ok, so on one hand you have ‘leaders’ like Macron who bang on about deforestation, yet in the next tweet – want buildings to be 50% timber? Indeed, in a spectacular moment of ignorance – Macron tweeted that the Amazon was “the world’s lungs” (which is of course – not true – as it consumes pretty much the same amount of oxygen as it produces). If he is worried about compromising a lung – take all the crap out of the world’s oceans – as most of the world’s oxygen supply comes from the seas and oceans. The more ‘sustainable’ you make forestry for timber – the more land you take from bio-diverse regions like the Amazon. That’s the REAL reason for preserving the Amazon, biodiversity – you twerp Macron! As for football stadiums made from wood – does anyone remember Bradford’s appalling fire in 1985? OK, there was a pitch-coated roof on it – and that sure as hell didn’t help – but go see a fireman who was there. Then go talk to the victims families (there was one from in the village I lived in). If you want ‘natural’ and fire-resistant – hempcrete. Hemp fibres mixed with aggregate. Strong, ecological, safe. Aw, sorry – sane too. Right now we wouldn’t want sane. Sane is so last year…

  24. JCalvertN permalink
    May 30, 2020 10:04 pm

    Americans love to build in timber. I don’t really know why, but I suspect there is some sort of cartel/boondoggle going on.

    Every year the TV news shows us yet another American suburb that has been converted to matchwood by a passing tornado or hurricane. Only to be replaced by more wooden houses – just waiting to be turned into matchwood again . . .

  25. Gamecock permalink
    May 31, 2020 3:21 pm

    ‘The government is planning to reduce the maximum height of wood-framed buildings from six storeys to four.

    The move’s been recommended by the emergency services in order to reduce fire risk.’

    This changes the risk of fire HOW?

  26. May 31, 2020 4:02 pm

    Whoa there. I live in Nebraska and have spent almost my entire life living in balloon-frame houses. They are very inexpensive to build, modify and repair. They are dry and easy to ventilate and heat/cool. My current home was erected in 1880 and it still has some of the original cedar lap siding. Durability is an important characteristic of balloon-frame construction.

    CLT multi-story buildings may have their place, even in cities. But fire is certainly one of many reasons to go slowly. Remember Windsor Castle burned. Fire is always an issue in man’s dwellings. Wooden beams have better structural performance in fires that steel beams. So it’s not perfectly cut and dried that wood structures are altogether inferior. Far from it.

    As for tornadoes and earthquakes, properly constructed ballon-frame buildings perform better than masonry, hands down. I’ve seen masonary churches destroyed in tornados and wood houses picked up, turned around and set down intact by tornados. In earthquakes, there’s no better building to be in than a single family ballon-frame structure. A properly framed two-story wood houseis exponentially safer in an earthquake than a two-story masonary building.

  27. Oliver King permalink
    June 3, 2020 2:48 pm

    Can anyone remember the wooden Nottingham University Carbon Neutral Chemistry Lab burning down in 2014? Oh the irony.

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