The UK is about to raise the bar on product and performance data supplied with construction products with publication of the Code for Construction Product Information (CCPI).
CCPI is in response to one of the key findings of the Hackitt Report into the Grenfell fire which confirmed that shortcomings in product information had contributed to the disaster. Particular concern was raised in connection with specifier guidance, product information, marketing materials and performance testing claims.
Developed by the Construction Products Association, CCPI will set a new benchmark for product manufacturers and, in particular, all sales and marketing staff to ensure the information they supply is clear, accurate, up-to-date, accessible and unambiguous. These requirements are right in line with the current timber supply chain communications campaign being led by TTF and WPA to raise awareness about how to specify and use treated wood correctly.
Time to abandon out-dated trade-speak
CCPI is expected to be published later this year. The WPA and TTF believe this is why it’s more important than ever for manufacturers of treated wood products to abandon out-dated trade-speak in favour of language that is specific to its application.
“The use of the term ‘sleepers’ and ‘green treated’ are cases in point” says WPA Chief Executive Officer Gordon Ewbank. He explains “The name ‘sleepers’ harks back to another era, when redundant large section timbers impregnated with coal-tar based preservative from railway networks, were sold into the landscaping sector for soil retaining walls.
Over time, the association between longevity in ground contact and the product label ‘sleeper’ transferred to modern-day preservative treated landscaping timbers that have never been anywhere near a railway track. Yet these popular multi- purpose products are still placed on the market as ‘sleepers’ rather than what they actually are: large section landscaping timbers.”
‘There is no such thing as a universal preservative treatment’
The term ‘green treated’ is still very common in the UK’s timber supply chain. When used without reference to end use suitability, the implication is that the treated wood product can be used anywhere, indoors or out. “There is no such thing as a universal preservative treatment” says Gordon Ewbank who emphasises that in modern timber treatment processes the amount of preservative impregnated into wood is determined by the products end use known as the ‘Use Class’. “Whilst one piece of treated wood may look very much like any other, the level of protection and end use suitability could vary significantly” adds Gordon. He confirms that, if a product treated for an indoor application (Use Class 2) is misused for an outdoor situation – either above ground (Use Class 3) or in-ground/close to ground (Use Class 4) – then premature failure is almost inevitable.
“Under CCPI, ‘sleepers’ and ‘green treated’ would almost certainly count as indefensible and inaccurate product descriptions” says Gordon who adds that with the impending publication of the CCPI, now is the time to address inaccurate and vague descriptions of preservative treated products. Gordon continues “Outdated non- specific ‘trade speak’ increases the chances of product misuse, failure to meet (unrealistic) customer expectations and complaints, particularly in outdoor applications.”
TTF Chief Executive Dave Hopkins agrees and is quick to point out the potential for reputational damage and the consequences for timber as a whole. Dave states “If incorrectly specified treated wood fails, inevitably it calls into question the reputation of timber as a reliable building material. This undermines the opportunities to build buyer confidence and grow demand for quality assured, high durability preservative treated wood products.”
Opportunity for market segmentation
The TTF and WPA are committed to raising awareness about the need for accurate, application-specific descriptions for treated wood products, including information about a product’s suitability for use (i.e. Use Class).
If the supply chain can make this shift then both organisations believe opportunities will open up to segment the landscaping timbers market into products for out of ground contact and higher added- value products for ground contact.
A range of guidance information and resource ‘toolkit’ for use by treated wood suppliers is available from either TTF, the WPA or through TDCA. Confor and BALI have also agreed to support the move for more accurate treated wood information.
This resource has been further expanded with the publication of a new edition of the WPA Code of Practice for Timber Treatment Installations which is featured
in this edition of Fencing & Landscaping News.
To access a free copy or view the WPA resource toolkit go to www.thewpa.org.uk/resources-for-treated-wood