Branching Out

Alastair Kerr, director general of the Wood Panels Industries Federation (WPIF) and spokesperson for the JOSB Done campaign, looks into the confusing world of wood

The plywood market can be a tricky area to navigate. There are so many different grades of plywood available that sometimes it is difficult to know exactly what you are getting.

Unless you understand what the different certification marks mean, it can be difficult to be completely sure of the consistency of the product, especially as prices can fluctuate dramatically per panel.

Plywood has often been the first product of choice for projects where a panel product is required – simply because it is what builders are used to. However, interest in Oriented Strand Board (OSB) has increased over recent years, as builders and contractors realise the importance of choosing sustainable products and the wide range of applications OSB offers, and even better, the performance it provides.

OSB is an engineered wood panel that is made by layering together credit card sized pieces of wood under intense heat and pressure, resulting in an incredibly strong and extremely versatile panel. OSB can be used in a construction capacity for various projects – from roofing and flooring through to wall partitioning, hoarding and load bearing, plus it can be stained, varnished or painted as desired.

There are two types of OSB commonly used – OSB2 for load bearing dry conditions, and OSB3 for load bearing humid conditions – which makes it simple to understand exactly which type is suitable for a particular job.

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Recent research has shown that global consumption of OSB is set to increase by 11% per year over the next five years, compared to a 5% annual increase in the consumption of plywood, according to the latest wood panel industry research. Recognising that there has been a considerable shift in favour of strong and sustainable wood panels in the last decade, the research indicates that this trend will continue.

There has also been a massive shift in favour of strong and sustainable wood panels in the last decade as more installers, as well as merchants, are choosing timber products that are environmentally sound.

As demand for eco-friendly building materials continues, OSB is well placed to meet this pressure as it fits in with government legislation and placates changing attitudes within the construction industry.

OSB manufactured in the UK and Ireland has lower transportation costs, both in economic and carbon terms, therefore cost to the environment is lowered relative to similar products that are imported from further afield.

Furthermore, much of the energy used to make OSB actually comes from the wood residue derived during the manufacturing process, instead of using fossil fuels, considerably reducing overall carbon emissions during manufacture.

Due to the regulations and codes, which govern the construction industry, strict rules demand that the origins and sustainability of timber products are clarified and as OSB is sourced and manufactured in the UK and Ireland from locally managed FSC accredited forests, its sustainable credentials are certified and the potential for litigation is removed.

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Although laws are largely targeted at manufacturers and importers, there are times when legislation has wide-reaching implications to all those involved in building or refurbishment projects, so it is vital builders are aware of current legislation.

The European Union’s Timber Regulation (EUTR) came into force last year, with the aim being to regulate the timber sourcing chain and criminalise those who are found to illegally source timber. Repercussions include heavy fines, stock seizures and suspension of trading rights, therefore contractors should take note and review their choice of materials if necessary.

As well at the certification, the CE mark affixed to OSB is evidence that it conforms to the Construction Products Directive, making it free to be placed on the European market in all member states.

British Board Agrement approval on each panel gives you impartial, third party assurance about the performance of OSB under modern construction conditions as well as appropriate certification, which shows the chain of custody.

With OSB there is no uncertainty about its origin or performance, giving installers greater peace of mind that they are using an accredited building material – that is both sustainable and high performing.

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