An Introduction to Project Certification

Project certification is a mechanism for independently verifying the use of certified timber, typically in a construction project, but it can also apply to any one-off activity involving the use of certified timber or paper. 

Chain of custody and sustainability

Demand for certified timber has grown dramatically in recent years to the extent that, for many companies, the ability to prove that a timber product has been derived from a well-managed source is now a key factor in the specification of timber and paper products. Indeed it could be claimed that without the mechanism that delivers certified wood to market – chain of custody certification – companies will find it increasingly difficult to remain competitive in certain markets, as specifiers and buyers insist that the wood and paper they buy comes from well-managed, certified forests.

The same challenges are growing within the construction sector as the industry seeks new ways of demonstrating its good sustainability credentials. The sector is the single largest user of timber and timber products and, until recently, had a relatively transitory relationship with certified timber.

This all changed when clients started to place greater importance on environmental assessment systems such as the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) and its American equivalent, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). Both systems drive forward the use of sustainable construction materials in general and, with regard to timber specification, align with the current range of timber certification systems. BREEAM links to UK Government procurement policy and will accept timber inputs as either FSC® or PEFC™. At this time LEED only acknowledges FSC inputs as meeting its sustainability criteria but this may change in future.

Additionally, some construction companies started to develop environmental and sustainability policies of their own, with the procurement of sustainable timber at their heart. As a result, and not only in response to demands from their clients for sustainable construction, many constructors now insist that the timber supply chain provides full chain of custody to the site gate.

Regulation and scope of certification

Now the bar is being raised again as new initiatives such as the EU Timber Regulation, launched in March 2013, and the UK Government Procurement Policy have a significant impact on the level of scrutiny applied to the timber supply chain, from forest to end user. This scrutiny is best demonstrated by the increased demand for project certification – the most objective way of demonstrating the use of sustainable timber in construction.

In the UK, project certification has been used most widely in large-scale public sector construction projects such as the Olympic Park and Athletes’ Village projects. Here it was a specification requirement that not only should certified timber be used in the projects, but that this should also be independently verified by an accredited certification body. The scope of certification must, as a minimum, cover the timber and paper products that remain permanently fixed with the building at the conclusion of the project but it may also include temporary timbers such as scaffold boards and formwork, and also non-fixed items such as furniture and even art installations.

Further information
To find out more about chain of custody project certification, visit the bookshop where you can buy BM TRADA’s Getting started with… Chain of custody project certification as a paperbook or in an e-book format.

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