Transforming Timber

Approximately half of all non-renewable resources that mankind consumes are used in construction, an industry that is also high in energy consumption and carbon emissions. To help safeguard future generations and create sustainable homes and communities, it is critical to undertake the necessary research to identify alternative ways that the sector can help accelerate to achieving net zero.


Despite a wide-spread global market shift in appetite for mass timber production, the UK currently has no commercial manufacturing facilities that operate at scale. There have also been perception challenges about the use of timber in the construction sector, questioning its structural capabilities and integrity.


Edinburgh Napier University has been leading pioneering research into industrialised timber and offsite construction solutions and is host to Built Environment – Smarter Transformation (BE-ST). With Innovate UK funding, the research track record of ENU and the mission of BE-ST to future-proof the commercial and environmental road forward for the construction sector was brought together with key industry partners Ecosystem Technologies; and the University of Edinburgh to test and validate an approach and positive movement towards mass timber production in the UK.  


From seed to built asset, utilising a local sustainable resource 

Traditionally, the construction sector uses vast quantities of carbon intensive materials, such as steel and concrete. With the climate crisis and the drive towards achieving net zero, timber is an ideal alternative to non-renewable materials, due to its building fabric performance, overall life-cycle costs and reduced wastage. Using locally sourced, sustainable timber is also beneficial in supporting job and wealth creation and—from seed to built asset—can help to stimulate the local economy, however, there is currently no commercial manufacturing facilities that operate at scale in the UK.

For many years, Edinburgh Napier has been undertaking groundbreaking, research into homegrown mass timber resource and production in the UK and has developed a global reputation for its research excellence and industry partnerships in investigating and advancing the field of industrialised timber production and offsite construction solutions.

Collaboration is key to drive sector change towards net zero  

Edinburgh Napier prides ourselves on our ability to draw together research and industry, in our teaching and our approach to key issues. The Transforming Timber project formed to create a solution to the problem and test and validate an approach to mass timber production in the UK, bringing together Edinburgh Napier’s expertise and research with Built Environment – Smarter Transformation (or BE-ST), Ecosystem Technologies and the University of Edinburgh.

The project examined the environmental impact, procurement models, performance in fire, manufacturing optimisation and commercialisation of timber production and usage in building practices. As a result of this work, homegrown mass timber products from a material compatibility, structural performance, productivity, and cost perspectives for the UK market has been validated.

With the establishment of the Transforming Timber platform, we aim to continue to work with key partners in industry, government and education, to focus the drive on increasing the adoption of locally sourced, sustainably managed, homegrown timber in the design, manufacture, and construction of the built environment in the UK.

By increasing the use of locally sourced, sustainable timber products, generating new green jobs across the UK and reducing the environmental impact of transportation, we believe our Transforming Timber collaborative project can play a vital role in ensuring the UK meets its net zero ambitions.

What can we do to make a difference given the climate crisis? Using timber ultimately sequestrates carbon in the built environment, but it equally helps with job and wealth creation, by using local resources and stimulating the local economy.
Robert Hairstans, Edinburgh Napier University
There are huge benefits of collaborating with Edinburgh Napier University. We have the benefit of being involved with some of the sharpest minds in the UK in terms of UK engineering. We have been able to utilise Edinburgh Napier’s expertise in terms of research, computer analysis and structural testing. The academics at Edinburgh Napier are problem-solvers and global leaders in terms of their knowledge. I would highly recommend engaging with their team as soon as you can.
Sam Hart, Built Environment – Smarter Transformation (BE-ST)
The key benefits that Ecosystems has found is the breadth of collaboration – we started off as a much smaller project than it has ended up, and we have been gathering momentum as we’ve been going. The ripple effect of the collaboration has been incredible, and as a business, Ecosystems is really feeling the benefit, being able to cascade that information we have learned from this collaborative project out into the wider industry.
Gill Henry, Ecosystems Technologies