Timber’s ability to enable quick and efficient construction is clear, but this can’t be at the expense of sustainability. With timber becoming an increasingly important resource for ensuring sustainable construction, it’s crucial to understand exactly where it comes from. Nigel Buckley-Ryan, Sales Director at Södra – Sweden’s largest forest-owner association – takes you on a journey of the company’s sustainable timber supply.
Starting in the forest
The forest itself is of course the jewel in timber’s crown. Ours are owned and cared for by 50,000 members in southern Sweden, who all receive personal and professional help to manage and develop their forestry in the best possible way.
When you receive timber it already has a long history and a lot of care and attention given to it. We put the time and hard work in to give you peace of mind that you’re using the very best, sustainable timber.
Planting and natural regeneration
At Södra, our care for the forest is as genuine as the raw material we use, because when looked after carefully the forest is one of the most versatile and renewable raw materials on the planet. It’s our mission to offer a truly sustainable timber supply from some of the most responsibly managed forests in the world.
That’s why for every tree we fell, we plant another three and operate according to a tree’s natural lifecycle. This means that we’ll only cut a tree down after around 80 years when it stops absorbing harmful carbon dioxide. This process of sustainable harvesting and natural regeneration is really important because the benefits of healthy forests are so significant.
Firstly, growing trees store carbon, which means that the more growing trees, the greater the absorption of otherwise harmful carbon dioxide. When various products – like houses – are then made from the wood that we harvest, CO2 is locked into the wood forever. The third and perhaps most important benefit is that our timber is increasingly being used as a substitute for many other building products that would have required the use of fossil fuels.
Before deciding which trees to fell, we fly drones over the forest to get a good idea of what the land looks like and what sections of land can be left as nature strips following felling. Nature strips are important areas of woodland specifically geared toward ensuring the forests’ eco-system continues to thrive.
The entire process of felling a tree, trimming its branches and cutting it is done with a machine called a ‘harvester’. The harvester cuts the tree at the very bottom, then lifts it and removes its branches and cuts it to lengths. This is all recorded on a computer so we can keep track of how many trees we’ve felled and lengths of log we’ve cut.
At the sawmill
Logs are stored in a clearing or in the forest until they’re needed at one of our eight sawmills – seven of which are in Sweden and one in Finland. They’re then picked up and placed at the side of the main road so logging trucks can easily transport them to the sawmill where the entire log is taken care of.
Approximately half of the log becomes sawn timber, while the other half is provided to the paper and wood board industries. Bark, wood chips and sawdust are provided to the biofuel sector or used as energy in the sawmill. All our industries are self-sufficient in energy by utilising waste products and any surplus energy generated by our production is distributed onwards as heat or green electricity.
We begin by taking the bark off the tree, before passing it twice through large circular saws. This produces boards and the centre cut material of the tree, which becomes the timber that we use. We then re-saw to a more precise cut and finish by planing and further machining before kiln-drying.
Finally, we grade the quality of the timber by closely following clear rules that specify strength, quality and appearance. The cold Swedish climate means our spruce is naturally slow-grown, which results in tighter growth-rings, giving our timber its strength and stability.
Sustainable and ethical timber production
At the heart of everything we do is of course sustainability – but this means much more than just responsibly managing our forests. It’s an integral part of our overall business strategy, and sustainable forestry makes up just one of our six pillars. Our other key focus areas are resource efficiency; climate-positive business; sustainable innovation; responsible business; and being a responsible employer.
Our port in Mönsterås, Sweden currently leads the way. All the work-vehicles and cranes at the port are using Hydrotreated Vegetable Diesel (HVO) – a completely fossil-free alternative to standard diesel.
It’s a real landmark in our mission for Swedish production to be completely fossil-fuel free by 2020 and transportation by 2030.
So, when you’re next specifying or working with Södra wood, you know that sustainability has been at the forefront of each and every stage. You know that our timber is the by-product of a continuous cycle of planting, growth and natural regeneration; the dedication of everyone here at Södra; and the hard work of our 50,000 forest-owners. Our process is geared toward providing the highest-quality timber, but never at the expense of sustainability.