James Latham

Lathams moves to address ‘lack of carbon understanding’ in industry

  • 10 Nov 2021

Timber and materials supplier James Latham releases a ‘carbon calculator’, the intention of which is to direct customers towards more sustainable products.

Built in partnership with the BioComposites Department at the University of Bangor, it is based upon detailed research into the embodied and biogenic carbon impacts of the products that they supply.

The calculator covers just over 70% of the total Lathams range and focuses on timber products. In time, it will also incorporate composite materials that were out of scope for the first phase.

James Latham

Ewa Bazydlo, Environmental Manager at Lathams, comments: “Reducing the environmental impact of our buildings is one of the key issues of our time. However, the understanding around sustainability is not consistent across the industry.

“We’ve developed the calculator to help our customers to better understand the sustainability of the materials they choose as well as the expected performance levels that they offer.”

The tool calculates environmental impact by looking at the carbon footprint of products, from production through to delivery to Lathams depots. It also looks at how much carbon is stored within the wood’s structure, known as biogenic carbon.

Each product then receives a rating from 1 – 4 (one being the highest, four being the lowest), based on the confidence Lathams has in the data used for the calculations. The higher the score, the higher the quality of the data points that have been reviewed, for example an audited and published EPD (Environmental Performance Declaration).

Lathams will be adding the carbon data to all invoices, delivery notes, and other key documentation to increase visibility around this issue.

Positive step forward

It is a move that Campbell Skinner, Senior Lifecycle Assessment Analyst at BioComposites Centre, argues is a positive step forward: “Companies have used eco-labels before, but the approach taken by Lathams is really innovative. For the first time that I’m aware, the confidence with which these footprints are presented is rated and placed foremost in the labelling.”

“Latham’s customers are being given a clear indication of the transparency with which suppliers are reporting their carbon footprints and this will surely nudge more companies towards independently verified reporting schemes, such as EPDs.”

Ewa added: “We needed a mechanism to rank our products and make it quick and easy for our customers to be able to specify more carbon conscious materials.

“As a large distributor, we have the relationships with the supply chain, which improves our ability to source and analyse the relevant data and make recommendations.

“We hope that others in the industry follow our lead and improve the transparency around these products so that we can work together to reduce construction’s impact on the environment.”

Specialist construction innovation company Kiss House was one of the organisations that Lathams asked for advice as they developed their research.

‘Especially interesting’

Commenting on the project, Mike Jacob, director of product and innovation at Kiss House, said: “For the industry to seriously address climate change, we need transparency throughout the supply chain and for everyone in the sector to have a proper understanding of the varied environmental impacts that construction has.

“The Lathams carbon calculator is especially interesting because it addresses the quality of the data used head on and provides a score for this.

“We have been trying to understand the true impact of what we do at Kiss House and working with Lathams is a big step towards this and achieving transparency.

“Beyond this, initiatives like the carbon calculator are a positive step towards increasing understanding and helping specifiers and designers to make more sustainable product choices.”

To complement the calculator and share some of the insights from their research, Lathams will be publishing a ‘Think You Know Carbon?’ guide. It will include an overview of the main issues in sustainability, a glossary of key terminology and steps that architects and specifiers can take to be more sustainable in their designs.

It will also include highlights of some of the most sustainable products Lathams stock, from manufacturers such as Accsys Technologies, which produce modified timber Accoya, and UPM Plywood, home to WISA® plywood products.

For more information about James Latham please visit www.lathamtimber.co.uk.

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