Wow. Its a very different association these days. I never knew you did so much. I need to tell my clients. This was the response of a timber frame manufacturer sitting next to me at the last UK Timber Frame Association regional meeting as the speakers finished and 150 delegates headed off to lunch.
It got me thinking how well does the industry know the UKTFA now? In fact, how up-to-date are our perceptions of all the organisations that support this growing market?
Fortunately for the whole development community, which so desperately needs people and organisations it can trust for good advice, the timber frame industry is enjoying an unparalleled period of sustained co-operation and collaboration. Working relationships between the UKTFA, TRADA, Timber Trade Federation (TTF), the wood for good marketing campaign and related construction industry bodies are closer than ever, and the sector has seen many years of market growth.
Consequently, the UKTFA is changing fast from an entrepreneurial business into a more established, secure and influential trade association. It has more than 270 members covering the breadth of timber frame manufacturers and their supply chains. It has skilled head office staff, including technical and training experts and runs a much-visited website (www.timber-frame.org) and a technical helpline for builders, architects and others using timber frame. It also has a well-resourced,
targeted marketing strategy, and a training and qualifications scheme for manufacturers, designers and erectors.
The UKTFA publishes the official statistics for the sector, and a yearbook that is distributed to all leading developers,
housebuilders and designers. It is consulted by the government on changes to Building Regulations and other policy developments. It has a robust code of practice to drive improvements in health and safety and Q-Mark, a quality
certification scheme to help builders identify a reputable
timber frame supplier.
R&D is driven by the associations special projects fund which this year will deliver guidance for housebuilders and architects on using timber frame for zero carbon homes, as well as a compendium of 44 design details to deal with differential movement, and a raft of new structural guidelines for low- and medium-rise timber frame buildings.
The first phase of the UKTFAs fire safety project is also complete an initiative praised by construction industry commentators because it showed a timber frame industry prepared to help its clients with the thorny issue of protecting timber frame buildings under construction.
The board of the UKTFA is now on its fourth generation of directors. The planned appointment of a new general manager and a director of external affairs this year will strengthen the team and help to spearhead the UKTFAs promotional work and its political and construction industry liaison.
Similarly, the commitment to a new Code of Conduct for all UKTFA members, with absolutely no let-up on health and safety, is another sign of a maturing industry.
Although nowhere near as large and wealthy as the concrete lobbying groups, timber industry bodies are increasingly respected by the construction industry for their professionalism and advice. TRADA is respected for its technical expertise and the Centre for Timber Engineering at Napier University for its training. The TTF is more vocal than ever on the political front and promoting responsible procurement, and wood for good has found its natural territory in the promotion of the most sustainable building and manufacturing material.
A quick straw poll among UKTFA members and their clients tells me that they probably know about half of what the various associations are up to on their behalf, and thats not too bad for trade association communications. Its up to the various bodies, including the UKTFA, to raise awareness higher still, but Im hoping that the whole construction industry will take a fresh look around there are pleasant surprises and loads of good advice to be found in this industry.