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Research Note explores alternative species for structural timber

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Stacks of sawn timber

Noble fir, Norway spruce, western red cedar and western hemlock grown in Britain could all produce acceptable returns of structural timber, a new Research Note from the Forestry Commission reports.

The recent increase in outbreaks of tree pests and diseases specific to particular species has led to an interest in diversification by planting a wider range of tree species to mitigate any risk to the softwood resource.

The note reports on the structural timber properties of these four species, which can produce merchantable volumes in reasonable time frames when grown in Great Britain, and compares the results with published values for British-grown Sitka spruce. It also notes that of these four species, western red cedar has the least desirable structural timber properties.

These species could therefore play a role in mitigating the British softwood timber industry’s exposure to the risks of relying on a small range of species.

The note, written by Dr Paul McLean of Forest Research, is entitled ‘Timber properties of noble fir, Norway spruce, western red cedar and western hemlock grown in Great Britain’. It will be useful to timber construction specialists, specifiers, architects, wood processors, and forest planners and managers.

It is available to download free of charge from the Forestry Commission’s on-line publications catalogue at

Media contact: Charlton Clark, 0300 067 5049