July 29, 2022

Despite the recent heat wave and wider acknowledgement of the climate emergency in recent weeks, a survey on behalf of George Barnsdale shows a discrepancy between what architects claim their intentions are towards net zero and what they are actually specifying.

98% of respondents said they prefer to choose products that are environmentally friendly. But less than 5% are specifying timber for windows weekly. Whilst 40% of respondents said they specified timber windows once a year on average and only 44% are choosing timber at least once a month. This is despite it being widely acknowledged as the most sustainable option.

The survey of UK architects does show some positive action. 30% claim to have specified more timber compared with 5 years ago, however a fifth of respondents said they are actually specifying less timber. When asked about their future predictions for the next 5-10 years, 40% said they don’t expect to specify any more timber fenestration. However, 35% did expect to be specifying quite a lot more.

The leading choice of material is aluminium. Asked what materials (besides timber) they regularly specify, 84% said aluminium, 29% steel and only just over a quarter uPVC.

Commenting on the findings, Tom Wright MD of George Barnsdale said

Architects undoubtedly have good intentions and seem to recognise the importance of reducing carbon and the net zero initiatives but when it comes to specifying building materials, they aren’t always putting their money where their mouth is. We don’t believe it’s because they don’t care about sustainability but they seem to be having trouble convincing their clients of the benefits. There is also a perception that timber isn’t suited to modern aesthetics.

In terms of the types of projects, architects remain fairly adverse to using timber for contemporary new build projects. Unsurprisingly 83% specify timber for listed and traditional projects, 73% for refurbishments/refit and 29% for traditional self build. A quarter do recommend timber for contemporary self build projects but subsequent focus group work showed this to be more for entrance doors than windows.

A follow up round table discussion was held to probe some of the findings of the survey and some of themes from this can be reviewed in our blog written by Paul Iddon, Vice President of Manchester Society of Architects.