Although manufacturing street furniture in the UK does not contribute to sustainability directly, the sustainability of furniture can be improved by sourcing materials grown and made in the UK, then placing the manufacturing facilities close to the material sources and only working on projects within the UK.
This comprehensive approach, with sustainability at the forefront, can contribute to a more sustainable future primarily by saving carbon emissions associated with timber transport.
Traditionally the approach with external seating and benches has been to select tropical hardwood on high end projects, and on projects with a smaller budget, a softwood such as Scandinavian Pine. Tropical hardwood is imported from West Africa which is 7000 miles away. Scandinavian Pine typically comes from Norway and Sweden which is much closer than West Africa, but it cannot be considered as ‘locally sourced’. In some cases, Scandinavian Pine is shipped from Europe to China where the timber is worked into benches and seating and then brought back to the UK. Of course, this practise is far from sustainable.
The beauty with locally sourced timber is that the travel distance from the forest to manufacturing facility can be as little as 30 miles. This is the case for us when we are working on projects where Oak is specified, as the forest is only 30 miles away from the factory. Of course, this saves transport carbon emissions.
If UK grown timber is specified, the choice of species is more limited. However, there are UK grown timbers suitable for a broad spectrum of projects. For external furniture, we would recommend using Oak, a hardwood, or Douglas Fir, a durable softwood. Both these species are readily available in the UK and will be fully FSC® certified.
Of course, UK manufacturing will bring the obvious benefits to the UK economy such as jobs and increases in tax revenues.
However, there are other lesser-known benefits to the UK. One of these is that producing high quality outdoor furniture for high profile projects requires highly skilled tradespeople with timber working skills. These skills would get forgotten if all furniture is mass produced in China so therefore it is vital that UK manufacturing facilities continue to operate to preserve these skills.
Another benefit of UK manufacturing is to eliminate disruption caused by international events and trade disputes rising out of issues such as Brexit.