Lottery building stopped due to endangered timber

Contractors working on a National Lottery-funded refurbishment were ordered to stop by the Glasgow Council after it was revealed they were using endangered rainforest timber.

Following a Lottery grant of almost £13 million, refurbishing work at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow, the most visited museum outside of London, ground to a halt after around 100 Greenpeace activists invaded the site and exposed the use of endangered timber.

The merbau timber being used was from South East Asian rainforests that have largely been destroyed for logging, according to Greenpeace, endangering native species such as the orang-utan to the point of extinction.

Campaigners replaced the stacks of merbau timber with certified packs of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) hardwood flooring, which are guaranteed to come from sustainable sources.

“We are delighted that Kelvingrove has agreed to suspend the flooring contract after endangered rainforest timber was found on site,” said Greenpeace forest campaigner Belinda Fletcher. “If we don’t want to confine the world’s rainforests to history it’s essential that all National Lottery funded projects in the UK insist on the use of FSC timber.”

She added that the campaign group would be working closely with the museum to ensure that the rest of the timber provided for the project comes from legal, sustainable sources such as those certified by the FSC.

This is not the first time that building workers have been caught out using unsustainable timber – the refurbishing of an office at Whitehall (see related story) was terminated after illegal Indonesian timber was found there. A similar situation occurred more recently when the new Berlaymont EU headquarters (see related story) were being constructed earlier this year.

Director of the heritage Lottery fund, Carol Souter, said that the National Lottery was working hard to control illegal timber problems: “We require applicants to consider the impact that their project will have on the environment and to demonstrate what they are doing to ensure their project is environmentally sustainable. We do not yet have a specific policy that requires projects obtain timber from FSC sources, but we are working on policies and practices in relation to our business and sustainable development.”

Spokesman for Glasgow Council, Paul Kaynes, told edie that an investigation was currently underway, but that it had been council policy for four years now to ensure that all building materials came from sustainable sources.

Head of Glasgow Museums, Mark O’Neill, stated that neither the council or the contractors, HBG, had been aware that the timber did not meet the necessary standards.

“We will work with Greenpeace to see that timber meets the FSC standards,” he said. “Greenpeace have indicated that this is not an attack on Glasgow City Council or the value of the Kelvingrove refurbishment project. They accept that we tried to ensure the wood was from sustainable sources, but the documentation from suppliers was incomplete.”

By Jane Kettle

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie