Timber gains in stature\

At a recent roundtable organised by Metsä Wood and RIBA Journal, Nigel Ostime and Alex Smith joined other industry experts to discuss the progress of engineered wood and its evolving possibilities.

The engineered wood structures are growing taller and bolder as technology adds strength to lightness - and the economics are adding up too. For timber engineers working today such is the pace of innovation and change in the sector that excitement compares to that of steel engineers in downtown Chicago at the turn of the 20th century. Timber engineering is gaining momentum - tall buildings are being erected at speed worldwide using engineered wood products, many prefabricated off-site and modular.

Opportunities are apparent in all buildings, with LVL and CLT considered a great product for floorplates, wall panels, service risers and a host of other things. Hawkins\Brown's Wenlock Cross in London was cited as a building that could have been unlimited in height because of its steel structure with engineered wood floors and walls.

The group went on to discuss the challenges involved with timber, particularly a lack of knowledge of it's cost.

“There's an economic benefit to these types of clients. They can go from delivering three projects to five over a 10-year period. At that point the question of whether engineered wood is more expensive simply disappears.”

Rory Bergin Partner at HTA

In the long run, ensuring a reasonable uptake among such clients will create economies of scale for architects to then go after, for example, the housebuilders. On the other hand, Alex Smith of Hawkins\Brown saw engineered wood as a great structural product for schools because of the bigger spaces it permits.

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