IWSc: The Wood Technology Society Launch Conference

The Wood Technology Society
1 Dec 2010

IWSc: The Wood Technology Society (WTS) held its inaugural conference on 30 November 2010 at the London headquarters of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3).  

In his opening remarks, Charles Trevor, President of the WTS, explained the reasons for the transition from the Institute of Wood Science to the WTS – a division of IOM3, and that the Society’s role was to become the leading provider of educational resources for the UK timber industry – an ambitious aim that will take some years to achieve.

Course material for the Foundation and Certificate courses has already been updated, and learning outcomes and assessment criteria have been rewritten to comply with the Government’s new Qualification and Credit Framework.

The Society’s partner in this activity is Proskills, the Sector Skills Council for the process and manufacturing industries, which is also working with the UK timber using industry to develop nationally recognised qualifications.

New for old

The day’s programme highlighted the diverse nature of how timber and wood products are used in the modern world. Nick Milesone is Head of B&K Structures in Belper – a company that specialises in building timber/steel hybrid structures using Glulam timber engineering to deliver buildings with a low carbon footprint. This approach, according to Nick, is emerging as an economic solution for ‘green’ building for commercial applications. Coupled with crosslaminated solid timber panels manufactured offsite, it allows for large-span commercial structures and high-rise residential and office accommodation.  

This theme of increasing building storeys formed the basis of Andrew Waugh’s presentation when he described the construction of Murray Grove in London by his firm, Waugh Thistleton Architects. It is the world’s tallest ‘modern’ timber building – a nine-storey block of flats built using cross-laminated solid timber panels prefabricated offsite. They are instrumental in erecting timber structures to a greater height using the standard platform frame stud and sheathing system favoured in past years.

Murray Grove was the result of research into the reduction of carbon emissions, not only from the finished building, but also from the corporate build process. Construction took only 49 weeks, and is said to provide a healthy environment to work on and live in, with no defects and 100% tenant approval. This demonstrates that solid timber construction is financially viable, environmentally sustainable and an aesthetically pleasing alternative to concrete and steel.

Switching from new build to restoration, James Broughton of Oxford Brookes University, described how modern adhesives are being used to restore structural timbers in historic buildings across Europe. The process involves positioning metal rods inside large solid timber elements, using modern resins as the chemical fixing agent. These are proving highly successful because they provide a structural solution and are hidden from view.

Specifying wood

A change of perspective was given by Keith Barnes from The Packaging Society, which is also a division of IOM3. He produced examples of wood as a modern packaging material, ranging from heavy duty packs, such as crates and pallets, to small veneer packages used for cheeses on supermarket shelves.

Malcolm Harold, from the UK’s Materials Knowledge Transfer Network, spoke about Terence Conran and the use of his furniture designs in contemporary architecture, such as restaurants and modern shops like the Habitat chain. He has inspired a new approach to design for everyday establishments.

On a commercial theme, Geoff Rhodes, Marketing and Business Development Director of Coillte Panel Products, County Wicklow, explained the outcome from the business survey conducted by the Medite 2016 and Wood Future Forum. This was directed at wood specifiers and is believed to be one of the largest ever UK quantitative studies of specifiers’ attitudes to timber use. It embraced architects, contractors, quantity surveyors and others involved in construction.

The questionnaire probed key criteria for product selection. Performance followed by price were key priorities, with lifecycle analysis, responsible sourcing and workability being slightly less important. The aspects of product specification that caused greatest problems were fire, health and safety, and environmental certification. The survey found that the timber industry is more likely to innovate than the concrete, steel and plastics industries. Some 77% of respondents expressed a wish to learn more about advances in timber products.

The evening was rounded off with a drinks reception and a tour of the Materials Resource Centre at IOM3, which includes examples of modern wood products.