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GATE International Opening Conference

Aberystwyth, Wales

20th, 21st April 2005

Conference delegates at the National Library of Wales
Conference delegates at the National Library of Wales

The GATE Opening Conference was held in Wales over two days in April 2005. The event consisted of a one day conference preceded by one day of field visits, where the participants enjoyed a varied and stimulating programme, including visits to local timber businesses & award-winning buildings. They were given a choice of participating in one of two trips, either to South Wales or to Mid Wales.

Trip 1 - South Wales - Innovative

Participants were taken to Burry Port for a tour of the Assisted Living & Daycare Centre at Porth Tywyn, Burry Port, Llanelli, Carmarthenshire. They met with Phil Roberts, from Gwalia Housing Group who was able to explain the innovative use of timber and the many sustainable features that are included in the building. They were also given the opportunity to speak with the residents and users of the building to learn first-hand of their experiences.

Participants at the Daycare Centre
Participants at the Daycare Centre

GATE Partners with Phil Roberts
GATE Partners with Phil Roberts

The tour continued to Swansea to see other Gwalia Sheltered Accommodation properties and other Gwalia Timber Framed Housing developments in the City.

Timber frame housing in Swansea
Timber frame housing in Swansea

Trip 2 - Mid Wales - Timber supply chain and SME support initiatives

The aim of this trip was to visit a number of businesses in the timber supply chain who had benefited from Objective 1 or 2 support initiatives.
The first stop was The Welsh Forest Industries Group who have been running several projects offering training and support. These are JDI (Joint Development Initiative) and Axis / Pow-Axis which promotes joint working to develop and manufacture building components.

The Mid Wales tour
The Mid Wales tour

Participants were then taken around some of the businesses locally which they have assisted such as a traditional country estate, an agriculture / leisure products saw mill, a high value domestic products saw mill and a custom joinery workshop.

Participants visit a sawmill
Participants visit a sawmill

The trip then moved on to Coed Cymru who are publicly funded to develop woodland and whose primary works is to support the woodland management process and added-value uses of locally-produced hardwood timber. They have a small hand made kiln costing £400 / 500 (€600 / 750) which dries the wood to a low moisture content and as an average the timber stays in the kiln for 10 days depending on the species. They provide specialist training for farmers on the different machines and if they then wish to diversify, and gain an additional source of income, a similar workshop which is machine based with jigs could be set up for £20K (€30K).

Hardwood flooring and a new-style casement window frame made up of laminated wood using polyurethane glue and small timbers so it has very little waste, are 2 of their recent initiatives.

Casement window frame under construction
Casement window frame under construction

Day 2 - Conference

The opening conference of the GATE project was held at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth. Over 60 delegates attended including representatives from the Slovenia, Poland, Germany & Estonia forest industries.

The Conference gets underway
The Conference gets underway

The conference included presentations, displays, facilitated discussions, and most importantly the chance to meet and make links with fellow professionals from across Europe.

Delegates at the Conference
Delegates at the Conference

Conference presentations for download

Powerpoints and PDFs are available for the conference presentations and some of the other documents:

• Conference programme GATE conference programme(PDF, 83KB)
• Anne Roberts: Introduction to the GATE project. (Powerpoint, 790KB)
• Don Snow: Constructing Excellence in Wales.Don Snow presentation (Powerpoint, 250KB)
• Ian Layzell: Welsh Assembly Government policies towards timber and sustainable construction. (Powerpoint, 510KB)
• Ian Layzell: Background paper Ian Layzell background paper Wales policies(PDF, 165KB)
• Vahik Enjily: What can timber do? Vahik Enjily BRE presentation(16,349KB, PDF, Note - large file, will take longer to download)

Rene Tonnisson from Estonia and Paul Finch from Wales
Rene Tonnisson from Estonia and Paul Finch from Wales

Workshop Summary

The four themes of the project are the main issues which affect the use of timber in construction which were discussed at the workshops during the conference in The Drwm, National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth on Thursday 21st April 2005.

Four facilitated discussion workshops were conducted at the conference to identify issues and actions which the project could take. Each group of 8-12 people included 2-3 people from outside Wales (Germany, Poland, Slovenia or Estonia) with the balance being Welsh participants. After the workshop everyone had the opportunity to read and comment on the output of the other groups over tea.

Delegates take part in the workshops
Delegates take part in the workshops

The 4 groups were each looking at a different set of issues or barriers (perceptions, economic, technical and policy) which can limit the uptake of wood in construction, and the actions which GATE could take to tackle them: policy, perceptions, economic and technical. There was inevitably some overlap between the groups.

Summing up after the workshops
Summing up after the workshops

General points to emerge and suggested actions through GATE are:
• The need to document and publicise examples of good practice.
• GATE can help in this by collecting existing case-studies and coordinating the documenting of new case-studies, to be made available on the GATE website. These case-studies can then form the basis of educational visits and exchanges within regions and between regions.
• GATE will actively encourage interregional exchanges (actual visits or exchanges of information via website and discussion groups) around these case studies.
• GATE will also aim to generate media stories around good practice examples
• The need for general awareness-raising amongst those procuring buildings, clients and the public
• Many organisations are already doing a great job on this e.g. Wood.for Good.
• To avoid duplication, GATE will where appropriate promote existing initiatives through e.g. website links and inviting representatives to GATE events.
• GATE may organise specific targeted events such as an event at the Welsh Assembly (or other regional government) targeted at policy-makers and politicians.
• The need for specific technical knowledge by designers and builders.
• Again much good technical information is available but the level of information available varies between regions.
• GATE can act as an information hub providing links to the existing technical guidance and latest R & D, enabling all regions to benefit from information in any region.
• GATE may pay for the translation of technical guidance documents to assist their dissemination across different regions. This information will be available on the website.
• GATE may also arrange specific technical seminars within regions in response to local needs.

Top 4 issues:
1. People are poorly educated about the use of timber
2. Poor quality materials
3. Timber rots / shrinks
4. Flammable

Summary of responses:
• Educate! - publicise good practice examples, target architecture students through competions, media coverage, target iconic projects and convincingly demonstrate the advantages of wood.
• Promote and use accreditation schemes for quality assurance e.g British Woodworking Federation schemes
• Publicise and disseminate data on durability and flammability tests.
• Work collaboratively for maximum impact.

Top 4 issues:
1. Perception Issues - Fire + Expense
2. Quality, cost and availability of timber
3. Finance - need to find cash quickly (Poland)
4. Lack of current expertise, capacity in UK.

Summary of responses
• Develop appropriate ways of using locally -available timber (e.g. bigger joists). Rethink design and architecture
• Support & develop supply chain & cluster groups
• Manage forests for quality timber
• Develop skills in sector
• Learn from other regions

Top 4 issues:
1. Durability
2. Tools and Guidelines, Knowledge
3. Supply Chain
4. Training / Practical on site - specific, targeted, appropriate

Summary of responses
• Need to improve dissemination/use of existing standards and guidelines & exchange these between regions
• Appropriate research is needed, and existing results must be effectively disseminated (within and between regions)
• Look for gaps in current projects and policies and seek to fill them rather than risk duplicating efforts.
• Want to learn first-hand about technical design solutions in other regions.

Top 4 issues:
1. Lack of clear policy statements
2. No links to Sustainable Development Policy / no single division
3. EU Procurement Rules
4. Business support not focused on timber

Summary of responses
• In Wales, need to understand how to influence Assembly (regional government)
• Make clear links between timber & sustainable development & back these up e.g. with reference to WWF reports
• Work together for maximum impact
• Need to understand and creatively interpret procurement rules - we can make the case for timber within the existing rules.

Steering Committee members at Bwlch Nant yr Arian
Steering Committee members at Bwlch Nant yr Arian