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North East Wales Institute & GATE Meeting

NEWI, Wrexham

26th June 2007

Derek Jones (DJ) NEWI, Wrexham 01978 293098
Geoff Brown (GB) Cedar Homes Manufacturing Ltd 07918 638510
Dave Cheesbrough NEWI
Neil Clutton NEWI -3rd yr Student
Ken Simmonds NEWI -3rd yr Student
Ian Stockdale ISP Architects LLP
John Purchase (JP) Coed Cymru
Ben Hinkley NEWI 3rd yr Student / JRB Ltd
Jamie Richardson (JR) Jamie Richardson (Builders)Ltd 01938 500899
David Jenkins (DJKS) Coed Cymru
Tom Owen (TO) Forestry Commission Wales & GATE Project
Dave Price (DP) Airbus
Steve Lindop PMO Architects

DJ welcomed everyone to the meeting which was to be a brainstorming session of where we are going with timber in Wales.

The North East Wales Institute / GATE Meeting at NEWI
The North East Wales Institute / GATE Meeting at NEWI

Coed Cymru and the Timber Industry in Wales.

DJKS gave some background information in that it was a legacy of planting trees for mining and the war effort. Coed Cymru presently have 100K hectares of hardwood which is under managed. It was considered that little Welsh timber finds its way to the top value of the 1700 businesses in timber related companies in Wales.

JP who covers the region for Coed Cymru then gave specific information about North East Wales which has an area of 342K hectares with only 9% tree cover of which 60% is conifers. On the processing side there are 17 sawmills using local, national and imported timber, as well as 5 mobile sawmills working in the area. There are also 10 Forestry Merchants doing purchasing and harvesting. In view of the rapid turnover of softwoods there is no stockpile, and moderate and high value timber is only released when the price is right.

Trellis beam
Trellis beam

DJKS said that Coed Cymru for the last 17 years had been low key about looking at ways of using locally sourced timber and adding value but now this had changed. He then gave some details of items they have been involved in and had some samples to show:

• Greenoak products for Local Authorities - prototypes initially produced and these are now widely used.

• Flooring - turn over so that defects are not shown. 40 Companies now operate in Wales.

• End Grain Flooring - timber is heat treated to make more efficient and high value. Other Countries representatives call with Coed Cymru on a regular basis and ask how this is done but are not told so that the technology remains within Wales.

• Laminated windows - box ash and casement.

• Ty Unnos - Affordable Rural Housing & Local timber Source. They are working with the school of Architecture, a Structural Engineer from Lincolnshire and UW Bangor on this modular system which could be changed to accommodate builders' requirements. What is very different with this system is that the drying time is only 60 seconds and will be available in 3, 4 or 5 standard size units in order for someone to design their home.

• Drying of hardwoods.

• Heat treated beech - a plant is being set up in South Wales as it had to be moved from Tregynon to allow the jigs needed for Ty Unnos to be set up. It is a very clever process with a good future.

Ty Unnos

Close to a dozen buildings are now pressing to be the first to use the system which is a Wales Plc product and not Coed Cymru. It can be used for Assisted Use with assembly guidance going out with it, or fully set up. The details are that it will be a box section which needs to be heavy in order to make the joints. The jointing system is done by bonding in rods of stainless steel bars 20 cm into the base and then a small hole made on the side higher up which is filled with resin thus making it stronger than the original timber. Steel plates on the foundation pillar with the appropriate holes and the rods can be pre inserted and then the modular pillar just dropped into place. The system is radical but feasible. The joint is self locking and when the glue is added it can not then be opened. It can be used for whole building construction OR to buy parts just for certain works and conventional OSP panels used as infill.

DJKS sees this as the last chance for Welsh Timber and that the tests so far undertaken are very encouraging.

Ty Unnos beams
Ty Unnos beams

DJ said that he thought some ways forward was:

• timber boxes with a metal knee to then enable you to do anything you wished.

• lattice beam made from beech.

• I beams of a combination of beech and metal etc which should be recyclable i.e. when finished dismantle and able to split the metal from the timber.

• Brick cladding from timber by moving away from rain screen and get away from insulation.

J R said that he had 3 Affordable Homes in Tregynon and that he is to incorporate aspects of the Student Design Competition Winner - Arwel Owen entry and that he would like to bring him to Coed Cymru at Tregynon to see the Ty Unnos work being done there, as JR thought that he could utilise this into the build also. HJKS said that he had discussed the project with Arwel in Tallinn and that he was interested in seeing the work.

Ty Unnos base
Ty Unnos base

DP mentioned that no timber is now used in Airbus as H&S consider no combustible material should be had inside the building. They used to have plywood floors but have taken these out and replaced with steel sheeting which is not as comfortable to work on and if anything is dropped it causes more damage. Fire concern is still a perception problem and both Insurers and Planners need to be convinced that this is not the case.

It was stated that Architects are seeing a 20% growth in the use of Timber in Construction, but that with the existing Close Frame structure it would be difficult for Welsh timber to compete. All believed that Welsh Timber could be used in Affordable Housing in Wales and that we should all be looking at new and novel ways of using Welsh Timber.

It was believed that Forestry Commission Wales needed to look at what they are growing to ensure it was the right timber for the market.

Home grown timber is widely used by DIY enthusiasts buying from local timber markets.
It was stated that it should be possible to use local timber to do everything required in the building of a house, and technically possible to produce any timber we wanted with COST being the major concern. To ensure Zero Carbon and Sustainability the available technology should be used to enable the use of local timber.

The following were suggestions made:

• BREEAM Standards should not be assessed on each property but standardised over a development.

• Coed Derwen Window systems developed by the Company working with Coed Cymru and TRADA.

• It had been noted that no other Region / Country visited keep the Personal and Private Sector separate as we do in the UK.

• Coordinated Timber Components was tried some years ago.

• Wood chip burners - the market is fraught and uses waste wood; as long as it has no value then it is OK, but otherwise it is burning something of value.

• BREEAM for factories and offices has been around for some time and should possibly now be looked at again to ensure the points awarded are relevant i.e. cycle shed / storage on a building off the A55 when no one would cycle into work.

• Increased insulation - have we reached the limit of standard building methods in brick and stone.

• Increase Internal Mass - JR said that they presently do this by compressing the excavation material on site to make into non load baring walls in a property.

• Students and youngsters are now much more energy sustainable and are thinking differently about their requirements, and that this has been coming over the last 5 / 10 years with changing perception and attitudes.

• Design is moving public opinion with Architects and Designers being more assertive (last 10 years) and using different materials including timber. The momentum has started but where will it go from here.

GB stated that in his opinion Sustainability was the key word and that we should in Wales with everyone in the room together with the Universities be able to promote the use of Welsh Timber in Construction which was innovative, and that he had attended the BRE Outreach event which showed what could be done by pre-manufactured products which greatly cut the time on site.

DJKS said that Coed Cymru is always trying to get money back into the woodlands but that the system we operated of Plantation Forestry was very expensive but did work well in producing stocks of Citrus Spruce. Sustainability was a compromise of energy but that we can learn from what we have seen in Europe of using different forms of timber - beech, aspen etc

DJ said that NEWI had monies available to fund and wished to put up a sustainable building as a meeting room on the green in the Quadrant and that it could be swapped and changed as required to show different methods of cladding etc. He asked if it was possible to use the Ty Unnos system for the beams. DJKS said that students could come to Tregynon to build their own beams on the jigs they have set up for this and that the facilities would be loaned.

DJ said that what they were thinking about at present was timber cladding, timber floor and cedam roof and using the trombie wall system which would allow rising air currents for heating, and that a Lamella structure could be looked at. It does not have to have a long life only 5 - 10 years and be something new for students to look at. However if Coed Cymru had something more radical to look at then they could go with that. DJKS then showed a model of a system they have been trying which can be curved and tapered but which is very strong and done by means of a jig and clamps.

DJ asked for the support of the GATE project and TO said that that would not be a problem as they hoped to start on this in September which would be before the end of the Project. It was suggested that the students be photographed at work in Coed Cymru, and then at each stage of the build on site so that it could be a Case Study and be placed on the GATE website. DJ thought this a good idea and the GATE emblem would be placed on the finished building.

JR asked how much NEWI was promoting timber - there were problems with the lack of Designers of Timber Frame in Wales with Framing Companies being set up in Cambodia etc. DJ replied that they did not provide such technical training only what the students wanted to do in their design and was not specific to timber. They also do not have the specific expertise available and none are available within the Local Authorities.

It seems that the only College which provides the necessary training is Imperial College in London. A qualified Timber Frame Designer could earn between £1,000 and £2,000 per week. It is understood that Timber frame would be more expensive initially but the return comes from the high insulation and thus reduced heating costs.

He also said he understood that NEWI were to update their Design package and he suggested that they ensured that it was Design Concepts with everything on Auto CAD. He offered work placements of a month over the summer for their students.

It was generally felt that the skill base was not now available to work with timber and students needed an understanding of where and how timber is grown and the different varieties available - Coed Cymru offered assistance with this aspect.

It was thought that technology was going to move forward over the coming years and that the Industry needs to embrace it. The Coed Cymru ideas are not the only ones out there, but NEWI and Coed Cymru can work together.

DJKS said that the potential for home grown hardwoods in both DIY and full build was excellent and that Coed Cymru was now focussing on softwoods, and there is a good network of producers able to produce what is required. He also said that what Coed Cymru has is available to everyone, but what is yours stays yours as they do not share your ideas with anyone. On the question of the types of glue and resins used he said that epoxy resins now are made of natural oils, and that a lot of wood welding now goes on and that the resin used in Ty Unnos is twice as strong as it needs to be.

Thanks to all participants and to Tom Owen for recording the meeting.