Originally arising out of an architectural competition, the Woodland Enterprise Centre has expanded to include a group of timber workshops and is now a showcase of sustainable construction, placed carefully within the mixed woodland in the High Weald of Sussex.
Arising out of an architectural competition, the first of the buildings at the Woodland Enterprise Centre was completed in 2003 and demonstrates the use of locally-sourced wood in contemporary timber design. The winning team, led by architects Feilden Clegg Bradley, used atelier one engineers and InWood Developments, to research the use of small-section timbers, rather than heavy beams, to support the structure.
Built from both softwood and hardwood timber harvested in the south-east, including a structural gridshell from locally-grown chestnut coppice, the WEC building demonstrates how timber can be used to create elegant and low-impact developments, which contribute to the local rural economy, and maintains our environment by stimulating new markets to support the restoration of the many neglected woodlands in southern England. The innovative feature of this gridshell design is the use of small dimension sweet chestnut timber, which is naturally durable, and very strong, especially when grown quickly from coppice woodlands. By selecting short lengths of defect-free timber, and then re-joining them using modern glues and manufacturing processes, the timber laths can be assembled as structural building components for interior joinery or exterior use, including untreated rain-screen cladding.
Today, the Woodland Enterprise Centre has expanded to include a group of timber workshops (see images) and is now a showcase of sustainable construction, placed carefully within the mixed woodland in the High Weald of Sussex. The new timber workshops at Flimwell have also used finger-jointed Douglas fir for the cruck frame and rainscreen cladding as well as Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) for the roof / wall cladding panels.
As well as the extensive use of engineered timber and modified wood products, the developments at WEC have used many low embodied energy materials, natural insulation materials (Warmcell, sheep's wool and wood fibre).
By demonstrating the use of locally-sourced timber species, such as Sweet Chestnut, Scots Pine, Douglas fir and European Larch, the WEC has demonstrated how development can be very low environmental impact, and also make a positive contribution to woodland management in the region. Sustainable construction using local timber puts value back into the neglected coppices and plantations of south-east England, and provides a commercial incentive for more sustainable forest management.
The buildings are heated by an automated wood-fuelled boiler system, and all the developments have been designed to be low-energy consuming, and recyclable at the end of its life.
Further timber developments are planned for this site, and partners are sought for developing this WEC timberbuild "cluster" at Flimwell.