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Timber Changing the Face of Civic Architecture

The Wood Awards show increasing numbers of developers and urban planners putting Wood First, says Wood for Good’s David Hopkins.

Looking through the entries for this year’s Wood Awards – of which Wood for Good is a lead sponsor - it is hard not to be struck by the impact that the timber industry is having on the face of urban architecture throughout the UK.

First, we received over 300 entries this year at a time when the construction industry - and new building in particular - is flat-lining. This one fact in itself shows how timber is carving itself an ever larger niche in the construction market – with many of the projects achieving BREEAM status reflecting the quality on offer. 

Then there is the range. We are used to seeing growth in traditional sectors like housing – and again there were lots of top-class entries ranging from individual dwellings to multi-occupancy apartment blocks – but this year we have seen an explosion across multiple markets. Schools and other education buildings feature strongly, despite the end of the BSF funding, along with public sector developments from leisure centres to healthcare facilities. 

The long-list also saw a big push into the private sector, crucial for the continued fortunes of the industry, with hotels, offices and retail outlets all featuring. 

In fact, the entry list reflects the very stuff of modern civic centres and the state of the construction market itself. It shows how timber is no longer marginalised but is taking the mainstream and changing the face of our urban centres. 

The reasons are many and various, but one factor which is repeated throughout the entries is sustainability. Timber is finally being recognised as a solution to achieving affordable, low-carbon urban development goals. 

Indeed, several building entry forms reported that a number of urban planning authorities had waived the obligation toward on-site renewables as they recognised the inherent low-carbon, sustainable qualities of the timber structure itself, thus making the development cheaper and timber an even more attractive option: the central thrust of our campaign, Wood First! 

If the Wood Awards is truly an indicator of the state of the market, it would appear the message has taken root and Wood First really is making progress.

The Wood Awards shortlist will be published in August.

The Award ceremony will be held in November.

More info: www.woodawards.com

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