The Wood for Good Conference at COP26 was held in the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC) in Glasgow, where attendees could enjoy a smorgasbord of timber technology and an equally wide-ranging programme of presentations and presenters. Topics ranged from sustainable forests to cutting-edge timber technology, UK schools to global real estate portfolios, cities to smart energy homes.
Andrew Waugh of Waugh Thistleton Architects opened the conference with a whistle-stop tour of his practice’s 20-year timber-building odyssey. From the UK’s first ever cross-laminated timber (CLT) building in 2003, to the 10-storey residential Dalston Works in North London in 2011, Waugh brought us up-to-date with news of London’s tallest engineered timber office building under construction in London’s Shoreditch and a 2,500-home mixed use scheme in Bergen Sweden planned to grow out of a lake, with oysters in its foundations filtering the water.
Beyond the efficiencies of engineered timber compared to traditional materials – much lighter, faster and quieter to construct, far fewer lorry movements – Waugh highlighted the embodied carbon benefits: “You are making those [carbon] savings right now when it is needed, not over the 60 years when the building is operational.”
Attendees heard that the Department for Education, in looking to find a school solution that was ultra-low embodied carbon, net zero in operation and offsite-friendly, had plumped for timber. Presenting on the DfE’s Gen Zero research and development programme, DfE design adviser Beverly Quinn told the conference that their findings would be spread across other government departments. Pilots and pathways to get the various elements of Gen Zero into both new-build schools and retrofit programmes are the next step.
Digitalisation was a linking theme that emerged in several of the presentations. Lynsey Brydson, CSIC’s head of digital programmes, Gordon Mitchell, chief innovation officer at CFM and Paul Redmond, from SRO Solutions spoke about how a better grasp of data will drive the path to zero carbon. Peter McGettrick, managing director, advisory, Turner & Townsend, in talking about transforming the approach of both his company and his global real estate clients, outlined the importance of meshing sustainability and digital strategies
Nick Bolton, development director at smart grid and energy specialist SNRG, talked about its mission to create carbon positive homes and how that had led the company to a timber demonstration house at SCIC. “The minute you get your hands on the data, you can improve sustainability,” Redmond told the conference. Robert Hairstans and Matt Stevenson of Transforming Timber (more, below) took up the story of the demonstrator, explaining how the project had used several versions of engineered timber made from home-grown wood.
Cities4Forests co-founder and timber enthusiast Scott Francisco outlined some of the steps his organisation is taking to allow city authorities to increase the use of timber in a sustainable way. While highlighting ongoing debates in his home country of Canada over what a truly sustainable forest looks like, he told the conference: “We need to create more direct and more transparent connections between the source of the wood and the use of the wood.”
Closer to home, Andy Leach of Confor painted a picture of the UK’s timber resources and their projected use. And Stewart Delgarno, director of product development for Stewart Milne Group explained his company’s sustainability strategy and highlighted how increasing the proportion of new timber frame homes we build each year would have an immediate impact on carbon emissions.
You can stream all of the presentations via CSIC.
To read more about all activities at COP26 read our round up.