Building up the next generation of timber innovators

Building up the next generation of timber innovators

Changing the way we build doesn’t start on construction sites, but with the students and recent graduates who will shape the next wave of UK design innovation.

The most impactful decisions on carbon emissions in the built environment are made long before the foundations of a building are laid down. Instead they happen in architects studios, within the offices of city planners, and in the sketches of engineers.

Decisions from the project development phases impact both operational and embodied emissions, as well as how residents will live. It is at this point when you decide whether a scheme will aim to meet a Passivhaus energy and performance standard, or to the minimum standards required by regulation. On whether a scheme will include community gardens, or access to shared facilities and public transport. It is also when you decide what materials will best suit the project.

This is the key point when timber can make an impact. As a low-carbon material, it is widely known that timber has an important role to play in reducing carbon emissions as a form of carbon capture and storage. Clever and effective use of timber during the design and construction stages of a project can allow for significant carbon savings. It is also when timber often misses out.

One of the key roadblocks to using more timber in the UK has been an educational gap around the use of timber. In some courses in the UK, timber has been little more than a day of learning and course work. This means graduates emerge with little knowledge, ability, or confidence to employ timber systems. With our University Engagement Programme, we are seeking to change this – and make timber systems and technologies a core pillar of any built environment course in the UK.

One of the key ways we have been getting students, lecturers and universities to engage in timber is through our University Design Challenge. This is an annual multi-disciplinary design competition which makes students form teams including architects, engineers, and other built environment disciplines to solve a design challenge exactly as they would in the professional world.

We had more than 300 students from 39 universities participate in last year’s challenge, which received high praise from industry experts, participants, and government alike. We are set to build on this success with the Timber Development UK University Design Challenge: Southside Hereford in 2022. While I won’t get into the details of the challenge in this article, we have been delighted with the response from the community – and I encourage you all to check it out.

What I will highlight today is the lecture series we have been hosting for students AND professionals over the past five weeks as part of our webinar series celebrating the challenge. This webinar series has covered all the basic elements of timber in construction – from design to costing, properties and engineered products, as well as offsite and onsite construction – and everything in between.

Every lecture has featured a stunning array of speakers – including many of our very own TRADA (now Timber Development UK) members. Every single one of these lectures has been recorded and is available on our YouTube. I highly encourage you all to attend our final few, which tonight includes timber performance in fire.

This is just the beginning. For many students the University Design Challenge will be the first time they engage with timber. With this programme, and as we join the TRADA and Timber Trade Federation memberships together to form Timber Development UK, it will hopefully not be the last.

To see the full program of webinars please click here