Design life for wood and wood-based products

Date Published

6 September 2022

Document Type





The construction sector is under pressure to improve its cost effectiveness, quality, energy efficiency and environmental performance and to reduce the use of non-renewable resources. This has led to establishing the “bio-based economy”, which represents an increasing area of development globally and covers a wide range of activities incorporating bio-based material. “Bio-based” in this context means that the materials and products are made from renewable resources, with the criterion that a renewable resource recovers faster than it is drained, in contrast to many mineral and fossil resources.

Key Information

The development of new treatments such as wood modification, as well as an increased use of engineered wood products such as glulam and CLT, provide ways of achieving modern construction needs over reduced construction time. While timber, through its natural state, is at risk to biological decay, this can be reduced or circumvented in modern construction through a combination of correct material selection and design meeting use needs.

Increased understanding of performance in service, through projects such as WoodBuild, PerformWood and DuraTB, has led to modelling of products during their service life, as well as providing guidance for avoiding decay risks often associated with prolonged exposure to high moisture levels.

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Case studies

St. Clare’s is a private sixth-form college which provides courses in the International Baccalaureate. It was founded in 1953 and has 375 students, most of whom are boarders. The college is housed in a number of discreet “villas” along the Banbury Road, Oxford, one of which, a fine detached Grade II listed Arts and Crafts villa, was built in 1903 to the design of the architect Henry Thomas Hare, a former RIBA president.

Hardman Square Pavilion stands at the heart of Spinningfields, Manchester’s busy commercial district, yet this new building is utterly unlike the surrounding metallic and glass towers;
the structure is timber, an exposed glulam frame which is clad with timber weatherboards overlaid with planting.