Timber frame chosen for exemplar education site

Timber frame insulated wall panels from Taylor Lane were used in the construction of a purpose-built 2,500m2 ‘living lab’ for the New Model Institute for Technology and Engineering (NMITE), designed to educate Centre of Advanced Timber Technology (CATT) students. 

NMITE is home to CATT, with a strategic mission set by the industry to “stimulate collaboration across the industry together with showing a wider audience how rewarding a career in timber can be”. 

The first intake of CATT students was in September 2022 on the Timber Technology Engineering and Design short CPD courses. 

These courses are blended courses composed of online distance learning and on-campus challenge sprints. While the learners are at NMITE they are hosted in the purpose built 2,500m2 ‘Living Lab’ building, which consists of studio and breakout spaces, as well as two 700m2 workshop areas.

Demonstrating modern methods of construction

Timber frame supplier Taylor Lane was selected by NMITE to work on the site on Skylon Park in Hereford. The building itself demonstrates advanced timber technologies and is acting as an exemplar in a region aspiring to meet net-zero carbon targets. 

Taylor Lane was tasked with demonstrating this modern method of construction in the hybrid structure.

The company used a selection of non-standard materials, specified by NMITE, to construct 20 panels, ranging from 250mm to 2,400mm wide, and 4,100mm high. 

The insulated panels were installed over two phases; a 53Lm run and another spanning 33Lm. This was particularly challenging as Paul Harris, Contracts Director for Taylor Lane Timber Frame, explains: “The glulam structure including the roof element and cross-laminated timber (CLT) frame were already in position, which meant that we had to crane the panels in and around an already constructed structural frame. This was tricky and took careful consideration in devising a suitable method of work and appropriate access equipment.” 

The panels sit on a glulam soleplate. Taylor Lane used 240mm I-joists rather than solid timber floor joists to avoid cold bridging and maximise thermal performance. Each panel is fully filled with 240mm Knauf Insulation OmniFit 35 slab, a glass mineral wool slab that provides excellent fire, thermal and acoustic performance. 

The 9mm OSB is fixed to the front face of all 20 panels. For educational purposes, 11mm OSB is used on the inside face of the panels fitted in phase one, and 11mm flame retardant (FR) OSB for the remaining panels installed in phase two.

Showcasing the fixings

Some panels are attached to the CLT frame and others to steel, which enables Taylor Lane to showcase a variety of fixing methods.

Paul continues: “We were mindful of the fixing positions as some of the construction components are left visible for the CATT students to observe. We also concentrated on the panel’s aesthetics, such as ensuring the breather membrane wasn’t damaged during construction, for example.

To ensure the right components were visible in the right locations, Taylor Lane also had to work within very tight tolerances.

Paul concludes: “The panels sit in front of the glulam, clipped to brackets. Obviously, this required precision spacing, slightly out and it would impact the whole run, hindering the observation panels and exterior cedar wood cladding.”

A spokesperson for main contractor Speller Metcalfe adds: “Although Taylor Lane were only on site with us for a short period of time, they were a good company to work with through the design process with their specialist timber knowledge.”

Taylor Lane’s panels were used for one L-shaped section of the building. Working to the client’s tight timescale, Taylor Lane completed a phased installation, erecting the panels in around six days.