‘Who Teaches the Teachers?’ goes to Norway

In November 2023 the East Anglia Timber Trade Association (EATTA) recommenced their commitment to directly educating lecturers to enable them to draw on direct knowledge when they teach about timber and wood products.

The award winning ‘Who Teaches the Teachers?’ (WTTT) initiative is a study tour hosted by industry under the direction of Chris James, EATTA’s education lead and Tabitha Binding, Head of Education and Engagement for Timber Development UK (TDUK).

The lecturers selected this year teach at the Bedford College Group, University of Suffolk, Norwich University of the Arts, Loughborough University and the University of Hertfordshire. The direct knowledge gained will reach further as 35 associated lecturers and 500 plus students in the 2023/24 academic year benefit covering carpentry, engineering architecture and architectural technology.

“It is always a pleasure to see the lecturers and industry come together and learn from each other.” comments Tabitha “My role is to enable and facilitate the transfer of knowledge so that our future designers, engineers and construction specialists leave education with a sound understanding of timber from seed through forestry, milling, products (solid and engineered), certification, sequestered carbon, embodied carbon, construction (new-build and retrofit), deconstruction, re-use, re-manufacture, re-cycle and end of life scenarios. Timber is the most versatile renewable building materials on our planet, but for it to be truly sustainable in needs to be correctly specified to last in use longer than it takes to grow. I’d say our lecturers have definitely learnt this in WTTT – 3!”

“During the development of this initiative we have learnt how to streamline and focus WTTT so that the lecturers have an immersive and intensive two days of visits and discussions with our hosts. We ensure they see the full cycle by visiting the forest and see the species of trees being harvested, the management of the growing timber, milling, processing and drying and uses with both commercial and structural grading and finally the trend for finger jointed, Glulam and engineered products.” Said Chris James.

The Norway visit was generously hosted by InnTre Kjeldstad, Norway who are known for their engineered timber products and that that take the best timber characteristics and enhance them by finger jointing and gluing to produce their k-beams.

“InnTre Kjeldstad is more than happy to be a part of this kind of “education” to lecturers who are the first in line to make all architects further aware how fantastic timber is,” responded Frode Edvardsen export Sales Manager.

To see the journey EATTA is engaged in with this project is surmised & highlighted by the end of trip summary / review Chris and Tabitha held ; What did the lecturers learn and how are they going to use this knowledge?

“My knowledge over the manufacturing process of timber has been increased a thousandfold. Key aspects for me to learn include how computerisation has changed the efficiency of this process, by mitigating waste and increasing the performance of the end product; how sawmill, foresters and harvesters partner together to realize this and how such incredibly fast and reliable system is capable of giving reply to the needs of the construction industry. I was surprised to also learn that 70% of all timber produced by InnTre Kjeldstad is for domestic use.

I’m planning to develop guest lectures specifically tailored for the manufacturing process of timber. I want to incorporate these resources into a first year module on construction materials, and am currently liaising with the relevant staff who deliver that module section at Loughborough University. I intend to also include them in my teaching resources of the timber design module that I deliver, specifically concerning the sustainability and potential of timber as a construction material.” Andre Jesus, Lecturer in Structural Engineering, Loughborough University.

“I now have a much more comprehensive understanding of the process of; forestry management; the harvesting and production process of structural timbers, including how these are graded; and how glulam and finger jointed pieces of timber are produced. The hi-tec and advanced nature of the production process, including the 3d scanning and automatic sizing of timbers surprised me. The closed loop, zero waste, production process – are very inspiring!

I am now able to give students much greater clarity on how to design and build with timber, and to think creatively about the material in respect of its dimensional characteristics. The system of zero waste will also be discussed as a case study for how to design.” Ben Powell, Lecturer In Architecture – Head Of Sustainable Construction, University of Suffolk

“I learnt a lot. Glulam manufacturing process including log cutting, sorting, milling, kiln drying, grading processing to final glulam timber panels/beams. I was surprised that literally there is Zero Waste from the milling process of timber.

The Glulam manufacturing process will be taught on Technical/Environment Design course on building material topics. It is great to meet other professions and the industry as we have different ways of thinking. I am preparing to collaborate with structural engineer/researcher Andre Jesus.” William Chen, Lecturer in Technical/Environmental Design, Department of Architecture, Norwich University of the Arts

“As a carpenter the quality of the timber and the slow rate of growth was amazing to see. I’d never seen 12 m long finger jointed timber before. The care with which the material was handled from forest through to point of sale really stood out as well as the innovation with finger jointing and gluing small sections to create thin strong beams.

I’m looking forward to imparting the knowledge learnt to our students during their level 1, level 2 and apprenticeship courses in carpentry and joinery.” Peter Duffy, Carpentry Manager, Construction Department, The Bedford College Group

“Almost everything was new to me. As an architect I have been using Timber for over 20 years in a form or another, however following the trip to Norway I am recognised that my knowledge and understanding of the material was basic and limited to perhaps the very surface of its origins and potentials.

Most of all I was captivated by the idea of one tree being looked after and catalogued from the start when planted in the forest to many years later in its transformation to become a strong structural element and the sawdust simple animal bedding.

I am preparing a lecture for all 3 years on the Degree Course in Architecture. I feel it is important to show the commitment of the people behind the production of the Timber we may use in our projects. The commitment to sustain a healthy forest environment for the plants, the wild life and organisms that revolve around them, as well as for people to enjoy. The technical knowledge and innovative thinking that drives the production of ever better quality of final material. For me it is important to show the whole process the organic part as well the human.

Everyone I met on the trip helped and contributed to the journey to a better understanding of the material. Frode, Tabitha and Chris’s wealth of knowledge was key, adding facts, data, and experience to what we were seeing.” Roberta Colombo, Lecturer – Architectural Technology + Architectural Design Skills, University of Hertfordshire

Further visits are already planned for 2024 and plans are being made for 2025 – Should you or your company want to sponsor or investigate to be a part of this unique programme ( so far ) within our industry and really help the specifiers of tomorrow. Please contact chris.james@nasondavis.com or sheilahutchings16@gmail.com

WTTT is organised and supported by EATTA. Read about the 2018 and 2019 study tours here and here.