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A Focus on Sustainability: Cross-Laminated Timber

Published Sun 5 Jun 2016

Hadley has always prided itself on a progressive and forward-thinking approach to development. We have been working with leading CLT designers Waugh Thistleton and have asked the practice's co-founder Andrew Waugh to summarise some of the material's benefits below.

Aside from the obvious aesthetic appeal of the wood, people like to know that they’re buying into something that’s both carbon neutral and completely sustainable.

Andrew Waugh CLT Expert and Co-founder of Waugh Thistleton

For the benefits of the layman, what exactly is CLT?

CLT is an engineered timber panel. It's typically made from a number of pine planks in perpendicular layers, glued together. They are fabricated in 3x16m panels and then cut down.

Aside from its obvious aesthetic appeal, how can using CLT help the industry to tackle the housing crisis that currently exists in the UK?

This structural system is fast and accurate. It is also sustainable; timber is the only building material which can be replenished. That's not to mention it being a natural carbon store.

Is the refining process cheaper than that of concrete? If not, what are the cost benefits?

CLT replaces both the concrete floor slabs and the internal walls. However, the speed and accuracy that it adds to the construction process are the principal cost benefits. Delivering a site without a requirement for concrete construction means that you're not only being much more sustainable in your approach, but also getting on and off site much faster.

How long has it existed for? What do you think has inspired this shift back to timber from concrete?

CLT was invented in the early 1990’s. We first used CLT in the UK in 2003. The shift away from concrete is primarily about the environment. Cement production is one of the principal causes of green house gases.

We underuse timber as a crop. The harvestable timber in Canada alone could house a billion people a year. But we need to start growing more timber because this will be the material of the future...

Andrew Waugh Waugh Thistleton

Are there any limitations?

At the moment, those at the front of the industry are working on height. Before Murray Grove, which has nine storeys, everyone thought that timber was reserved for low-rise buildings.

So the material is suitable for tall buildings, then?

Yes there are several very tall buildings going up around the United Kingdom in the next year.

Are we using the material to its potential yet, or is the industry still 'designing for concrete’?

No - we're definitely not designing to its full potential. This is just the beginning of a revolution in construction. The beginning of a timber age.

If so, how long will it take before a shift in the industry like this takes hold? Ten years? A generation?

We don’t have that long to reduce the emissions that cause climate change. Carbon taxes are around the corner - at which point timber will be even more popular.

The highest CLT tower is planned for Amsterdam. How far behind do we lag in the UK?

Tall CLT buildings were our idea - we’ll be back!

What's the requirement for wood? Surely this will result in a number of forests being destroyed?

We under-use timber as a crop. The harvestable timber in Canada alone could house a billion people a year. But we need to start growing more timber because this will be the material of the future.

Images courtesy of Daniel Shearing, courtesy of Waugh Thistleton