"At first we had been undoubtedly making concrete buildings out of timber" says Andrew Waugh

Architects working with mass timber should cease emulating concrete buildings by specializing in top and type, and discover a new method to measure success, says skilled Andrew Waugh in an interview for our Timber Revolution sequence.

“We’ve been framing the success of timber throughout the narrative of concrete, however we have to step out and discover our personal path,” mentioned London-based architect and timber champion Waugh.

He believes that making buildings out of wooden slightly than concrete requires architects to take a essentially completely different method to design.

The nine-storey Murray Grove was the world’s tallest CLT constructing when it accomplished in 2009. Photograph is by Will Pryce

“If you design in concrete, typically you provide you with the constructing earlier than you concentrate on the way you construct it,” he advised Dezeen. “That course of wants to vary.”

“With timber, it’s essential take into consideration how the constructing will get up and the person items that maintain it collectively. That is what generates the shape,” he mentioned.

“Now we perceive the engineering advantages”

As a founding director of Waugh Thistleton Architects, Waugh has been creating buildings with cross-laminated timber (CLT) buildings for 15 years.

These embody pioneering housing initiatives Murray Grove and Dalston Works, inbuilt 2009 and 2017 respectively, plus the just lately accomplished Black & White Constructing for office supplier The Workplace Group.

The studio now builds nearly solely in wooden. Each challenge is designed with a component-based method and engineers are consulted from early on.

CLT interior of Murray Grove by Waugh Thistleton Architects
CLT panels type the whole construction of Murray Grove, which incorporates 29 residences. Photograph is by Will Pryce

“At first, we had been undoubtedly making concrete buildings out of timber,” the architect mentioned.

“Now we perceive the engineering advantages of the fabric, in addition to the sensory advantages, so the timber turns into a very important a part of the structure,” he continued.

“It’s a completely different mindset, but it surely would not take us any longer.”

Timber skyscrapers are “bullshit”

Specifically, Waugh is skeptical of the rising development for timber high-rises and proposals to construct tall skyscrapers out of wooden, questioning whether or not they make finest use of the fabric.

“Structure practices everywhere in the world are popping out with these CGIs of supertall buildings, colored in brown with an arrow that claims timber,” he mentioned.

“It is bullshit, as a result of if you are going to construct a tall constructing in timber, you continue to should fill it filled with concrete to ensure it would not wave round.”

In accordance with information from the Council on Tall Buildings and City Habitat, the 5 tallest timber buildings on the planet had been all accomplished previously 4 years.

Dalston Works by Waugh Thistleton Architects
Waugh Thistleton pioneered using CLT in large-scale residential with Dalston Works, accomplished in 2017, which incorporates 121 houses. Photograph is by Daniel Shearing

The choice, Waugh suggests, is to cease growing constructing heights and as a substitute discover different methods of measuring the success of a timber constructing.

This may very well be – as instructed by Dezeen columnist Maximilian Pramreiter – by measuring the constructing’s materials effectivity, or by measuring its wellbeing affect.

“Possibly we have to measure success by way of hygge?” he instructed, referencing the Scandinavian idea of cosiness. “It may very well be about how comfy and blissful you’re feeling within the house.”

“We’re not going to expire of timber”

Waugh believes it’s possible for all architects to pivot in direction of a timber-first method.

Though there are solely round 70 CLT producers worldwide at present, the architect factors out that there have been “solely 4 or 5” a decade in the past. He expects the quantity to rise quickly as the marketplace for mass timber continues to increase.

“We’re not going to be setting up each constructing from CLT tomorrow, as a result of there aren’t sufficient factories, however there will likely be,” he mentioned. “It is inevitable.”

Analysis is a elementary facet of Waugh Thistleton’s follow. In 2018, it launched the report 100 Tasks UK CLT, providing intensive steering on the benefits and challenges of constructing with CLT.

Black & White building in Shoreditch by Waugh Thistleton Architects
The Black & White Constructing, owned by The Workplace Group, exhibits how mass timber can be utilized for workplace blocks. Photograph is by Jake Curtis

Based mostly on his experience, Waugh would not see the demand for wooden outweighing the provision in the long run. He believes that, with higher woodland administration, Europe’s timber yield may very well be significantly elevated.

“In Europe, greater than half of the timber that is reduce down is burned as a so-called renewable power. That should cease,” he mentioned.

EU nations burned 23.1 million tonnes of wooden pellets as a supply of power in 2021, in line with information from UNECE, whereas a single energy plant within the UK imported and burnt 7.8 million tonnes of pellets.

“We have to plant extra timber and get higher at utilizing them, by burning much less and being extra environment friendly” mentioned Waugh. “However it’s not like we’ll run out of timber anytime quickly.”

“We’re proper in the beginning”

One of many technical challenges of constructing in timber is do with water ingress. If a mass-timber constructing isn’t adequately waterproofed, it may trigger the construction to deteriorate.

Waugh factors to related issues with concrete when it was first launched. He’s assured that points like this will likely be resolved as data about mass-timber buldings grows.

“We’re proper in the beginning,” he mentioned.

“It took us a long time to know how you can use concrete,” he added. “Earlier than the second world battle, architects had been being sued as a result of their buildings had been falling down.”

“We’re going via related studying curves with timber.”

Both manner, Waugh believes a timber revolution is imminent because of the stage of funding going into mass-timber.

His follow is at present creating schemes around the globe, in nations together with the USA, Norway and Italy.

“In the event you had requested me 10 years in the past, I’d have mentioned that laws would drive greener buildings,” he mentioned. “That hasn’t occurred.”

“As a substitute, it is cash that’s driving change. Funding funds are demanding low-carbon buildings, as a result of they do not wish to be proudly owning massive concrete and metal buildings in 10, 20 or 50 years time.”

Waugh Thistleton in Milan
Upcoming Waugh Thistleton initiatives embody a pair of timber buildings for the brand new Milano Innovation District (MIND)

The architect’s fear is that curiosity in timber has change into trendy and may very well be seen as a passing development.

“This may very well be a second of vogue that we’re in, slightly than the start of a paradigm shift, which is what it must be,” he mentioned.

“I worry a whole lot of architects deal with timber as a further materials of their palette and that upsets me. This is not a palette selection; it’s a full shift in the way in which through which we take into consideration the values of structure.”

The pictures are courtesy of Waugh Thistleton except in any other case said.

Timber Revolution logo
Illustration by Yo Hosoyamada

Timber Revolution

This text is a part of Dezeen’s Timber Revolution sequence, which explores the potential of mass timber and asks whether or not going again to wooden as our main building materials can lead the world to a extra sustainable future.