May 11

Meet Wood Awards judge Neil Smith

Joining the Wood Awards building panel this year is director and workspace leader at Max Fordham, Neil Smith.

An experienced building services engineer with expertise in cultural, sports, education and workspace projects, Neil has led teams working on award-winning projects including the MAXXI Contemporary Art Gallery in Rome, CityLife in Milan, and the Napoli Afragola High Speed Train Station. He is currently working on a sustainable wooden football stadium for the Forest Green Rovers.

Here, he shares why wood is important to sustainable design, and what qualities he will be looking out for among entries.  

WA: What led you to want to become a judge for the Wood Awards?

NS: I’m currently working on several high-profile building projects that are using wood as a significant proportion of the structure and internal finishes: the use of wood in these projects will deliver architecturally beautiful and highly sustainable buildings.

WA: What are the qualities you will be looking out for in projects – especially for the new Sustainability award?

NS: I’m looking out for projects that have carefully considered the reasons for choosing timber in their construction compared to other materials, especially in terms of embodied carbon, constructability and circular economy principles.

Also, the efficiency with which a timber structure has been designed to provide a lean solution.

WA: Why is wood an important material now?

NS: If it has been sustainably sourced and efficiently integrated, wood can reduce the embodied carbon in the built environment compared to other materials. This is extremely important now to help reduce carbon emissions and address the climate emergency.

WA: What changes do you hope to see in design in the coming years?

NS: I want to see careful consideration of material choices in the design’s development so that they are the most appropriate for each building element – and this may not necessarily be wood.

Doing this will lead to hybrid construction solutions that deliver the most efficient design, lowest embodied carbon, best adaptability in use, and ultimately the best opportunity for reuse at the end of the building life.

WA: What makes the Wood Awards special?

NS: The entries to the Wood Awards represent some of the most beautiful and sustainable buildings across the country!