The Wood Awards is unique – offering a window into the many ways this incredible material can help transform and enhance our lives. This can be felt in the dynamic, beautiful and useable spaces we encounter throughout the building categories of the awards.
Every year these awards become more competitive, with the standards of UK timber design rising as designers seek to decarbonise and move away from environmentally detrimental materials.
While wood has long been celebrated for its beauty and versatility, increasingly, it is its low-carbon nature that makes it a favoured material choice within our built environment. The range of buildings in which timber is deployed continues to grow, and this can be seen in the 2022 shortlist, which stands testament to an evolving industry that is embracing timber.
We’ve outlined seven things the 2022 Wood Awards told us about the future of timber architecture in the UK.
1. Engineered timber is going mainstream
Wood Awards Gold Winner Homerton College was praised for its craftsmanship in delivering a space that is both practical and inspirational for students at the Cambridge University college.
The design by architect firm Feilden Fowles combines a formal dining hall, kitchens and a buttery that serves as a café and socialising space for students. A combination of glulam beams together with a CLT roof deck forms the engineered timber structure of the building.
Brent Cross Town Visitor Pavilion, designed by Moxon Architects, was highly commended for its ability to provide a warm and relaxing space to showcase a new development at Brent Cross. Constructed from an exposed spruce CLT and glulam frame, the structure is finished with larch cladding and solid larch fins.
2. Timber is providing flexible, lightweight creativity for ambitious architects
The creative possibilities of building with wood were demonstrated by the winner of the Commercial and Leisure category, the ABBA Arena. Designed by Stufish for the ABBA Voyage virtual concert series, it is now the world’s largest demountable concert venue, hosting 3000 people.
The futuristic auditorium is made up of 1650 CLT panels with a larch rainscreen constructed from 1400 finger-jointed larch fins. Meanwhile, the central concourse, made up of 24 hexagonal canopies constructed in a hybrid of spruce glulam and steel, forms a geometric roof structure.
Winner of the Private category, The Mews House, designed by Russell Jones, is a striking example of using timber to create a unique home in a tiny space. Built from an engineered timber frame with larch exterior cladding, the house is on the site of a former garage and garden of an adjoining house – accessible only via a narrow passageway. All the materials had to be small enough to be carried or trolleyed by hand into the mews.
3. Engineered timber excels in retrofit
The Gramophone Works project, designed by Studio RHE, demonstrates the versatility and flexibility of using mass timber for retrofit.
Retaining the existing reinforced concrete structure, the project extended the building from two to six storey’s with the addition of a hybrid glulam and CLT form to gain a further 60,000ft2 of office space.
4. Timber is flexing its net-zero potential
Not only is the Gramophone Works a generous and useable space designed for 21st-century office-workers, but it is also an exemplar of sustainable regeneration.
By retaining the existing building and expanding it with engineered timber, the Gramophone Works has sequestered 1222 TCO2e (tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent) in its structure.
Meanwhile, timber was chosen for the new Brent Cross Town Visitor Pavilion to help the council meet its net-zero pledge by 2030. By choosing pre-fabricated timber, the material helped to lower the carbon footprint of the building by sequestering carbon, minimising construction waste and driving efficiency through the construction programme.
5. Timber is the future of low-carbon, sustainable housing
Designed by Hayhurst & Co, The Green House is a flexible, sustainable family home constructed with CLT, which is left exposed to reflect the property’s woodland setting. With its double-aspect views and a rapid eight-month build time, the design could easily be replicated in small, hard-to-access spaces or duplicated in terraces.
March House by Knox Bhavan architects is designed to be both flood resistant and energy efficient. Built using a fully-insulated OSB timber cassette system, the house provides a blueprint for sustainable and economical homes for the future.
6. Timber offers mental health benefits
Not only is timber sustainable, flexible and adaptable, but the biophilic and mental health benefits of exposed timber have been well documented. At the highly-commended Wintringham Primary Academy by dRMM, timber was left exposed to reduce the stress levels of children, creating a nurturing environment that helps children to learn.
The timber complements the biophilic benefits of building the school around an internal courtyard, offering views of nature from every classroom to deliver a healthy and calming environment.
7. Timber provides novel solutions for heritage buildings
The need to preserve ancient monuments while simultaneously enabling public access for future generations provides a unique challenge. In the case of Clifford’s Tower in York, Hugh Broughton Architects and Martin Ashley Architects solved this problem with the addition of an engineered timber structure and platform, which allows visitors full access to view and experience the tower.
Designed by Caroe Architecture with Connolly Wellingham, the new entrance to St Paul’s Cathedral in London is a celebration of accessibility and inclusivity. New curving ramps provide permanent access for all, leading the visitor into the elliptical timber memorial portico dedicated to those who died as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK.
Get ready for the 2023 Wood Awards
As can be seen in the wide range of projects outlined above, timber is a versatile material that has both structural and decorative applications for every type of building project.
If you’re not already working with timber, we hope these projects have inspired you to consider the benefits and flexibility of wood for your next project. And for those projects already in progress or recently completed, find out about entering the Wood Awards 2023 here.