Andrew Waugh on Building with Wood2022-03-21T11:14:30+01:00

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Three Reasons to Build with Wood

Three Reasons to Build with Wood

Andrew Waugh, director of Waugh Thistleton Architects, talks about his long standing appreciation of wood

In the latest of our conversations with leading architects and designers, Andrew Waugh lists three reasons to build with wood. He talks about how it is a supremely versatile building material, why it can help in the fight to lessen our carbon footprint, as well as achieving a sense of wellbeing and harmony. Andrew is a director with Waugh Thistleton Architects, an east-London based practice, which is a world leader in engineered timber architecture and delivers a wide range of building types including affordable housing, offices and mixed use schemes.

Andrew Waugh, director at Augh Thistleton Architects

Reducing our carbon footprint

Given that carbon from construction materials represents about 12% of the world’s overall carbon emissions, the sector clearly has a responsibility for change, especially considering the Paris Agreement, which lays out a reduction of at least 55% of greenhouse gas emission by 2030 from 1990 levels. “It’s entrenched in law, it’s not just a nice thing to do. The tree is a magic carbon capture machine,” Andrew says, adding that as well as using existing timber, planting more is essential to tackling climate change, as trees absorb and store carbon as they grow.

Timber as a structural element gives ease of construction and prefabrication 

“What makes timber so good as a structural material is that it’s not only made of carbon, but it’s easy to adapt and reassemble,” Waugh continues. Using modern methods of construction (MMC), timber elements can be constructed off-site in a much more accurate way. For one mixed-use project in London the original floors and ceilings were constructed using cross-laminated timber. Waugh explains how, when an additional staircase was required during the life cycle of the building, they simply cut out space through its ten storeys, using a circular saw .” By comparison, the process of cutting concrete would have been more time consuming, complicated and costly.

Health and wellbeing benefits 

Building with wood offers multiple wellbeing positives. Says Waugh, “The health benefits are evident in construction. Concrete can give off quite nasty fumes and steel is very hard and heavy.” You only need to walk into a timber building to get that ‘pine fresh’ aroma. Then there’s timber’s tactility and the feeling of harmony it creates. And unlike stone or steel, which can get too hot or too cold, there’s a consistency of temperature too. Timber helps to regulate humidity rather than trapping it, improving indoor air quality and making a healthier building. 

Building with wood achieves an equilibrium of light, temperature and sound, as well as going some way to rebalancing our relationship with nature in terms of the climate emergency we face.

Woodhouse in UK
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