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East Anglia/Thetford: Construction project coud herald new era for home-grown UK timber

PUBLISHED: 16:00 26 August 2014

The Enterprise Centre at the UEA, The timber frame has been constructed using Corsican Pine sourced from Thetford Forest

The Enterprise Centre at the UEA, The timber frame has been constructed using Corsican Pine sourced from Thetford Forest

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A pioneering East Anglian project to build the UK’s greenest building could herald a sea-change in the use of locally sourced timber after successfully sourcing non-traditional materials from Thetford Forest.

Constractors working on the Enterprise Centre at the UEA, The timber frame has been constructed using Corsican Pine sourced from Thetford ForestConstractors working on the Enterprise Centre at the UEA, The timber frame has been constructed using Corsican Pine sourced from Thetford Forest

Wood more usually used for fence posts and pallets has been incorporated into the timber frame of the £15.9m Enterprise Centre project at the University of East Anglia.

Gavin Napper, area director for lead contractor Morgan Sindall, believes that insights gained from the project could now have a positive impact on the wider industry’s uptake of local timber.

“People have generally shied away from using local timber in construction, doubting its suitability as a construction material,” he said.

“We wanted to challenge that perception and tap into the great resources which are available locally.

“We’ve shown that lumber which is normally used for much simpler purposes like fence posts and pallets can play a much more significant role in the structural life of a construction project.

“As the project completes, we’re keen to highlight where there are inefficiencies in the processing of local timber into structural elements.

“With the help of our customers we want to ensure that these inefficiencies are challenged and overcome so that future construction projects can make better use of local timber.

“The more we demand the use of local timber in our projects, the more efficient suppliers will become, making the use of local timber more realistic, affordable and desirable.”

The centre has been created to achieve a 100-year design life and aspects of the development will be constructed using traditional methods and locally sourced materials.

Thetford timber, Norfolk straw and heather will be used, while various elements of the building will be thatched. Construction work started last year and the Morgan Sindall project team collaborated with Irish firm Cygnum, the Forestry Commission and Thomson Saw Mills on the latest phase of the project.

John French, CEO of the Adapt Low Carbon Group, said: “Sustainability means using local resources and building high value supply chains from natural resources like forestry.

“This reduces carbon and creates high value jobs just as countries in Scandinavia have done.

“I am confident that the Enterprise Centre will stand up as a beacon of innovation that the enterprising businesses can now follow.”

Anne Mason, chairman of the Friends of Thetford Forest, which has been encouraging the use of locally-grown Corsican Pine on construction projects, said she was delighted that forest timber is being used.

“This UEA project showcases timber as an innovative building material and it also highlights the importance of our forests and woods as a sustainable timber resource for the nation,” she said.

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