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News: 17 September 2019

SepTimber interview with Founding Director Andy Heyne

To celebrate 10 years working in engineered timber we sat down with one of our Founding Directors Andy Heyne to ask him questions about why he champions the use of timber in construction. 

  1. When were you first introduced to Engineered Timber and what made you want to continue working with it?

    When first working on Coworth Spa the team made a factory visit to southern Germany, and visited various projects there and in northern Austria. Coming from the UK I was struck by the scale of timber usage, which you might almost call a ‘dependence’, and the lack of structural materials more commonly used in the UK. Yet why use anything else in this part of the world, where timber is locally sourced, renewable, a carbon sink, and more surprisingly to me (for the first time) incredibly tactile and beautiful? It was a revelation!

  2. As a structural engineer what do you think Engineered timber’s best and worst characteristics are?

    There are so many positives - what’s not to like?! I feel very strongly that timber is beautiful, yet we too often unnecessarily cover it up in buildings. It does have some relatively weaker properties, such as shear and elasticity, yet I see these being easily complimented by other materials going forwards, to develop pioneering timber-composite structures.

  3. How do you believe we can better educate young engineers to make the use of Engineered Timber more widespread?

    By far, younger people better understand the critical need to increase forestation that will help counter climate change, yet education can only reflect and serve the present-day state of the industry. Timber is not complex, and  universities should improve its status to make it an equal alongside steel & concrete on the curriculum. However, it is my own and older generations – today’s decision-makers - who need better education, to alter risk-averse attitudes and counter grossly inaccurate perceptions that critically are right now hampering the widescale use of engineered timber in the UK.

  4. Having worked with engineered timber, is there one industry obstacle you believe needs to be tackled to encourage its greater use as a primary structural material? 

    In general end-users, clients, architects and engineers all want to use engineered timber more, and it’s a fact that in the round it is at least equally as viable as steel or concrete. This may not be popular, and we have also had some brilliant and contrary experiences, but I would say uneducated or inexperienced main contractors and quantity surveyors are the biggest obstacle, whether through ignorance or stubborn and unfounded risk-aversity. The commerciality and viability of timber speaks for itself – no need to ‘spin’ anything, do not be afraid to challenge other disciplines directly.

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