A decade of using the material has made me a complete convert

Andrew Waugh

It seems to me a no-brainer that we need to build as much as we can in timber.

Timber is a replenishable material, stores carbon, and is quick and easy to work with. Timber buildings are satisfyingly humane places to live and work in, and great buildings to build.

I’m a complete convert. We built our first engineered timber building in 2003. A small three storey extension of a listed building for a violinist, and it was a great experience. Fast, accurate, clean and tactile. We were all bowled over.

The genuinely exciting moment before us is an opportunity for a new architecture.

The practice of building in timber continues to fascinate us. The engagement in the process for architects is especially gratifying, the physical ingredients line up neatly in solid form and are carefully placed in position and secured. You very immediately have a structure - to all intents a building, and a building which is just how you drew it. Just how you sat with the engineers and client and envisaged it might be.

For all these reasons we strive to only build in timber. We do this by presenting timber as an option for the structure from the outset. We demonstrate the benefits in programme and cost. Sadly the environmental benefits rarely figure until after we have proven the case financially. We set out to design in timber rather than seeing if the building we designed can be built in timber.

So I believe that we are at a pivotal moment in architecture. We can allow ourselves to be increasingly marginalised in building and blame it on BIM or a decline in cultural values. Or we can grasp the problems in hand and lead the way.

The genuinely exciting moment before us is an opportunity for a new architecture. A modern timber architecture where, just as a hundred years ago, an investigation into a new material provokes a new energy in architecture.

Andrew Waugh is director of Waugh Thistleston Architects