Timber is an ideal construction material for housing: warm and inexpensive as well as low in carbon emissions. Building looks at four homes in the frame for this year’s Wood Awards
Ever since our prehistoric ancestors made their bivouacs out of it, timber has had a particular suitability for housing. These days, many new apartment and student housing buildings are inexpensively held up by softwood timber frames. Sadly, the timber structures are largely concealed behind brick walls and plasterboard linings, as if they were an embarrassment. Instead, the full potential of timber in housing is best revealed in one-off family houses and small private residential developments.
Four of the following five schemes were submitted for this year’s Wood Awards, and the shingle-clad London infill is to be submitted for next year’s awards. They range from a tiny artist’s cabin in the Scottish Highlands to a couple of high-density infills in central London.
As Giles Downes, chairman of the award judges, says: “This year there were significantly more entries on the private home side, and standards were uniformly good. It was evident that the best in modern design came through in private homes.” In these projects, timber was selected for its structural versatility and suitability for off-site prefabrication, as well as for its appealingly warm, touchable finish for interiors and exteriors. The sustainability of timber gave it special topical appeal for several projects, as it offers good thermal insulation that cuts down on energy consumption and is a renewable resource, both of which lessen rather than add to global warming.
The award winners will be announced on 21 October.
Oak-clad parkland villa, Scottish Highlands
Honey-coloured panels of oak boarding enclose a spacious and gracious modern villa in the foothills of the Scottish Highlands. The European oak boards are tongue-and-grooved, dowelled to soft-wood subframes and arranged in panels. Because of its meticulous detailing and workmanship, the natural material perfectly matches the building’s openly expressed modern vocabulary, with its Miesian exposed steel frame, large sliding patio doors and low-pitched zinc roof. The house and a wide timber deck in front of it enjoy a mature parkland setting surrounded by forests.
architect jm architects
structural engineer Adams Partnership
main and joinery contractor McDaid Building Services
Timber-clad infill housing, central London
Timber shingles and vertical boarding were used to soften the impact of a high-density infill squeezed alongside brick council flats in south London. The scheme comprises a three-storey block of five flats and a two-storey pair of semi-detached houses built on a former builder’s yard. Cladding in western red cedar shingles, and tongue-and-groove boarding, etched horizontal glass louvres and vertical steel louvres combine to give a rich, fine-grained surface texture that complements the brick walls of surrounding houses. Architect Stephen Davy says that although overlooking issues led to a planning inquiry by the ODPM, local residents are now happy with the finished result.
architect Stephen Davy Peter Smith Architects
structural engineer Price & Myers
main contractor Banes & Websters
Artist’s timber cabin, North West Scotland
A barrel-vaulted timber house and studio for a Danish ceramic artist reaches out from a wild mountainside in the remote Scottish Highlands of Sutherland. Though plain, sleek and modern in form, the house is clad in rough-sawn shiplap boarding in untreated Scottish oak that architect Gökay Deveci says “should weather in colour and texture, ageing gracefully in harmony with changes in the seasons”. The structure, by contrast, is a precision-engineered frame of laminated Siberian larch held together by galvanised steel bolts and tie rods.
architect Gökay Deveci
structural engineer Peter Gallon
main and joinery contractor Kenny MacRae Building Contractors & Funeral Directors
Green oak-framed house, Wiltshire
Architect Piers Taylor has designed, built and occupied a house extension that he claims is supported on the country’s first truly contemporary – as opposed to traditional – green oak frame. The scheme has been shortlisted for the private category award. Modern design and construction is evident in the large sliding windows as well as the stainless steel bolts and braces that hold the oak beams and columns together. Yet Taylor delights in the roughness of the exposed oak frame alongside the high-tech envelope and smooth plywood linings. Green oak was selected because it was just one third of the price of seasoned oak. “But you have to keep tightening the bolts and adjusting the door hinges as the oak dries out slowly,” Taylor admits.
architect and builder Piers Taylor
structural engineer Structures 1