Not content with coming up with the tallest timber residential building in the world, architect Andrew Waugh and his practice Waugh Thistleton are now working on more projects using the same cross-laminated panel construction system; a cinema, a synagogue and another big apartment block.

All the projects are in east London and Waugh jokes that his long-term plan is to panel over the whole of Shoreditch. The latest speaker signed up for the TTJ Wood Futures: Countdown to Zero conference in November (p6), he is one of a raft of cutting-edge architects and designers being won over to engineered wood products.

The joy of these products for architects is that they retain timber’s natural aesthetics and ‘sensuality’ (their word, not mine!), while allowing them to use it in more structurally demanding applications – Waugh’s Stadthaus, for instance, is nine storeys high.

These materials press the right eco buttons too. White Design, the practice of Wood for Gold chairman Craig White, for example, says that its timber panel school at the 2007 BRE Offsite show was carbon positive.

Suppliers also maintain that construction professionals are showing increasing interest in the growing number of modified timbers on the market. Again, these build on wood’s natural characteristics and, critically for these time and cash poor times, offer guaranteed lifespan and low maintenance.

Of course, these products won’t make a big difference to today’s depressed bottom lines – and, according to a ring round this week, the timber trade jury is still out on whether the government’s latest financial measures will do the trick either.

But, when UK construction gets to its feet again and the government realises the need for millions of sustainable new homes is more urgent than ever, engineered and modified wood should prove an invaluable addition to the trade’s armoury and sharpen its market edge. Moreover, the construction of schools, social housing and other public buildings, where these materials have made most impact, is less affected by the slump, so when we come out of it we should have some brand new showcase timber structures to shout about.