Initially they called it simply Hangar 17. The latest project of Napier University’s Centre for Timber Engineering (CTE) was shrouded in mystery. Even now, if I told you where it was, I’d probably have to kill you, or myself, or both.

The wraps are, however, soon to be lifted from B-PAC, the University’s new Building Performance Assessment Centre, and I can divulge just a little of what goes on there. In the hangar there are several faceless house-sized boxes. So far, so not very exciting. But inside, promises the head of the facility, Dr Sean Smith of Napier, all sorts of cutting-edge timber technologies and wood products are being put through their paces.

The prime benefit of the B-PAC, which has been set up with “significant investment”, is that it will provide a controlled environment where companies and CTE technicians can evaluate how different products and building approaches work together in full-scale structures – and fine-tune them to work better. It will look at acoustic and thermal performance and construction efficiency. In particular, it will focus on how timber construction components and systems can help builders meet the technical standards of Scotland’s Sullivan report, get top ratings under the government’s Code for Sustainable Homes and achieve its 2016 zero carbon goal for new housing.

Meanwhile, last week saw the unveiling of the shortlist for the Wood Awards, the annual competition to find the best use of timber in construction and interiors. This year’s event showed timber reaching still greater heights in the UK, literally, with one of the entries, the Murray Grove Stadthaus, being the world’s tallest timber residential building (and the Stadthaus, incidentally, also won the Achievement in Engineered Timber category in the 2008 TTJ Awards).

Put the Wood Awards and B-PAC together and what you have is UK construction being ever more ambitious in its use of timber and a new facility which will help it push back the boundaries still further. Longer term, looking beyond today’s grim economic conditions and the mire of the money markets, that has to be good news for wood.