Well, after a month, you exhaust the European Championships and who’s going to knock Murray out in the semis. The nurses asked what I did for a living. They expressed interest in and liking for timber. One said she and her husband were considering building their retirement home in timber frame, and, well, one thing led to another. I was in my element with a captive audience. First, I explained, some of the concerns they’d expressed about solid timber – its propensity to burn, or rot – were misconceptions and that it was an inherently durable, high performance material if specified correctly. But engineered wood was another story; a modern marvel, or
in some cases an old marvel rediscovered and reinvented for the 21st century.

These products took timber into whole new directions, were hugely versatile, low waste and enabled wood to be used on a bigger scale and to compete more effectively with more predictable man-made materials head-to-head. hey also lent themselves perfectly to offsite and other modern methods of construction.

Manufacturers, architects and engineers, I explained as the nurses nodded appreciatively, enthused about these materials and were increasingly pushing their technical boundaries to see what they could achieve. The results include prefabricated houses which can be up on site in days. They are also inherent carbon stores, low energy to build and live-in.

At the other end of the spectrum are a new generation of big timber buildings; commercial, public and industrial structures with massive unsupported LVL or glulam beam spans of many tens of metres. There are also buildings that would have been unthinkable a few years back, using prefabricated CLT (cross-laminated timber) panels, such as London’s nine-storey tower blocks Bridport House and Murray Grove and Norwich’s 1,500-pupil Open Academy.

What is more, I explained, the engineered timber industry is not standing still. Driven by the inventiveness of producers and technical demands of customers, new developments are emerging almost constantly.

I only wish I’d had this week’s special TTJ feature to illustrate my point. This highlights a range of new products and applications. It would have also been useful to counter the only downbeat note in my ‘presentation’. If engineered timber was so good and, as I contended, drove demand for other timber products, why my nursing audience asked, wasn’t more made in the UK? Ah, I said sadly, that’s the rub. Engineered timber manufacture and design remained European-led. But that was where I was wrong. As our features show, the UK is driving the way engineered timber is being developed, as specifiers stretch its technical properties further. In particular, we’re at the forefront of the increasingly global ‘tall timber’ building revolution. One UK architect even proposes a trial 70-storey CLT block.

I-joists and some glulam are already made here, of course, but UK operations are also now looking at producing other home-grown engineered timber products, notably CLT, opening up huge new possibilities for our faster-grown, less dense softwood.

Now I’ve just got to get this new information to the nurses, so a few TTJs may soon be on their way to the hospital reception.