Launching the latest edition of The American Hardwood Export Council‘s Hardwood References (see box) at 100% Detail at Earls Court last month, European director David Venables spoke of the growing “wood energy” at the show.

AHEC‘s launch followed hot on the heels of the unveiling of the 33 projects shortlisted for this year’s Wood Awards and Mr Venables said that this, along with all the other timber product manufacturers present at the show, contributed to the “collective energy” which was needed to promote timber to architects and specifiers.

This collective approach was seen in 100% Materials where, for the first time, wood had its own dedicated section. Supported by International Timber, AHEC and Wood for Good, among others, 100% Materials – Wood allowed visitors to get up close and personal with a wide range of samples of timber, panels, and wrapped and veneered products. Each sample carried information on the product’s origins, key features, applications, availability, relative cost and the web address of the supplier.

AHEC was using its own stand to promote all American hardwoods but, with red oak stools and flooring donated by New Oak Partnership, the emphasis was on this warm-hued species. Red oak is popular in the US, especially for flooring – and represents around 30% of the standing hardwood forest resource – but it is still not on the radar of many architects and specifiers in the UK.

Architects quizzed

Architects visiting the stand were quizzed about the flooring and the number who said they would specify red oak rose from 71% last year to 83% this year.

Although more than 60% in both years said they regarded American hardwoods as sustainable, a significant number did not know and less than 10% thought they were not sustainable. “This demonstrates the extent to which architects still need information,” said Mr Venables.

Next to AHEC, the British Woodworking Federation stand featured five of its members. Timber Window Accreditation Scheme manager Ruth Soundarajah explained that the four companies illustrated the wide range of innovative and energy efficient timber joinery available. George Barnsdale & SonsBritish Fenestration Rating Council‘s A-rated window – the UK’s first – showed timber could meet modern energy requirements, Brookdown Joinery’s solid and laminated oak windows, often specified for renovation work, showed the heritage value of timber joinery, while Howarth Timber Windows & Doors displayed its Supply Air Window, developed in partnership with the Carbon Trust. Launched at 100% Detail last year, the company has had a lot of interest from the UK and Ireland.

Clifton Joinery used the show to unveil its sliding/ folding door design for internal and external applications. The door was originally developed as a special commission by a design consultant for his own home.

The stand also featured Ambass-a-Door’s recently launched factory-finished Twin Fully Reversible Mock Sliding Sash window. It looks like a traditional sliding sash window but, as the name suggests, both parts are fully reversible.

Elsewhere in the show, German timber windows manufacturer Menck was exhibiting the innovation and service that have won it many large contracts, including hotels, and the Ministry of Defence building in Berlin, and export markets in the UK, Spain and the US. The Hamburg company not only produces fully factory-finished windows, but also offers an installation and maintenance service.

“If you know what you want, we can do it,” said owner Peter Menck. He added that, when designing a window and choosing the species, the company took into account the orientation of the elevation and the finishing colour. “For example, for dark colours, you don’t use larch and you use very little sapwood,” he said.

Timber flooring

Among the flooring sector was Floorz from Tunbridge Wells, which was making its inaugural appearance at the show. The company’s slogan “big in hardwood flooring” reflects its speciality of large boards – up to 6m long and 450mm wide. The dimensions are so big that storage problems mean that flooring is cut to order.

European oak from the Black Forest is a popular choice for customers but the company also likes “to push unusual hardwoods that you won’t find down the road”. These tropical hardwoods include purpleheart, curupixa, tauri and imbuya.

Valchromat coloured MDF machined into curves and swerves made an interesting display on Avon Plywood‘s stand. The moisture resistant board is coloured throughout and its high melamine content means it responds well to machining and sanding.

Representing structural timber suppliers were Eurban, Finnforest and German manufacturer KLH, which recently opened an office in London.

Since exhibiting at 100% Detail last year, KLH has established a good foothold in the UK, completing nine projects, from small residential projects to a 960m2 roof on a music room extension in Oxford, with its cross-laminated timber. Another project – a three-storey building where access was only 3m wide – was erected in two or three days.

Made from spruce and fir, the panels offer both a structural element and the finished surface.

While there was plenty of energy buzzing around the timber products exhibitors, Finnforest’s Kerto and Thermowood structure illustrated this in 3D form. The interlocking Kerto LVL rose out of a line of trees, symbolising the process from forestry to finished product, as well as chain of custody.

Product development manager Chris Hitchmough said the structure was perfect for architects who “like something real, 3D, rather than something linear”.

The design and the imagery also summed up a key selling point of the whole range of timber products at the show. “The beauty of timber is that you can be very flexible,” he said.