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Timber could make inroads into the design of merchant warehouses and agricultural applications

Putting store on wood
Published:  03 November, 2010

Finnforest’s new warehouse is a showcase for its own engineered timber products

When Finnforest decided to build a new warehouse at its site in Boston, Lincolnshire, it turned to its own engineered timber systems, incorporating both Kerto and glulam, to create the structural frame.

The new warehouse, which is more than 130m long and 52m wide, comprises 7.5m-high glulam columns and Kerto purlins.

Constructed at 9m centres, the two main frames span 26m each to achieve the warehouse’s complete width. In addition to the new warehouse, an annexe has been built to connect the existing warehousing to the new building which in turn spans around 10m.

This type of building is well established in France, where Finnforest has a good business in timber agricultural buildings but in the UK the preference is for steel. That’s not to say, though, that timber couldn’t make inroads into the design of merchant warehouses and sheds and agricultural applications.

“We’re always looking for market opportunities and timber frame on this scale is of interest but the market is dominated by steel. It’s a longer-term development,” said Kevin Riley, Finnforest’s vice-president construction industry.

Finnforest's new warehouse at its Boston site features Kerto and glulam

Environmentally speaking, engineered timber such as Kerto and glulam offer far greater ecological and sustainable credentials. With Finnforest timber being sourced from PEFC-certified forests, making it 100% sustainable, any building created can have a significantly reduced environmental impact. Every cubic metre of wood used as a substitute for alternative building materials reduces CO2 emissions to the atmosphere by an average of 1.1 tonnes. By adding this figure to the 0.9 tonnes of CO2 embedded in the wood and each cubic metre saves a total of two tonnes of CO2, according to research by Dr A Frühwald of the University of Hamburg’s Centre for Wood Science and Technology.

When looking at how timber can be used to create additional savings, it is worth considering the ongoing environmental advantages of timber in new build construction. For example, Dr Frühwald’s research showed that a 10% increase in the number of timber frame houses in Europe would produce sufficient CO2 savings to account for 25% of the reduction prescribed by the Kyoto Protocol.

Amongst Kerto and glulam’s additional advantages are their fire performance. Nobody wants to lose the contents of a warehouse in a fire so a timber frame is an ideal solution. Wood slowly chars rather than burns and will retain its structural integrity in a uniform and predictable manner.

From an aesthetic perspective, Finnforest’s new warehouse is an improvement too. Due to the location of the Boston warehouse, overlooking The Haven, the river that runs through Boston and out to The Wash, it was necessary to employ materials that would also blend in with the vista of the surrounding area to help create a visually interesting building. Kerto and glulam made this possible due to their rich, natural appearance, providing structural support to the building while improving its general aesthetics.

When considering the benefits of engineered timber versus concrete and steel, Kerto and glulam can outweigh their alternatives for multiple reasons. Aside from their ability to meet environmental standards and regulations while providing a high level of aesthetic ingenuity, engineered timber materials of this kind deliver a far greater strength to weight ratio, making it far easier to install such products on any project with the added peace of mind that they will deliver a robust, long-standing building that will continue to look good for years to come.

Engineered timber materials offer a greater strength to weight ratio than concrete and steel