by Jim Coulson
The world of Conservation & Heritage requires some very specialist knowledge on the part of all those involved with restoring or maintaining the fabric of Britain’s “historic built environment”.
That is true of anyone who has any role in construction: whether they are an architect, a structural engineer, a builder, or a specialist conservator. A more in-depth knowledge of timber – including the behaviour of wood as a material – is absolutely vital in understanding what to do with it in a “historic” context: either when restoring/repairing it, or when replacing it with something newer, if so required.
The required scope of any more detailed wood knowledge will of course vary, depending upon any individual’s role in a particular heritage timber project. An architect will need to understand how to specify a particular wood species; or perhaps a special finish which is needed to help it to survive in the present day, or to satisfy up-to-date Regulations – such as fire; or maybe it needs treatment with a wood preservative.
A structural engineer, on the other hand, would need to calculate various timber elements to withstand specific loads (either to “prove” a historic structure – maybe due to a change of use in the building – or to design newer timber elements to help the structure in the future). To do that, he or she will need to know that different timbers have different strengths; and that they now need to be structurally Certificated to meet current Regulations.
Even the “hands on” craftsman carpenter now needs to have more than just the knowledge of how to make a good timber joint: so he or she really needs to know how wood “behaves” as a material, so that it doesn’t either react wrongly to modern-day building requirements (such as heating); or fail in the same way that its predecessor did!
For all of the above specialist needs, some more training in the essentials of “wood as a material” is becoming increasingly necessary. It is no longer good enough simply to “like” wood, or even to have worked with it and thus gained some “experience” in its use for many years. Instead, a proper grounding in Wood Science – or at least some deeper understanding of the fundamentals of Timber Technology – should be a necessary part of the modern “tool kit” of any timber conservation professional.
Here at TFT Woodexperts Limited, we can provide that essential training to whatever level is required. We can also provide a more thorough and “in-depth” remedial investigation service, where that may be needed, or perhaps where other Construction Industry professionals would like the benefit of an experienced “second opinion”.
Our team of Wood Experts has more than 75 years of experience in the investigation of Historic things made from timber: and that’s not just Buildings – but old Ships as well!
Jim Coulson is the Director of the consultancy practice TFT Woodexperts Limited, based in Ripon, North Yorkshire (Tel: 01765 601010 email: firstname.lastname@example.org web: www.woodexperts.com ).
He is a Fellow of the Institute of Wood Science and member of the Board of the Wood Technology Society and a member of the WTS Education Working Group and the Construction Materials Group; both of which are part of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3).