Timber First Hackney

The fabulous WoodSolutions tour continued with day 3 of discovering wood buildings.  As Manager of Planet Ark’s Make It Wood campaign I am finding it fascinating learning about exactly why people choose wood.

Hackney in NE London has the biggest collection of timber buildings in the UK thanks to the local government’s ‘Timber First’ policy.  It is famous for Waugh Thistleton’s Stadhaus on Murray Grove – 9 storeys of cross laminated timber and others include Mossbourne Academy, architect Marcus Lee’s house and a new CLT development on Whitmore Road.

Mossbourne Academy (below) replaces the former Hackney Downs School and accommodates 1,000 pupils aged 11-16, with a special focus on teaching information and communication technology.  Previously the failing school was one of the worst in the country.  Built 7 years ago, the largest post and beam glulam structure in the UK is now one of the most successful schools.

The design brief called for open space allowing the Principal to see into the classrooms.  The wood structure and large windows allowed for this.  After 7 winters the building is still in good condition proving the durability of timber.

Heathrow Terminal 5 Architect Marcus Lee designed his own two-storey eco-family home in a deprived area of Hackney.  However, his house truly shows off the beauty of open post and beam frame.  With five girls to look after, he wanted to build quickly.  That’s why he chose wood. The build was astonishingly fast. Work began in March 2005, when drainage was dug and foundations installed. It was completed by May.

When asked why he chose wood he said, ‘You can cut wood and shape it.  It is warm.  To me, it feels like a holiday home.  It is an excellent insulator.  We always feel warm and cosy in here. I’d like to build another home from cross laminated timber’

When asked what his biggest challenge was he responded, ‘pleasing the client – my wife!  No seriously, getting the structure right to budget.  And the open plan approach means that the services (electrical, gas) are on display which sometimes isn’t so attractive.’

The layout is influenced by Japanese design, with storage arranged along the sidewalls hiding everything from the washing machine to – on the first floor – a narrow shower room.

Marcus and Rachel’s Highbury home has been built from Siberian larch. The house also uses red cedar for frames and cladding, and Douglas Fir for the balconies, all of which add subtle variations of tone.  The house has no load-bearing walls so it provides a flexible space. If you like you could move rooms around. You could even unbolt this house and put it somewhere else.

Quirky fact for the day – larch is the only deciduous conifer.

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