The Clear Benefits of Engineered Wood

Justin Hayward, Technical Timber Manager at Lathams, explores the versatility of engineered wood and its increasing popularity in both contemporary and heritage projects.


In recent years, there has been huge growth in the engineered wood market as the value proposition has become better understood.

At the most basic level, engineered wood provides increased yield and reduced wastage as it can be supplied in standard sizes with minimal need for trimming. From the outset, it is saving manufacturers of joinery products money.

Another key driver behind the growth of engineered wood is its inherent predictability through every stage of its life.

In the workshop, manufacturers of staircases, doors and windows have a steady and reliable supply of high-quality timber with fewer defects compared with standard timber. Once installed, it not only provides better thermal performance than natural wood but is more resistant to warping and twisting, helping to mitigate the age-old issue of timber expanding and contracting due to changes in temperature and airborne moisture.

And while the upfront cost will often be more than natural timber, the savings begin in the manufacturing process and continue throughout the product’s lifespan, with lower ongoing maintenance requirements.

The fact that engineered wood produces less waste makes it an incredibly sustainable option with the leading products sourced from approved suppliers all over the world. It is also FSC- and PEFC-accredited, so its production is guaranteed to meet the highest environmental and social standards. Additional testing in laboratory conditions against quality standards such as KOMO provide extra peace of mind.

It is these aspects that have seen high-quality engineered wood products such as WoodEx become increasingly popular in the residential house-building market with both bespoke and volume developers embracing the benefits.

Its versatility also means that it can be used in a wide range of projects, whether the restoration of a listed building or the creation of a state-of-the-art commercial scheme.

Manufacturers and suppliers like George Barnsdale, which have been providing bespoke timber windows and doors for architects, contractors, developers and restorers for generations, are increasingly turning to engineered wood, even for their most sensitive of projects.

A number of their recent projects highlight the opportunities offered by the product, such as replacing the windows and doors in a Grade II Listed property dating back to 1677. Overlooking the ruins of Corfe Castle in Dorset, the project saw the installation of a range of hand-finished flush casement windows manufactured from FSC-certified engineered softwood that were both highly functional but completely in tune with the historic surroundings.

Borough Market’s 16 Winchester Walk is a former Victorian fruit warehouse near to London Bridge that has been converted into loft-style apartments, office space and a restaurant.

Stringent planning regulations required sympathetic replacements of the flush casement windows and doorsets, which were manufactured from engineered Red Grandis and incorporated modern stainless-steel hardware to provide an added contemporary feel.

The aesthetic premium that comes with using an engineered product such as WoodEx means that the appearance is the same as solid timber, but the visual face and two sides are clear of defects so that it can be painted in the knowledge that knots won’t bleed through.

In this instance, the windows and doors were painted in bespoke RAL colours coupled with acoustic glazing units to give incredibly high levels of thermal and acoustic performance with minimal need for long-term maintenance.

When it came to the choice of windows for Number One Queen Anne’s Gate in London, a prestigious development of 27 luxury apartments situated adjacent to St James’s Park, the planners specified like-for-like replacement with single glazing in the oldest parts of the building.

The solution was to create bespoke box sash windows and flush casement windows manufactured from engineered Redwood with single and double glazing and putty glazing, supporting the intent to create a modern and contemporary development that retained the historic charm of the building.

As well as the increasing use of engineered wood in joinery products, its benefits are also being embraced in other aspects of construction with facade specialists Pacegrade using an engineered European oak curtain walling solution for one of their current high-profile projects.

The new Watford headquarters building for TJX Europe, the operator of retailer TK Maxx and Homesense, has been designed by architect firm Sheppard Robson as a series of interlocking glass forms with series of striking facades.

Pacegrade has more than 40 years’ experience delivering exciting architectural facades, and it has chosen engineered timber for the curtain walling on the TJX Watford scheme. It will be clad with aluminium externally, but the high-quality timber finish will be retained internally, offering a decorative feature within the building.

The engineered wood market is one that will continue to grow and evolve, driven by a desire to embrace more sustainable options but also through an understanding of the clear benefits it can bring to any construction project.

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