Timber and Glulam in WISE

WISE is essentially a timber framed building and this main frame is constructed from glue laminated timber, plus standard timber beams for the roof.


Glulam is a type of glue laminated timber that is capable of spanning long distances.

Although glulam contains formaldehyde glue, this is only a very small amount and the finished product can be seen as much more sustainable than the alternatives of steel or concrete beams. The Glue Laminated Timber Association (GLTA) has claimed that the energy cost of a 305x165mm steel I-beam is six-times higher than a 550x165mm softwood glulam beam of equivalent strength. The case is similar for concrete beams, as a 400x250mm reinforced concrete beam would have five-times the energy cost of a comparable strength glulam beam.

Weight also becomes an issue with these other materials, as steel can be 20% heavier, and concrete 600% heavier, than equivalent strength glulam beams.

In WISE, glulam was used for the main structure, allowing us to have long stretches of frame without having to use steel or concrete. Some of the frame is on show, where it has an attractive finishing, but much is enclosed in the hemcrete (hemp, lime and 15% cement) which comprises the insulation and bulk of the walls.

Timber Type Embodied Energy (MJ/kg)
Sawn Softwood 7.40
Glue laminated timber 12


Timber Beam Roofing

The beams for the roof of WISE were constructed of FSC certified softwood timber. Glulam was not used for this as the lengths and strengths needed were not so great. As such, this timber has a slightly lower environmental impact than that found in the main frame. The insulation for the roof is cellulose (Warmcell)

FSC Certification

All of the timber used in the construction of WISE comes from FSC certified forestry. The Forest Stewardship Council is an international NGO, founded in 1993, which promotes the responsible management of forests throughout the world.


AECB: the Sustainable Building Association - http://www.aecb.net - 0845 456 9773
  Network of builders, architects, manufacturers, and organisations. Aims to develop, share and promote best practice in environmentally sustainable building. There is a list of members on the website.
CAT Graduate School of the Environment - http://gse.cat.org.uk/ -
  WISE is the campus for academic courses run by CAT’s Graduate School of the Environment. As well as full postgraduate degrees, short academic courses are taught and catered for in the WISE building.
Forest Stewardship Council UK - http://www.fsc-uk.org - 01686 413916
  International non-governmental organisation promoting responsible forest management. Run a global timber certification system; the website includes a database of certified products.

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