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Exhibition “4 Projects: Sustainable Communities Pre-manufactured from wood”

A joint exhibition on the future of Off-Site Manufacturing (OSM) curated by the Edinburgh Napier University Built Environment Exchange with original design material by the Harvard Graduate School of Design.  

The world’s population is becoming increasingly urban.  According to the United Nations, we are now spending up to 90% of our time in cities. The construction industry is on a correspondingly upward trajectory (despite inherent productivity challenges), a trend which exacerbates its negative impact on the environment 

As trees grow, they lock in undesirable carbon emissions. Used in construction, timber-based materials will lock in carbon for even longer periods. Delivering timber buildings via OSM helps the environment, reduces waste, improves working conditions, and enhances productivity. Ultimately, it helps the industry tackle the challenge of delivering communities sustainably. 

With its locally available or sustainably imported timber supply, Scotland is particularly well-positioned to meet this challenge.   As well as providing a priceless source for recreational endeavour, the forest sector contributes £1billion annually to the Scottish economyWith up to 80% of all new housing being built in this manner (and a lot of timber used for upgrading existing buildings), Scotland has a particularly well-established track record. And with newly engineered timber products increasingly pushing the boundaries of what is feasible, this is a very exciting time for timber in this country. 

OSM is greener than traditional construction, but there is more to it too. Unusual constraints will shape the outcome of this innovative design/build approach: designers will consider their client’s requirements, as well as the longest wall panel they can have–and the width of the road on which it will be transported, one piece at a time, like an oversized creation from the land of Gulliver.  With its fluid scales, ease of construction, and strangely direct translation from designing to building, OSM has as much in common with Meccano cranes, Lego castles or online Minecraft worlds, as with traditional building techniques. Sometimes it even seems that OSM is not about making buildings as such, but full-scale models or precisely engineered assemblies, like Ikea furniture for the Built Environment.   

Drawing on original construction documents, the craft of toy-making, product design, packaging, and cutting-edge laser cutting and 3D printing technologies, the exhibition recreates four innovative buildings to celebrate the specialness of OSM, and its growing importance for the building sector in Scotland. The four models to be displayed were designed and made by students of the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University under the direction of London-based architect and academic George L. Legendre. They will be presented alongside studies of innovative timber engineering developed by the Edinburgh Napier University Built Environment Exchange (BeX) under the guidance of Professor Robert Hairstans 

The 4 buildings on show include the Falkland Estate Hut – A 30 m2 recreational offgrid unit designed for micro-manufacture, and lowskilled operative assembly. This hut is made of local sustainable resources and may be removed with little trace.   At the other end of the scale, the exhibition includes a residential, semi-detached OSM family home built in the South Side of Glasgow by OSM builders CCG Homes. Its manufacturing process is semi-automated and utilises standardised products and processes for efficiency (the house is finished on-site with a traditional vernacular)  Another example is the Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology a student residence of 78 ‘volumetrictimber pods made of German Cross Laminated Timber (CLT). These stylish pods were designed by London-based Architect Wilkinson Eyre and fabricated in the Highlands of Scotland by leading OSM outfit Carbon Dynamic.  Finally, the exhibition showcases Multi-PlyA collaboration between the American Hardwood Export Council, the 2018 London Design Festival, Waugh Thistleton Architects, Arup Engineers the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre, Glenalmond Timber and Edinburgh Napier University. To help realise this playful installation on the future of sustainably built cities, the Scotland-based timber engineers processed imported tulipwood into structural Cross Laminated Timber for the first time. 

This exhibition will run at The Lighthouse from 24th October 2019 until 19th January 2020.


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