Engineers at the University of Liverpool, alongside industrial partners, have designed and built an adhesive-free timber office building at Ness Gardens, Liverpool, in order to evaluate a more environmentally friendly construction method.

The structure is joined using a heated hydraulic press method to increase the timber’s density and strength. Image credit: University of Liverpool

The structure is joined using a heated hydraulic press method to increase the timber’s density and strength. Image credit: University of Liverpool

The key idea behind the new ‘green’ office structure is to use timber to connect timber and to use timber to reinforce timber. Timber is one of the very few industrial materials that can be 100% sustainable.

Engineers designed and constructed a large section of the office space using adhesive-free laminated timber (AFLT) beams and adhesive-free cross laminated timber (AFCLT) panels, and densified wooden dowels and plates are used to connect beams with columns rather than metallic fasteners.

The dowels and plates are made using softwood from sustainably harvested timber, and compressed using a heated hydraulic press to reduce thickness whilst making it denser and stronger than common hardwood.

The ‘green’ office, which is part of an EU-funded INTERREG research project, will allow researchers to evaluate the performance of adhesive-free engineered wood products and compressed wood fasteners in a real life environment over the next five to ten years, and compare it to conventional methods that use adhesives and metal.

Located at Ness Gardens, the 35m2 office structure will provide a functional workspace for researchers from the University’s Institute of Integrative Biology who are working on the Brian Moss Aquatic Facility, one of Europe’s largest, most technologically advanced facilities for investigating environmental impacts on freshwaters.

Liverpool engineer, Dr Zhongwei Guan, an international timber engineering and composite expert, who is leading project, said: “This is an exciting real world project. The structure we have designed and built is arguably the first building in the world to be constructed using this compressed wood technology!

“It showcases a more environmentally-friendly method of connecting wood and joining structures using compressed wood dowels and fasteners without the use of adhesives or metal products.

“The prototype has been developed as part of our INTERREG EU research project to design, demonstrate and take forward new adhesive-free engineered wood products for use in the construction industry.”

Dr Stewart Plaistow, Senior lecturer in Evolutionary Biology in the Institute of Integrative Biology, said: “I am delighted that this new facility which will support our research projects that focus on conserving plant and animal biodiversity. The new space will provide a new home for our researchers to process samples on site and brings together two ‘green’ research projects.”

The office was designed and built by researchers from the University’s School of Engineering, together with FRCS of the University, a design engineer and contractor, and local businesses, SticX Ltd and Cunliffe’s Architects.

The £4M EU Interreg project includes the National University of Ireland, Galway, Université de Lorraine, Technische Universität Dresden, Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology and the Office économique wallon du bois.