29 October 2018

Timber – the ideal material for teaching design in higher education

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In Teaching timber design, an article featured in TRADA’s Timber 2018 Industry Yearbook, authors Dr James Norman and Dr Andrew Thomson discuss why they consider timber to be the perfect starting point for students learning structural design.


Some of the first things students learn on higher education civil engineering courses are key design skills, including rationalisation and risk – all of which, the authors argue, can be taught through timber. They suggest that it is easier to learn these skills via this material than concrete or steel, which require further design considerations. For example, the section shapes of steel are complex and design is dictated by lateral torsional buckling, and concrete requires the additional considerations that come from it being a composite made up of two or more materials. In comparison, most timber elements are rectangular, reducing the total design concerns and allowing students the opportunity to securely lay the foundations of their understanding before building upon them with more complex concepts.


The rest of their article contains information about hands-on timber projects students at the Universities of Bath and Bristol undertake as early as the first semester of their first years, and the sort of educational processes and conversations these can lead to.


Read the full article 


Dr James Norman MEng PhD CEng MICE FHEA is Programme Director for Civil Engineering at the University of Bristol and the author of Structural timber elements: a pre-scheme design guide. He will be giving a timber building concept design masterclass at our Better Timber Buildings conference on 15 November in London. Find out more


Dr Andrew Thomson MEng PhD is a Teaching Fellow in the University of Bath’s Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering.


Students and lecturers have access to many TRADA resources via its free academic registration, including but not limited to:


  • Over 60 Learning Resources written specifically for students studying architecture, engineering and other building-related courses;
  • Over 100 beautiful and detailed Case Studies;
  • Access to our National Structural Timber Specification, a streamlined design guide which collects and organises wisdom – grown from decades of experience and innovation – from timber experts across the industry;
  • Over 150 technical Magazine Articles, including Yearbook articles like the one above; and
  • A 35% discount on printed books and 10% discount on British Standards when buying from the TRADA Bookshop.


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