24 May 2021

TRADA unveils Fundamentals of timber series

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TRADA’s online programme Learn with TRADA Live has gone from strength to strength since its initial launch in January this year.


Almost a thousand people have signed up so far, proving that the online learning space – which has been so enlivened by the recent restrictions – is here to stay, even as the world begins to open up again.


The next series Fundamentals of timber will begin in July and is anticipated to draw a crowd, with BM TRADA timber experts Phil O’Leary and Lewis Taylor – experienced teachers within the field – leading attendees through a whole host of timber topics for the rest of the year, including:

  • What you need to consider when using and specifying timber
  • Trees and the nature of wood
  • Wood and timber properties
  • Moisture in timber


Timber as a material is low carbon, environmentally-friendly, and a renewable resource if sourced from a sustainably managed forest. Its use in place of high carbon materials is one of the most effective ways to use limited biomass resources to mitigate climate change. Thus it is fast gaining popularity among designers and construction professionals prioritising sustainability and carbon neutrality.


This series is intended as an introductory resource for newcomers to the material and those looking to construct a strong foundational layer of knowledge upon which to build with the support of a trusted authority like TRADA. Consequently, the series has been designed to facilitate the learning experience for both regular and occasional attendees, with each session self-contained but adding to the overall, comprehensive picture of timber.


How to book

Select the session you are interested in from the list below. You will be prompted to register your interest or book a space depending on whether a booking link is available. If you are a non-member of TRADA and need to purchase a ticket, you will then receive a further email requesting payment.


Book the next session now



TRADA members: Free

Non-members: £30 +VAT per session

Students at member universities: Free

Students at non-member universities: £15 +VAT per session


Not sure if you’re a member? Call 01494 569603 or email Kathryn Macneil, our membership administrator, on membership@trada.co.uk.


Fundamentals of timber programme

6 Jul 2021: What you need to consider when using and specifying timber (12:00–13:00)


  • The versatility of wood and its limitations.
  • Challenges and issues to be considered when using timber in a wide range of applications and environments.
  • Choice of species through to correctly detailing for the end use.​


Event resources

14 Sep 2021: Trees and the nature of wood (12:00–13:00)


  • What is a tree and how do its growth strategies affect its properties?
  • Basic cell structure.
  • Nomenclature and classification.
  • What is in a name? E.g. Softwood, hardwood, evergreen, trade name, commercial name, local name.
  • Timber species – common commercial and not so common.


Event resources 

12 Oct 2021: Wood and timber properties (12:00–13:00)


  • Variability of timber.
  • Appearance – grain, texture, figure.
  • Density, reaction wood, juvenile wood, heartwood, sapwood, and how they all affect timber properties.
  • Timber and wood characteristics.
  • Toxicity, chemical reaction and corrosive properties in conjunction with other materials.
  • Timber as a structural product.


Event resources 

2 Nov 2021: Moisture in timber – Part 1 (12:00–13:00)


  • The most important timber issue to understand.
  • What is green timber or seasoned timber?
  • Understanding the amount of water in timber.
  • Equilibrium Moisture Content (EMC) and Fibre Saturation Point (FSP).
  • What does 12% moisture content mean?
  • Why and how does the moisture content of timber change?
  • Drying of timber and good methods of storing timber.
  • Shrinkage and movement: are they the same?


14 Dec 2021: Moisture in timber – Part 2 (12:00–13:00)


  • How much does timber shrink and how does this occur? (This is predictable.)
  • Shrinkage and swelling in the different planes of timber.
  • Movement classifications and how this aids determining the amount of shrinkage.
  • How can we accommodate shrinkage and swelling?
  • Introduction to Use Classes and in-service moisture contents.


Book now


About the speakers

Phil O’Leary, Technical Manager, BM TRADA

Phil is responsible for leading BM TRADA’s Timber Consultancy – the UK’s pre-eminent team of timber experts – whose specialist areas are structural condition surveys (condition, defects and remedial), in-situ visual grading (justification of enhanced design values), fungal and insect attack, ongoing monitoring, moisture content monitoring, inspection and maintenance programs, and on site failure investigation.


Phil’s particular expertise is in the quality, grading, performance characteristics, deterioration and preservation of different kinds of timber for different uses. He has carried out inspections of many industrial infrastructures, including railway, marine piers, critical cooling towers at nuclear plants and power stations, MOD structures and National Air Traffic Services communication towers.


He has served as an expert witness in establishing the causes of timber failures in, for example, roofs, bridges, decks, boats, temporary stages, walkways, playground equipment, scaffold boards and tool handles.


As well as leading the Timber Consultancy team, Phil is responsible for their highly regarded series of standard and bespoke training courses. Phil sits on the BSI’s Wood Preservation Committee and the Wood Protection Association’s Technical Committee.


Lewis Taylor, Timber Frame Consultant, BM TRADA

Lewis Taylor is a Timber Frame Consultant working in BM TRADA’s Timber Consultancy team, a position he has held since 2007.


Most of Lewis’ professional work is carried out under BM TRADA’s nationwide frameCHECK service that offers architects, engineers, contractors and housing associations independent third-party advice on the design and build quality of timber-framed buildings.


His responsibilities include a wide range of specialist functions to save clients money and time, from conducting independent quality inspections and condition surveys, to evaluating design details and investigating defects and their remedy.


He is the co-author of several books, including TRADA’s bestselling Timber frame construction: designing for high performance 5th edition.