Case study: Wolfson Tree Management Centre, Westonbirt Arboretum

26 March 2017

Members and registered users can read the full case study online.

Two radical timber buildings at the National Arboretum in Gloucestershire show how timber from trees felled in the routine maintenance of the estate were processed on site into structure and cladding, and constructed by volunteers and trainee carpenters.

The two new buildings, designed by Piers Taylor of Invisible Studio, are focused on the requirements of staff at the arboretum, whose management and care of the tree collection are critical to its sustainable existence.

The brief developed into two buildings; the Machine Shed, where tractors and agricultural equipment used by the staff are housed and maintained, and the Mess Room, which provides communal staff facilities. Both buildings sit close to each other at the far end of the estate.

Timber was the obvious choice of material, and as the architect Piers Taylor explained: “We particularly wanted to use the timber from the arboretum – as the client had an extraordinary resource which they hadn’t exploited previously for building.

“As a result, all the timber for these two buildings was grown and milled on site and used untreated for the construction with no further processing.”

Graham Clarke, senior structural engineer at Buro Happold, described the structure: “The design team’s initial response was to look at the forest resources available at the arboretum. By gaining an understanding of the timber that would become available through the routine management of the arboretum, it became apparent that some significant sized trees could be harvested.”

The two buildings were delivered on a tight budget and are able to demonstrate that, with the right design approach, locally sourced materials can be used to reduce the environmental impact of the built environment as well as reducing the construction costs.

Members and registered users can read the full case study online.
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