10 September 2019

Winners of the TTJ Timber Innovation Award 2019

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Sonae Arauco’s Three Dimensional Fiberboard (3DF) and a research project which harnessed bio technologies to create sequins from naturally abundant wood-derived cellulose have been named the winners of the TTJ Timber Innovation Award 2019.


The Award, which consists of the two categories Innovative Product Development and Innovative Timber University Research, is a celebration of pioneers within the timber industry. It highlights both individuals and companies undertaking exceptional product design, and shines a spotlight on the university research performed at both undergraduate and postgraduate level in the UK – which is all too often overlooked.


The shortlisted candidates for both categories were invited to present their research or product before a panel of experienced industry leaders in July. University Research applicants presented in London on 8 July, while Product Development applicants attended the TRADA offices in High Wycombe on 23 July. The winners were later announced at the prestigious TTJ Awards dinner on 13 September, which took place at Hilton London Bankside.


Sonae Arauco won the Product Development category for its 3DF fiberboard, a formaldehyde-free, thermoformable composite board which can be shaped to infinite forms, densities and thicknesses under the action of pressure and temperature.


It was the unanimous category winner selected by a judging panel which included Nathan Garnett, Media 10; Stephen Powney, TTJ; and Rupert Scott, TRADA. They agreed that the project was ‘a genuine advance of product’, while Stephen Powney hailed it ‘a worthy winner’. He added:


‘3DF has not only created a new market for MDF, it has enabled MDF to compete with other products and materials. It is no longer just utilitarian – 3DF boards have a high value finish, with the potential for endless forms including 3D shapes and curves. Its thermoplastic nature means it has the potential to be re-shaped, while the method through which shaping is achieved – pressing – creates no dust, and ultimately reduces the cost of the process by removing steps.’


Media 10’s Nathan Garnett said:


‘I’ve been pleased to see a number of innovations over recent years which add value to basic level commodity MDF by adding performance attributes like flame retardants – but this is a step change. This isn’t just about adding a performance attribute – it’s an entirely new sort of building block, and it delivers a whole palette of possibilities. You can make different shapes and patterns, and add embossing, and it requires no specialist equipment.’


Rupert Scott, TRADA, added:


‘Sonae Arauco has taken an existing manufacturing process and added to it, using a completely different kind of adhesive – thermoplastic resins – in combination with wood fibres. This results in a truly innovative product, because it comes out in a pre-finished way. You can then imprint decorative patterns or change 20mm boards into shapes half the depth, which is a value-adding stage with the potential for huge variety.’


Meanwhile, Elissa Brunato, Central Saint Martens, and Tiffany Abitbol, RISE Material Scientist, won the Innovative Timber University Research category for their work on Bio Iridescent Sequins.


They were motivated by their desire to see alternatives to finishes and colours within the Fashion and Textiles Industry, ultimately creating environmentally-friendly, compostable sequins made from naturally abundant wood-derived cellulose – a redesign from the base structure up.


TRADA’s University Engagement Manager Tabitha Binding joined the panel of judges to assess the University Research category. Of the winners, Tabitha said:


‘Projects like these make me wonder about the limits of wood when it comes to the climate crisis. Nowadays, everyone knows that trees sequester carbon – we have whole movements dedicated to planting more – while practical, hands-on innovation of this kind remains the outlier. The Fashion and Textiles Industry is largely unsustainable and produces waste; plastic sequins, for example, are used widely, yet also pollute our environment with micro-plastics. For me, this project confirms that more can always be done – more research, more with wood, more innovation. I am excited to see the kind of changes that will occur as more people embrace bio-technologies. Congratulations to Elissa and Tiffany – theirs was a really incredible entry.’


In the Product Development category, the complete shortlist also included:

  • Studio BarkU-Build: A modular construction system developed to be easy to build, enjoyable to inhabit and simple to deconstruct at the end of its useful life.
  • Tenmat Ltd – Tenmat range of ceiling penetration products: A range of fire protection products for light-weight joist ceilings, including downlight covers, ceiling ventilation valves and ceiling fan collars.
  • JointKit Ltd – JointKit: A flat pack jointing system that can be assembled without glue or screws to form corner joints and extension joints.
  • PIVETEAUBOIS – HEXAPLI CLT UC2 Water Repellent Treatment: A combined Use Class 2 (UC2) and water repellent surface treatment to protect CLT panels from water ingress during erection time onsite and protection against wood boring insects, termites, and decay from temporary exposure to humidity.


In the Innovative Timber University Research category, the other shortlisted entries were:

  • Colin Rose, University College London – Cross-Laminated Secondary Timber: This research explored the novel concept of reusing secondary timber as feedstock for cross-laminated timber.
  • Madeleine Rocco, University of Sheffield – The Relationship between Form and Force: A Comparative Study between Form-found and Free-form Timber Gridshell Structures: This research demonstrates that the form of a structure has great influence over the deflections, forces and moments that act upon them.
  • Joseph Marshall and Alex Sage, Northumbria University – Robust Detailing: This thesis develops and tests a comprehensive matrix for structurally robust detailing using existing literature as a foundation to extrapolate defining factors.
  • Rowan Beaton, Bristol University – Waterproofing: Reducing the long-term deformation of Timber-Concrete Composite: This paper investigates the effect of waterproofing the timber element of a TCC as a method for limiting deflection through reducing moisture absorption, thus preventing the shrink/swell of the timber.
  • Grace Kelly, Bristol University – Challenges of modifying natural timber into a high-performing structural material: This research project investigates the methods proposed by an earlier paper in terms of (a) ease of production and (b) potential for scale-up within the construction industry.


TRADA is pleased to co-sponsor the TTJ Timber Innovation Award with Timber at UK Construction Week.