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Timber for Tomorrow's Europe


GATE International Closing Conference

Cardiff, Wales

3rd - 4th October 2007

Conference delegates at the Wales Millennium Centre
Conference delegates at the Wales Millennium Centre

As with previous inter-regional seminars, this event comprised of a day of site visits followed by a one-day conference.

Day 1 - site visits to areas of interest around Cardiff

As this was the final conference for GATE it was particularly gratifying to see so many representatives and stakeholders from all the GATE partner regions. The schedule for the field visit day was aimed towards timber and sustainable construction but it was also designed to give the visitors a flavour of the wonderful culture and tradition of Wales.

The first visit of the day was to the Welsh School of Architecture in Cardiff University. Dr Wayne Forster, Senior Lecturer and Deputy Head, gave us an overview of the school which has an outstanding reputation for architectural education and research. It was judged the top UK department of architecture in the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise, and consistently appears at the top of published rankings for teaching.

Dr Wayne Forster, Welsh School of Architecture
Dr Wayne Forster, Welsh School of Architecture

Continuing to grow in numbers, the WSA currently has 350 undergraduates, nearly 70 masters students, 50 postgraduates, 56 staff and approximately 50 part-time tutors and critics. The WSA has also appointed several distinguished Visiting Professors and Fellows, who contribute to the teaching and reviewing of design projects on the undergraduate and graduate courses.

Steve Coombs, Welsh School of Architecture
Steve Coombs, Welsh School of Architecture

Steve Coombs, a Research Associate, along with David Jenkins, Director of Coed Cymru, then gave a presentation of the Ty Unnos building system. The name "Ty Unnos" is Welsh for "house in a night" and is an old Welsh tradition where, it was believed by some, that if a person could build a house on common land in one night, then the land would belong to them as a freehold.

David Jenkins, Director Coed Cymru
David Jenkins, Director Coed Cymru

The Countryside Council for Wales and Wood Knowledge Wales have sponsored Coed Cymru, the Welsh School of Architecture and the University of Wales, Bangor to develop a system of high performance affordable housing based on the properties of home-grown timber. Although spruce is proposed, the system could use various grades and species of timber.

Click on the following link for more information about the Ty Unnos system:
Ty Unnos

David Jenkins explaining the Ty Unnos system
David Jenkins explaining the Ty Unnos system

The Ty Unnos system is a highly adaptable, additive, modular system that can create a range of house types and sizes based on four standard modules. It uses locally sourced timber in standard, readily available lengths to create a simple housing system suitable for self or assisted build.

Delegates at the Welsh School of Architecture
Delegates at the Welsh School of Architecture

Click on the following link to take you to the Welsh School of Architecture website:
Welsh School of Architecture


The tour continued to St. Fagans National Open Air Museum of Welsh Life. This much-loved open air museum is set in over a hundred acres of parkland and tells the stories of the peoples of Wales. It was an opportunity for GATE partners and stakeholders to see how the Welsh landscape and cultural history has shaped the design and materials used in the construction of buildings and houses over the centuries.

Delegates at St Fagans
Delegates at St Fagans

Original buildings have been moved from different parts of Wales and re-erected at the Museum. These include a Victorian school, industrial iron workers' cottages and a rural chapel. Traditional craftsmen work in the re-erected workshops and mills, and the Museum's fields are home to a range of native livestock.

Gerallt Nash, Senior Buildings Curator
Gerallt Nash, Senior Buildings Curator

The group was met by Gerallt Nash, Senior Buildings Curator, who gave a presentation on the historic use of timber in Welsh house building going right back to the 15th century. He then took us to see actual examples within the museum grounds. Delegates were then left to explore the museum and its buildings in their own time.

Delegates explore the Museum
Delegates explore the Museum

Click on the following link to take you to the St. Fagans website:
St. Fagans National Museum of Welsh Life


After lunch at St. Fagans, the group returned to Cardiff for a tour of the impressive Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay, where the following day's conference would be held.

The Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay
The Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay

The striking words on the front of the building reflect the cultural ambition of the Centre. They draw both on Wales's industrial past and the institution's location in Cardiff Bay, once the greatest coal port in the world. Each letter is six-foot tall and formed of stained glass, set in glass-reinforced gypsum. There is a Welsh and an English inscription which read:

CREU GWIR FEL GWYDR O FFWRNAIS
(Translation: 'Creating truth like glass from inspiration's furnace')
These words reflect the architecture of the building. Its copper dome is a reminder of the furnaces from Wales's industrial heritage and also Ceridwen's cauldron.

IN THESE STONES HORIZONS SING
The English words on the building are not a translation of the Welsh and they have their own message. The strata of the slate frontage of the building are a reminder of the horizons just beyond Penarth Head. The sea has, traditionally, been for Cardiff the means by which the Welsh export their best to the world and the route by which the world comes to Cardiff. The stones inside the theatre literally sing with opera, musicals and orchestral music.

The words are explained to the delegates
The words are explained to the delegates

The letterring from the inside
The letterring from the inside

The tour concentrated on the architectural inspirations and the materials used, particularly the timber, on the exterior and interior of the building. There was also an opportunity to see some of the backstage areas and dressing rooms.

Timber on the exterior of the Wales Millennium Centre
Timber on the exterior of the Wales Millennium Centre

Timber on the interior of the Wales Millennium Centre
Timber on the interior of the Wales Millennium Centre

For further information about the Wales Millennium Centre, use this link:
The Wales Millennium Centre


The group then walked to the nearby Wales Assembly Government building where they were given a presentation and tour of the "Senedd" paying particular attention to the sustainable design and extensive and innovative use of timber.

The Wales Assembly Government building, Cardiff Bay
The Wales Assembly Government building, Cardiff Bay

At the heart of the design is the wish to produce a building that symbolises an open democracy. It has also been designed to make a significant contribution to sustainable development.

Completely transparent at the public level, the Senedd sits on a slate plinth which steps upward from the waterfront. A beautifully designed, lightweight, gently undulating, timber finished roof shelters both internal and external spaces, and is drawn down to form a funnel like enclosure over the "Siambr" or chamber. This funnel has a dual function, introducing daylight into the Siambr while a wind cowl at its head draws fresh air through the Siambr space.

Innovative use of timber in the Wales Assembly
Innovative use of timber in the Wales Assembly

The design brief required that the Senedd must achieve an "Excellent" certification under the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM). The design team's holistic approach has yielded an environmental design that uses natural ventilation and passive systems to heat and cool the building. The overall effect is to reduce the running costs of the building by 30-50%.

Delegates tour the Wales Assembly building
Delegates tour the Wales Assembly building

The group were fortunate to be able to watch the Welsh Assembly Members in session debating issues of sustainability. Afternoon tea with traditional Welsh cakes was taken in the Senedd before the field visit day came to an end.

Delegates outside the Wales Assembly building
Delegates outside the Wales Assembly building

For further information about the Wales Assembly building, use this link:
Wales Assembly Building


Day 2 - Conference at the Wales Millennium Centre

Mike Over, Project Manager for GATE, welcomed delegates to "Timber for Tomorrow's Europe", the closing GATE conference. Before the conference began, delegates were informed of the sad news of the death of Ian Forshaw, the Director of Forestry Commission Wales who died suddenly just one week previously, while attending an Institute of Chartered Foresters' conference in York.

Ian, who took up the top post in Welsh forestry in December 2005, was much liked and highly respected, not only by staff at all levels of the Forestry Commission, but also by the wider forestry community throughout Great Britain.

His friendly personality, his commonsense approach and his advocacy of forestry won him many friends. In particular his intimate knowledge and understanding of the forestry and timber industries earned him great respect in private-sector forestry. He will be greatly missed by us all.

The conference was dedicated to Ian's memory

Ian Forshaw 1955 - 2007
Ian Forshaw 1955 - 2007

Mike continued by welcoming delegates to Wales and explained how Interreg and GATE operated, giving background information about the GATE partners and the stakeholders. The agenda for the day was described and Mike explained how each partner would present case studies and lessons learned through their involvement in GATE.

Mike Over welcomes Conference delegates
Mike Over welcomes Conference delegates

Select the link below to view or download the presentation:
Introduction and Overview of the GATE project - Mike Over - Wales
855 KB

Mike then handed over to the Chair for the day, Mr Jon Owen Jones who is also chair of the Forestry Commission's National Committee for Wales. Mr Jones was a Member of Parliament until 2005 and is a former Minister for the Environment, Farming and Forestry in the Welsh Office. GATE is very grateful to Mr Jones for stepping in at short notice to replace Ian Forshaw as Chair for this conference.

Mr Jones welcomed GATE partners to Wales and to the conference and introduced a video speech from Jane Davidson, Welsh Assembly Member for Pontypridd and Minister for Sustainability and Housing.

Jane Davidson AM
Jane Davidson AM

Ms Davidson apologised for not being able to attend the event in person and went on to say:

"The goals of GATE, and the aims of the Interreg 3c Network programme, mesh closely with those of the Welsh Assembly Government. And it is especially pleasing to see how Forestry Commission Wales, on our behalf, is helping to build valuable links with our European Union partners.

This exciting project has enabled its stakeholders over the last three years to see how each of our different countries is using timber in many different ways, to learn from each other, build up and benefit from an unrivalled pool of knowledge.

The links, networks and exchanges of knowledge and experiences - which I know have already grown strong and borne fruit between us - can only help us all as we move forward.

There is a huge opportunity here to build on 'Timber for Tomorrow's Europe'. The potential is great, and I am sure together we will be able to achieve much more.

Do not let your final conference be an end to this hugely valuable project - but rather the beginning of a major push to make timber accepted as a truly modern building material."


A full transcript of Jane Davidson's speech can be found at the following link:
Minister's Speech to Closing Conference


GATE partners from Thuringia began the inter-regional presentations. Frank Hohle, from the Environment Centre for Trade in Rudolstadt gave a presentation on key lessons learned from their region, specifically on the theme of "perception". We saw how awareness in the region had been increased as a result of travelling exhibitions, seminars, a student competition and the creation of networks or wood clusters.

Select the link below to view or download the presentation:
Perception - Key Lessons Learned - Frank Hohle - Thuringia, Germany
2,546 KB

This was followed by a case study from Jacqueline Huster on trend-setting ways of sustainable wood mobilisation in Thuringia, focussing on grants for private forestry.

Select the link below to view or download the presentation:
Trend-setting Ways of Sustainable Wood Mobilisation - Ms Jacqueline Huster - Thuringia, Germany
1,950 KB

<span class='usersmall'>Mike Over, Jacqueline Huster, Jon Owen Jones and Frank Hohle</span>
Mike Over, Jacqueline Huster, Jon Owen Jones and Frank Hohle

For Poland, Antoni Cywinski and Jackub Siewko presented "economic barriers" with regard to enhancing wooden construction in Europe and wooden houses for a mass customer. Affordable housing is seen as a high priority in Poland and the deficit in available housing has been increasing over the last 25 years, with no practical state policy giving assistance. Their MDD system assumes significant cost reduction of wooden house construction by quantity and production automation.

Select the link below to view or download the presentation:
Economic - Barriers to Wood in Housing and Wooden Houses for a Mass Customer - Jackub Siewko - Pomorskie, Poland
118 KB

Polish and Slovenian delegates with Jon Owen Jones
Polish and Slovenian delegates with Jon Owen Jones

For Slovenia, Milan Sernek and Manja Kitek Kuzman presented the influence that the GATE project has had on Slovenian timber construction. Their theme was "technical solutions" and Milan showed the delegates how technical advances had been made in durability, fire safety and dimensional stability. He explained how the student photographic competition had raised awareness and exchange visits between stakeholders from Slovenia and Wales had been of valuable benefit.

Manja went on to present a public opinion survey that had been carried out in Slovenia to gauge the public's perception of wood as a construction material for houses and furniture. The methods used, target audience and outcomes all generated a lot of interest from other regions.

The following link takes you to the Slovenian presentation, which is in two parts, the first being lessons learned and the second being the results of the public opinion survey:
Technical - Key Lessons Learned - Milan Sernek - Slovenia and Influence of GATE on Timber Construction - Manja Kuzman - Slovenia
3,236 KB

The Slovenian delegation
The Slovenian delegation

For Estonia, Mart Riistop gave a presentation based around their theme of "policy". This focussed on wood in city planning and architectural policy. He explained that, in Estonia, 98% of all housing is in private ownership and that most land is either private or owned by the state. Up until now, municipalities have very seldom built houses, but in Tallinn the Aaviku wooden area won the first municipal bid. In future the bigger companies will have to follow suit.

Estonian delegates view the static displays
Estonian delegates view the static displays

Select the link below to view or download the presentation:
Policy - Key Lessons Learned in City Planning and Achitectural Policy - Mart Riistop - Estonia
1,235 KB

Another area of interest for Estonia is the raising of public awareness and they have been deliberately targeting young people. Workshops for architectural students have been held and Jaan Tiidermann gave a very entertaining photographic presentation showing how the students designed and constructed a wooden swing and a tower.

The following photographs give a flavour of these activities undertaken by the students:

The swing under construction
The swing under construction

The completed swing
The completed swing

The tower under construction
The tower under construction

The completed tower
The completed tower

Finally, for Wales the theme was the successful management of a European project and key lessons learned and benefits of co-operation and exchange. Mike Over began by presenting the exit strategy for GATE. This focussed on how all the hard work that the partners and stakeholders had done over the last three years would continue to benefit the timber sectors in Europe and the partner regions long after the project closes. The GATE website will continue to be maintained as a useful source of information and will include a stakeholder directory.

The stakeholder networks will continue to function across Europe, exchanging ideas and best practice. Within Wales the knowledge gained through the project will be transferred to the sector through the industry led Wales Forest Business Partnership via an initiative called Wood Knowledge Wales.

Select the link below to view or download the presentation and also the link to the Wood Knowledge Wales website:
The Exit Strategy for GATE - Mike Over - Wales
1,136 KB
Wood Knowledge Wales

Delegates at the Conference
Delegates at the Conference

Paul Finch presented the benefits of co-operation and exchange with other regions of Europe. Giving stakeholders the opportunities to travel to these regions and see for themselves different techniques of wood processing, design and construction. He demonstrated the importance of the stakeholder network, knowledge transfer and the gaining of awareness of the issues for the construction sector, regional governments and the public.

Select the link below to view or download the presentation:
GATE Key Lessons Learned - Co-operation and Exchange - Paul Finch - Wales
810 KB

Paul Finch, GATE Project Sponsor
Paul Finch, GATE Project Sponsor

There followed an open forum where delegates were given the opportunity to ask questions of representatives of each of the partner regions.

Question and answers to the GATE Partners
Question and answers to the GATE Partners

Mr Jones then gave a summary of the day, which was followed by acknowledgements from Mike Over.


Acknowledgements:
A special thank you went to Jon Owen Jones for stepping in at short notice and under very difficult circumstances to chair the conference.

For organising and administering the events of the week a huge thank you went to Jane Holloway and Tom Owen from Forestry Commission Wales and also Linda Miles and the team at the Wales Millennium Centre. Plus the translators for their excellent work.


To all those who have contributed over the last three years to make GATE the success it has been:

The GATE Partners:
From Thuringia, Ulf-Dieter Pitzing and Frank Hohle

From Poland, Hanna Miszewska and Antoni Cywinski

From Slovenia, Milan Sernek and Manja Kuzman

From Estonia, Mart Riistop, Erik Konze and Siiri Rika, who recently left the role of project co-ordinator to have a baby.

All the partners should be very proud of their achievements.

All the stakeholders from each of the regions. Much of the hard work put in by the partners has been for their benefit. Their valuable contributions have been at the heart of the project and it is hoped that they have enjoyed their participation. GATE hopes that stakeholders continue to work with the people that they have met along the way, both within their own regions and across Europe.

Interreg for their support and particularly the team at the Joint Technical Secretariat in Lille. Their friendly support, assistance, knowledge and professionalism have made the job of Project Manager a lot easier.

Forestry Commission Wales and the Welsh Assembly Government for the support that they have shown the project.

The GATE public relations contractor, Guy Pargeter whose contribution to the project goes way further than his original brief.

Tom Owen has already been mentioned for his hard work on the closing conference, but his main role in GATE has been as Financial Manager and he has done an excellent job.

Paul Finch, the GATE Project Sponsor. It was Paul's determination and vision that got this project off the ground.

Finally Anne MacDonald, formally Anne Roberts who was the original Project Manager. It was Anne that wrote the project application and everything that has taken place over the last three years was because Anne had written it into the plan.


Let's now look to the future. GATE draws to a close but the work has just begun.

And the message that we want to be taken away as the legacy of this Conference and the GATE project is that timber is the sustainable construction material for building tomorrow's Europe.


Mike Over

GATE Project Manager
November 2007