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Visit to Wales by Manja Kuzman


August 2007

Manja at Coed y Brenin
Manja at Coed y Brenin

One of the elements of the GATE project is the facilitation of individual exchange visits between the partner regions. In August 2007, Mrs Manja Kuzman, an Architect and Lecturer in the Department of Wood Science and Technology, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, visited Wales on such a visit and the following report details the places she visted and the people she met.

Manja arrived in London on Sunday 12th August and having visited BRE (Building Research Establishment) at Watford www.bre.co.uk she then travelled to Cardiff where she was met by Derek Jones from NEWI (North East Wales Institute) who then took her around Cardiff, Swansea and Port Talbot. They looked at different development projects by Gwalia Housing Group who specialise in sheltered accommodation for youngsters and the elderly www.gwalia.com

They then travelled North to Aberystwyth for late afternoon on Wednesday 15th August, having first visited the National Botanic Garden of Wales www.gardenofwales.org.uk and then Aberaeron.

Manja was met in Aberystwyth on a fine afternoon by Paul Finch and Tom Owen from Forestry Commission Wales who took her to Bwlch Nant yr Arian Visitor Centre to meet John Taylor, Visitor Centre Manager who was to show her round.
www.forestry.gov.uk
He explained all the details behind it's build and how it had attracted Objective 1 funding. Following this visit she was taken to her hotel at Machynlleth.

Manja with John Taylor at Bwlch Nant yr Arian
Manja with John Taylor at Bwlch Nant yr Arian

On the following morning she was collected from the hotel and driven to Coed y Brenin Visitor Centre which is situated North of Dolgellau www.forestry.gov.uk. The building was designed by James, Jenkins, Thomas Architects of Aberystwyth, and it has won the prestigious Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Wales Award, and then gone forward to be judged for the International RICS Award. This was also an ERDF Objective 1 Project. Here she was met by Graeme Stringer, Recreation Ranger of Coed y Mynydd Forest District, Dolgellau who provided a thorough presentation of the development followed by a walk round the building, bike shop and children's play area as well as part of the mountain bike trails.

Coed y Brenin Visitor Centre, Dolgellau
Coed y Brenin Visitor Centre, Dolgellau

Manja then travelled back to Dolgellau for lunch at Ty Siamas which has only recently opened as the National Centre for Welsh Folk Music www.tysiamas.com
After lunch and a walk around the town, which is a small historic market town situated at the foot of the Cader Idris Mountain Range in the Southern Part of the Snowdonia National Park. The town experienced a gold rush in the 19th century, and the wedding rings of the royal family are always made from locally mined Welsh gold.

The journey then continued to the CAT (Centre of Alternative Technology) who address every aspect of the average lifestyle and their key work areas are renewable energy, environmental building, energy efficiency, organic growing and alternative sewage systems www.cat.org.uk
Here, Manja was also shown their new WISE (Wales Institute for Sustainable Education) development at a cost of £6.2 million (€9,100M) which should be completed by the summer of 2008 and will provide them with a state of the art environmental education centre to cater for their increased demand for a variety of courses.

WISE development at Centre for Alternative Technology
WISE development at Centre for Alternative Technology

After a very interesting tour by Danny Harris, the WISE Project Assistant Manager, Manja was able to look over the actual Project Plans and had a full response to all her questions.

Looking over plans with Danny Harris at CAT
Looking over plans with Danny Harris at CAT

On Friday 17th August, Manja met with David Jenkins, Director of Coed Cymru at Caersws, near Newtown, Mid Wales www.coedcymru.org.uk David took Manja to the Welsh Oak Frame Company, who are designers and suppliers of traditional oak frame buildings and components, so as to create a home of lasting natural heritage www.welshoakframe.com

The Welsh Oak Frame Company
The Welsh Oak Frame Company

They operate a Dietricks 3D system for designing and employ 32 staff who work in the different departments in Caersws, and also have a Framing Production Company in Germany with both productions running side by side. They are presently considering investing £500K (€740K) on a German machine which would be able to do a lot of what is presently done by hand, such as jointing, planing etc. They also have designs for holiday homes made of locally sourced soft wood and are presently considering moving into production with this system.

The oak that they use comes from Northern France which comes on an articulated lorry with enough timber for 2 homes with the transportation costs being only £1,000 (€1,500). The homes which they produce ranges in size from 500 - 2000 cubic feet at a building cost of £500 (€750) per cubic metre. The timber is bought in green but their design allows for shrinkage, and the timber is dried from the inside so that the outside keeps weathered.

Manja was then taken to a small milling company run by Dave Manuel with 3 of his sons working for him. They harvest the timber as well as milling it to a range of products - firewood, flooring, build grates and prepare style packs which are sold to Local Authorities to place on footpaths and the pack is sold for £80 (€120) which includes the bolts etc.

Manja with David Jenkins and Dave Manuel
Manja with David Jenkins and Dave Manuel

The timber after it arrives is kept and is then cut depending on the order they have, with the smaller grade going to flooring. They sell everything from sawdust which goes locally for cattle bedding; slab wood as firewood and the cedar they obtain goes as cladding and building of beehives.

They have their own simple kiln dryer made from the back of an old refrigerated lorry which can take 100 cubic feet of timber which is then dried to 20% humidity / dryness in a period of 3 weeks at a minimal cost. They also air dry in stacks which can take 6 months, but with Ash it only takes some 2 months, and Oak 3 months.

They maintain a high standard of quality control at all times on everything they do. Coed Cymru thinks very highly of them and uses them often including doing work as part of a Robinwood Interreg111C Sub Project.

Manja was then taken to Tregynon, to the Coed Cymru headquarters, where she was introduced to Nigel Phillips, their Timber Products Development Officer. Nigel showed her around their workshop where they develop prototype products which are then shown to manufacturers to encourage them to take up the proposed new ideas.

Their primary work is to support the woodland management process and are publicly funded to develop woodland. They have a small hand made kiln costing £400 / 500 (€600 / 750) which dries the wood to a low moisture content and as an average the timber stays in the kiln for 10 days depending on the species. They provide specialist training for farmers on the different machines and if they then wish to diversify, as well as to have an additional source of income, a similar workshop which is machine based with jigs would be set up for £20K (€30K).

One of their recent prototypes was casement windows made up of laminated wood using polyurethane glue and small timbers so it had very little waste. The initial idea came from Coed Cymru and it took 3 years to develop. A manufacturer was found who was prepared to take this on, Anthony A. Davies Limited www.anthonyadavies.co.uk and it takes 18 minutes to make after minimum training. The Company employs 15 people and a medium size casement window sells for £200 (€300).

Casement window under construction
Casement window under construction

Coed Cymru have also devised a system of construction using interlocking components that form simple engineering profiles which gives a solid appearance that is strong but relatively light. These and the resulting products have been called - The Welsh Angle www.coedcymru.org.uk/welshangle.htm
They operate a scheme with the South Wales Prison Service in order to provide training for inmates and then the chance of full time employment when they leave prison. They use the Welsh Angle system to produce 25K chairs, which have been tested to a higher level than normal domestic use.

The Welsh Angle
The Welsh Angle

Flooring is a very big business in Wales and Coed Cymru have just received an order for heat treated beech for flooring at a new visitor in a National Park in Liguria, Italy which is a direct result of the Coed Cymru involvement in the GATE sister Interreg111C Project - Robinwood.

The Ty Unnos concept of affordable housing was detailed by means of small timber models as well as drawings and they are being pushed by a number of different projects who want to be the first to use the system for their project. Testing of the beams produced has also been successfully completed
www.coedcymru.org.uk/tyunnos.htm

The trials that they undertake with regards wood pellets were also discussed as well as the different materials used in order to gain a comparison. Manja was shown two different types of pelleting machines as well as the prototype that they are trialing again for a Robinwood sub project.

Manja was then taken to Kenton Jones Ltd of Welshpool who are designers and makers of kitchens, bedrooms, bathrooms, furniture as well as floors www.kentonjones.com
Their timber comes in with a moisture content of 20 - 25% but is then kiln dried to between 10 - 12%. They have over 25 years of experience in making solid wood floors and handmade kitchens from timber from managed forests and maintain control of the production process from the drying of the timber, its preparation through the design aspect, manufacture and then installation.

On Saturday 18th August David Jenkins brought Manja to Pont Robert where Jamie Richardson has his office. Jamie runs a design and build company of unique designs using sound environmental principles, the latest technologies as well as the highest standards of workmanship. They produce timber frames from sustainable timber sources to their own designs, as well as the manufacture of frames to the customers specifications www.jrbltd.co.uk

Barn conversion by Jamie Richardson
Barn conversion by Jamie Richardson

After a discussion about his various designs, Manja then visited a number of his developments ranging from a nearly completed converted barn, to a site in the build process, as well as to a self build for which they made the framing.

Self build project by Jamie Richardson
Self build project by Jamie Richardson

Manja returned to Slovenia on Wednesdasy 22nd August after a very informative and rewarding trip to Wales.