Innovative Engineering in the Countryside (InTeC) began three years ago as an initiative to increase the sale of timber to the lucrative and available structural markets in the UK. Timber has many advantages over its construction industry rivals, concrete and steel, with its social, environmental and sustainable tickets. However it was perceived that further value could be achieved by Adding Engineering which would multiply timber’s advantages, so InTeC was set up to explore these possibilities.
The focus will be on bridges and other countryside structures e.g. signs, barriers, post and telephone boxes, towers, viewing platforms but the target will be on the quantity markets. Bridges are the highest form of structure and if the general public become confident at crossing timber bridges with heavy loads then they will more easily accept a timber framed house. The pulp, chip and board markets are saturated with supply so new markets are needed for the increased supply of timber coming on stream in the UK over the next few years. The obvious market is housing. In Scotland 60% of new houses are timber framed but only 8% in England and that market is ten times as big as the Scottish market. UK timber is fast growing and consequently has lower bending strength which is important for a structural material. The challenge to engineers is to find ways to maximise the special qualities of Scottish timber and overcome the problems.
InTEC will endeavour to become the meeting place for timber engineers internationally who specialise in rural structures. We want engineers to discuss their work with colleagues, leave links and addresses and some details of what they are working on. InTEC hopes to ensure that the ‘wheel is only invented once’. With everyone in contact work will be shared rather than duplicated.
Attached is a list of topics which require research work or specialist information. The list was agreed by engineers in the UK and it is possible that work has already been carried out on the topics. One aim is to encourage those who already know to contact those who want to know and do some business. Another is to encourage investors to fund a project which may be relevant to their business. The eventual result should be some sort of international list of work going on and work required to be done in rural timber engineering.
To launch the initiative a conference was held at BRE in Garston with an invited delegation and international speakers of extraordinary standard. The focus was timber bridges to show what could be done with timber in the most demanding conditions of design and environment. The launch coincided with the completion of a report by InTeC for the Forestry Commission on timber engineering throughout the world which is available on the web site.
In January 2003 CTE (Centre for Timber Engineering) was launched at Napier University in Edinburgh. This was the first faculty of its kind in the UK and became a focal point for InTEC and its supporters. It develops all timber engineering as opposed to specialising in rural structures. It is backed by industry, government enterprise and the Institutions but needs support and productive activity to flourish, which it must do for the sake of the industry in the UK
The main conclusion from the InTEC launch conference was that critical mass has been achieved and international contacts cemented so momentum must be maintained. Partnerships and funding will be needed immediately to take advantage of the position. BRE, TRADA, Napier and the Forestry Commission are fully committed. We now need some industry backing for development of timber structural ideas like bridges. Finally the Strategy Statement will be "Add engineering to add value."