We are delighted to be partner in the WoodProps project – which aims to maximise the value and use of Irish timber as their forests double production in the coming decades.
UK and Ireland have many common interests in timber – the forests, species, industry and standardisation framework are very similar. This project will help academics, growers and processors in both countries to achieve mutual goals, avoid duplication of expensive wood characterisation work, and maintain the necessary expertise in wood properties and grading across these islands. The backbone of the project – standards activity underpinned by wood characterisation work, specialist expertise and industry partnership is based on what we have in the UK with the SIRT project.
On 16th May, the Minister of State for Food, Forestry, and Horticulture, Andrew Doyle TD, officially launched this new programme to support the value and market-reach of Irish timber. Led by NUI Galway, the ‘Wood Properties for Ireland’ or ‘WoodProps’ programme, will characterise the strength and properties of Irish timber for European regulatory authorities, expanding its potential market value.
Researchers from the Timber Engineering Research Group at NUI Galway will collaborate with project partners in the Centre for Wood Science and Technology at Edinburgh Napier University. There will also be extensive collaboration with industry and private growers.
This Forest Sector Development Division of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has made the grant-aid award of €477,250 to Dr Annette Harte, Head of the Timber Engineering Research Group at the College of Engineering and Informatics at NUI Galway, and who will lead the three-year initiative.
In making the announcement, Minister of State for Food, Forestry and Horticulture, Andrew Doyle TD, stated: “Changes in growth patterns in forests and harvesting practices can affect wood properties. It is essential that we have a forest resource that is fit for purpose and can continue to supply quality roundwood of our main species, Sitka spruce for the manufacture of structural timber for home and export markets. This award and other project related funding from my Department is towards that end. We are also seeking to extend the use of other conifers such as Douglas fir and Norway spruce in the afforestation programme.”
Minister Doyle added: “Recently published work by the European Forest Institute suggests that for each tonne of wood products used instead of non-wood products, there is an emissions reduction of approximately two tonnes of carbon dioxide. There are other advantages to using wood construction including speed of build, ability to prefabricate walls and floors and crane into place. NUI Galway and Dr Harte and her colleagues have taken a leading role in elaborating the opportunities that timber construction provides. Their work will be further supported by the funding I am announcing today.”
Lead researcher, Dr Annette Harte, Vice-Dean of NUI Galway’s College of Engineering and Informatics, said: “Recent technological advancements coupled with the acceptance that wood products play a key role in addressing climate change and sustainable development have led to rapid growth in timber construction across the globe and this trend is expected to continue. Through the Wood Properties for Ireland programme, NUI Galway will work closely with the forestry and wood processing sector to ensure that the structural properties of our wood products are well characterised and certified so that the Irish forest sector will benefit from these developments.”
The researchers will undertake an exchange of knowledge related to wood quality, products and standards with forestry and processing industries and provide expert advice to regulatory bodies related to construction of modern timber buildings.
Roundwood production from Irish forests is forecast to double over the next two decades. One of the key challenges facing the forest sector is to mobilise this resource to market, and to ensure the material is fit for market by being well characterised as evidence of structural performance. Additionally, the climate change mitigation challenge implies a wider use of wood products in the built environment and elsewhere. This means providing evidence and expertise related to performance and specification of timber and wood-based building systems, particularly to the regulatory authorities.
Speaking at the announcement, Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh, Registrar and Deputy President at NUI Galway, said: “Woodprops is a great example of NUI Galway research in action and it highlights how our academics and researchers are contributing to national competitiveness and boosting employment. This project undertakes the technical research to support the increased use of timber as a sustainable construction material and will help industry to develop innovative and added-value engineered wood products. I’d like to congratulate Dr Annette Harte and her Timber Engineering Research Group. The Group has established a strong reputation for collaborating with industry partners and with this research, supported by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, will directly support Irish enterprise and innovation, while at the same time working on sustainability of the built environment.”
For more information about the Timber Engineering Research Group visit: www.nuigalway.ie/terg.
Pictured: Dr Conan O Ceallaigh, NUI Galway, Dr Annette Harte, NUI Galway, and Minister of State for Food, Forestry, and Horticulture, Andrew Doyle TD. Photo: Aengus McMahon