Time for the Timber
Fresh from a trip to Austria, Structural Engineer Andrew Wylie, explains why a novel timber product is being used in the floor structure of the new theatre.
‘For decades builders in the alpine regions of Europe have used cross laminated timber panels as part of the construction process, but it wasn’t until recently that they were used more widely in UK buildings.
Best described as super sized pieces of plywood, the solid timber planks are 250mm thick and are supported by the new steel frame, which has been built on the riverside of the theatre, and the existing Swan walls.
The decision to use timber instead of concrete was made by the design team over a year and a half ago, when the project was still on the drawing board. Timber is almost five times lighter than concrete which is advantageous as it has to be supported by the existing Swan walls which have a limited load capacity.
In the case of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre new dressing room wing, this meant that the timber floor structure could have one more floor than with an equivalent concrete solution. And, of course, the timber option was better value for money as it needed a lighter steel frame and lighter foundations to carry the weight of the floors.
The other big advantage is that timber is a natural material. The timber used in the project is all sustainability harvested from managed European forests. Timber adsorbs carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) from the atmosphere.
In total KLH, the timber trade contractor, will be supplying about 630m3 of cross laminated timber for the new theatre storing a total of 477 tonnes of carbon. This is the equivalent to the carbon emissions from 290 peoples return flights between London and New York.’