The forestry industry’s Innovation & Research Award recently won by ECOSystems Technologies recognises the important relationship between the forestry, manufacturing and construction sectors which for too long have been seen as separate.
The thread that weaves from forest floor to finished building is essential in delivering our vision to add value to our homegrown timber resource and through this, to deliver social, environmental and industry impact – and make high-performance, healthy and sustainable buildings available to all.
To quote one of our key collaborators in this mission, Professor Robert Hairstans: “Scotland has the renewable natural resource, internationally recognised expertise, and technical capabilities to deliver a sustainable manufactured built environment in response to the climate crisis.”
The work that Robert and colleagues at Edinburgh Napier University have undertaken over the last decade has provided us with essential understanding of the characteristics of homegrown timber, and through our collaboration, the structural performance of our resulting mass timber products which we manufacture at the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre’s (CSIC) innovation factory.
I established ECOSystems Technologies to work closely with partners like Napier and CSIC.
During the last 18 months, we have accelerated the development of cross laminated, glue laminated and nail laminated timber products, proving them through testing and delivering them into live projects while inventing new engineered products and developing new-build systems to deploy these products.
Developing homegrown mass timber products is not a new aspiration in the market, but the potential has never previously been met.
Among the barriers that existed, one of the strongest was a perception barrier, the belief that our homegrown timber was not good enough for this purpose.
Fortunately, we have benefitted from the expertise provided by Dave Mills, manager at BSW Group’s Boat of Garten sawmill.
Dave was able to produce and dry timber to the low moisture content and grade that we require for manufacture.
Less than a year after we pressed our first mass timber panel, we demonstrated the raw potential of our products and systems in five exciting projects.
A pivotal project was the GenZero classroom prototype, which we manufactured for the UK Government’s Department for Education as a zero carbon school.
We also showcased our NearHome project which seeks to support the creation of 20-minute neighbourhoods and reduce the transition back to commuting into city-based workplaces.
Our retro-fit kit of parts solution uses all homegrown timber components to transform vacant town centre buildings into dynamic workspaces.
Adapting the solutions from these two projects, we are working with Hampshire County Council to develop a zero carbon schools retrofit solution that could be deployed on more than 400 buildings within that county alone, with Hope co-housing group in Orkney to deliver healthy homes for retirement, and we are planning to put NearHome on steroids to create our own purpose-built homegrown timber manufacturing facility as a retrofit solution within our existing ex-smelter factory building in Invergordon.
The future is exciting, and it’s manufactured from homegrown timber!
- Matt Stevenson is founder of ECOSystems Technologies