TRADA has never been busier.  As one of the most influential organisations involved in promoting timber as a construction material, it provides detailed information to everybody involved in the timber industry.  Gary Ramsay spoke to chief executive, Andrew Abbott, about why business is booming.

In its present form, TRADA has been on the go since 1962.  It now has
1,300 corporate and professional members made up of timber merchants,
suppliers, manufacturers, architects, engineers, surveyors and local
authorities - the entire gamut of those involved in the specification,
promotion and use of timber. 

Timber is undoubtedly one of the most fashionable construction
materials around right now.   Certainly, interest across the wider
construction industry has never been higher and its growth over the
last three years has been phenomenal.  Architects and specifers are
using more and more timber, not just for its aesthetic and structural
properties but for the material's energy efficient and sustainable
impact as well.   Indeed, timber has even been tagged the 'new steel'. 
Surely a sign that as a construction material, it is being given full
recognition as a real alternative for designers, if not a first choice
decision for use.

"Over the years TRADA has grown and developed as a centre for
excellence for timber products," said Andrew. "We are delighted by the
growing interest in timber, reflected in wide coverage in the technical
press and in the success of new events, particularly the Wood Awards
and our own In Touch with Timber conference.  There is no doubt that
architects, and the construction sector as a whole, are taking more of
an interest in sustainability issues and this has also become a major
driver of government funding policy for construction.  The ecological
merits of timber are increasingly being recognised by designers and
specifiers who need to satisfy sustainability criteria."

With modern methods of construction (MMC) and offsite construction more
of a high profile concept of building, timber has become perfectly
placed as the preferred material of choice, well suited to the general
ethos of prefabrication, leading to quicker and more cost efficient
delivery times. "There is no doubt that modern methods of construction
have been embraced by government," says Andrew.  "What I believe will
drive the change towards MMC is the government's realisation that it
can use its huge spending power, as the construction industry's largest
single client, to effect this change.

"However, while the trend towards MMC will continue, it might not be
quite as big as everyone has predicted. That said, timber frame
manufacturers have led the way in off-site construction for years,
going back to the development of trussed rafters in the 1960s. It is
important, however, to proceed with caution. New ways of building have
to be fully backed up by full technical information, training and
guidance on site.

"MMC, in our view, demands a more modern way of working. The more that
is manufactured offsite, the more important it is to bring the whole
project design team together at the outset. For the timber frame
industry, the future is not just about technical development - that is
already happening at a steady pace - but in changing its thinking.
Timber frame will continue to take an increasing share of the market,
but we would urge more manufacturers to develop partnerships,
particularly with developers, and to start to see themselves as an
integral part of the construction industry, not just suppliers to it."

Later on this issue, you will find a preview of what will be happening
next month at Interbuild 2006 (23-27 April, Birmingham NEC).  For the
first time, there will be a dedicated Timber Zone, showcasing many of
the companies working hard to promote timber and environmentally
conscious building methods to the industry as a whole.

The concept grew out of an idea proposed by TRADA themselves and from
the outset, they have worked hard to develop the Timber Zone concept.
"To us, it made eminent sense to bring wood products together in one
area, to increase their impact on visitors. We have been overwhelmed by
the industry's response, with 30 companies booked as exhibitors. TRADA
will run a full seminar programme, with experts on hand to answer
questions throughout the show," says Andrew.

For the next 12 months, there is a busy programme planned  Since its
successful launch three years ago, the askTRADA website will undergo a
major facelift, with the addition of a photo gallery and a new section
devoted to case studies.  The website attracts more than 40,000
visitors a month and Andrew believes it is one of the reasons TRADA has
been able to attract more than 350 new members in the past 12 months.

TRADA will also be working closely with the Institution of Structural
Engineers to produce a Design Manual for Eurocode 5, to be published
later in the year as part of the IStructE design guide series. "This
will sit alongside similar manuals on steel and concrete," says Andrew.
"It will be launched at IStructE headquarters in the autumn.  In terms
of research, while TRADA will seek to maintain its position as 'the'
research organisation for the timber industry, for the first time this
year we have written to other industry associations and commercial
organisations to ask what they would wish to see in our research
programme, our aim to attract co-funding from these bodies. We have
already identified four key areas for research: timber frame for
housing/construction; structural - engineered timber and components;
non-structural uses of timber in construction and the timber supply

Andrew is enthusiastic about the direction timber is travelling in as a
construction material. He finished by saying, "TRADA will continue to
extend the boundaries of what is possible in timber.  We have
recognised what we are good at and aim to do it well, by taking the
lead in supporting timber and wood-based products with first-class
technical information."

Everything you always wanted to know about TRADA and TTL Chiltern can be found by visiting: