The largest UK-grown glulam structure (we think)
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In 2019, Tom Bedford from UK Hardwoods had the idea to build a woodshed from glulam and got in touch with us to design and manufacture the frame.

But this was not to be just any shed. This shed ended up being the largest UK grown glulam structure (we think). What’s more, the whole project took place within a 27-mile radius which included the felling and sawing of the timber, the design, manufacture and install.

On top of that from the idea conception to the build being complete only took one year almost to the day. The whole build only took four days!

We chatted to Tom about his business and the project…

Can you tell us about UK Hardwoods?

UK Hardwoods is a timber company based in South Molton, North Devon. We predominantly make hardwood flooring, specialising in wide board Oak and Ash. The company has been going since 1979. I’m the second generation and I run it with my fiancee, Polly. We buy in UK grown trees, saw them, air dry timber and kiln it before crafting it into our flooring.

How did the ‘big shed’ project with Buckland Timber come about?

We’ve grown quite a lot in the 12 years I’ve been running the business so we needed more space. It makes everything much more efficient because it takes less time to get to things and you can keep track of stock levels easily. There are economies of scale from going large – half-size wouldn’t be half the cost.

We already had a steel-framed, spray foam insulated, climate-controlled shed for storing dry timber and we needed another one. Polly helped secure us a European grant for a larger, new shed, but this time, we wanted to build in a more environmentally friendly way.

At the same time, my brother who owns a woodland in Barnstaple had an HPSN order to fell the Larch trees. The timber was not fully mature and was too small for milling (about 10 inches across) so we thought we could try and use it for glulam.

It gave me the idea that it would be lovely to make a timber shed, not a metal shed.

So how big is the shed?

The site extends to 18 metres wide x 37.5 metres long and it’s a bit taller than 5.5 metres.

What is it made from?

It’s made from Larch glulam posts and a principal rafter over the top. The rest was made with pre-fab panels which had sheep’s wool insulation, Larch exterior cladding and Larch interior wooden boarding. We then craned them into position – this sped up the build time.

It’s insulated with Thermafleece sheep’s wool and heated from waste woodchip. Our ethos as a company is built on sustainability. The entire life cycle of the building is important, how it’s built, how it functions, even its potential deconstruction in the years to come has been considered.

How did you go about designing it?

We knew the size it was going to be from our EU Grant funding application. Buckland designed the structure of the frame. We insisted on it being clear span with no central posts as that would destroy the utility of the building.

Tom Bedford: “It’s insulated with Thermafleece sheep’s wool and heated from waste woodchip. Our ethos as a company is built on sustainability. The entire life cycle of the building is important, how it’s built, how it functions, even its potential deconstruction in the years to come has been considered.”

Who else was involved?

We also worked with Wedgewood Buildings based in East Anstey. They made a lot of the panels and helped with the build. Thermafleece provided the sheep’s wool insulation and Pluss based in Barnstaple helped with some of the plank cutting.

What was the most challenging aspect? 

Probably the designing of it and making sure all the panels fitted together and the build ran smoothly. That gave me the most sleepless nights. Amazingly it worked perfectly when we built it.  

How long did the whole project take? 

One year nearly to the day from the initial chat with my brother to completion. This included all the thought and prep (of which there was a lot), the felling, milling, sawing, dry and supply to Buckland and Wedgewood Buildings and then getting the structure and panels back and the build. The build only took four days total and we did everything on site.

What’s next for you and what’s next with Buckland Timber? 

They’ve just made a wedding marquee structure for us. We bought some land with lovely views and hope to start holding weddings there (the first being our own!) when things start back up again. 

And just this morning I sent through some new drawings from Polly. We’re building our own agricultural building on our land and the option to do so in a sustainable locally grown material seems too good an opportunity to waste.