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Waugh: 'We need UK repeat of Obama’s timber towers contest'

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Andrew Waugh has called on the British government to launch its own version of the White House’s timber towers design contest

The Waugh Thistleton Architects founder – who will judge the high-profile design contest in Washington DC in January – said a UK version of the project could boost timber construction at home.

He said: ‘The UK government needs to get behind this initiative. At the moment we have something like 350 heavy engineered timber buildings which are under the radar.

‘In many ways we are world leaders but it is not celebrated in the same way as it is around the world. So if we could do something similar to the US contest it would be amazing and it would kick start our own timber industry too.’

Open only to US-based architects and designers, the US Department of Agriculture-backed competition seeks ‘alternative approaches to designing and building taller wood structures.’

The contest – which requires schemes to be at least 24.4 metres high – was launched earlier this month as part of US president Barack Obama’s pledge to mitigate climate change.

According to the contest brief, increased timber construction could create thousands of new jobs in the US and have the same effect as taking more than 2 million cars off the road for one year.

Waugh – who completed the UK’s tallest timber-framed apartment building, the nine-storey Stadthaus in 2009 (pictured) – was invited to judge the prestigious contest after lecturing in the US for more than a decade.

Comparing the two countries’ approaches to architecture, he said: ‘Architects in the US take sustainability very seriously. They are not as obsessed with the twentieth century aesthetic approach as we are here where sustainability has a hair shirt image.’

He continued: ‘It’s a big country and they take far more notice of global warming and climate change than we do in the UK where we just get the tail end of some tropical storms. The catastrophic weather events in the US have been far more effective in raising awareness.’

A £1.25 million prize fund will be shared between the winners to cover the cost of converting a scheme which would have been traditionally built into one which will use timber.

The deadline for entries is 8 December.




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