Research into innovative eco-friendly timber and composites for buildings: COST action

February 22, 2002

Brussels, 21 February 2002

European Cooperation in the field of Scientific and Technical Research - COST Secretariat. Draft Memorandum of Understanding for the implementation of a European Concerted Research Action designated as COST Action E29 "Innovative Timber and Composite Elements/Components for Buildings. Brussels, 19 February 2002 (document COST 213/02). Full text

Innovative Timber and Composite Elements/Components for Buildings

The Signatories to this Memorandum of Understanding, declaring their common intention to participate in the concerted Action referred to above and described in the Technical Annex to the Memorandum, have reached the following understanding:

1. The Action will be carried out in accordance with the provisions of document COST 400/01 "Rules and Procedures for Implementing COST Actions", the contents of which are fully known to the signatories.

2. The main objective of this Action is to improve manufacturing, design, construction and maintenance of innovative timber as well as composite elements and components for use in the construction of buildings.

3. The economic dimension of the activities carried out under the Action has been estimated, on the basis of information available during the planning of the Action, at Euro 70 million at 2001 prices.

4. The Memorandum of Understanding will take effect on being signed by at least five signatories.

5. The Memorandum of Understanding will remain in force for a period of four years, calculated from the date of the first meeting of the Management Committee, unless the duration of the Action is modified according to the provisions of Chapter 6 of the document referred to in Point 1 above.

TECHNICAL ANNEX: Innovative Timber and Composite Elements/Components for Buildings (COST E29)


There is increasing commercial interest in requirements for eco-friendly products both in manufacture and construction of elements and components used in buildings. The "green audit" of buildings in particular is the subject of increased scrutiny and has led to recent advances in construction technology and building services. The use of timber and composite elements for components in construction of buildings greatly improves their performance and ensures increasing sustainability in the construction sector. Most commercial buildings currently incorporate very little timber in their construction, due to lack of adequate knowledge, research and development, which are obstacles for improvement in performance and sustainability.

Partly in recognition of their 'green credentials', there is an increasing use of timber and composite elements/components in residential and commercial buildings. These elements and components and their design concepts are being widely accepted as innovative construction techniques by the construction industry.

Although structural timber has a much greater strength to weight ration than both steel and concrete, design philosophies for long-span beams, floors and roofs have not progressed much beyond the traditional beam and slab element designs. There is a definite need for co-ordination of existing information and new research and the performance of these type of composite structural systems is already the topic of much interest throughout Europe. Commercial advantages have been identified particularly for renovation, change of use and new build housing and commercial markets. This Action is to harness and co-ordinate on the potential of timber and composite elements and components. This Action encompasses all the key aspects of innovative timber and composite elements and components with special emphasis on their manufacture.

In the last decade numerous national projects, reinforced by European co-operation, have started to provide a better knowledge base for timber and composite elements and components. This Action will build on the achievements of the following completed Actions as well as co-operate closely with the relevant international organisations:

E5 Timber Frame systems (completed). In this Action emphasis was placed on multi-storey timber frame system performance, with the aim of demonstrating that timber can be used as a competitive structural material for multi-storey buildings in European countries. Although completed, the outcomes of this Action can be applied to Action E29. The majority of work carried out in E5 related to domestic housing using timber whereas E29 focuses on commercial and industrial building with composite materials used for their construction with special emphasis on manufacturing, design and construction.

E8 Mechanical Performance (completed). The field of this Action consisted of basic level material science on the mechanical behaviour of wood, with the objective of demonstrating that wood is a modern engineering material. Much of the research undertaken within COST Action E8 can be utilised in the present programme. For example, many of the results on material properties can be used as input data for the design of timber and composite materials. A significant topic linked to both Actions concerns the long-term strength of wood. In COST Action E8, material models have been developed to account for the degradation of strength under load and moisture changes. Such models will be utilised in COST E29.

E9 Life cycle analysis (completed). This Action has been concerned with the life cycle analysis and includes areas such as production, Land use, end of life and methodology. It has been a Cross-Sectoral Action. The outcomes of COST Action E9 will be relevant to Action E29 for the life cycle analysis of all the materials and components being addressed.

E10 Wood properties for industrial use (completed). This is another Cross Sectoral Action which has brought together researchers and industry from the forestry, wood and paper sectors to develop and exchange information and ideas on how to improve the efficiency of the forestry-wood-paper chain. Wood chain studies carried out by this Action can be utilised for Action E29.

E13 Wood adhesion and glued products (expiring September 2002). This Action is covering adhesives, bonded joints and gluing which are highly relevant to the composite elements and components of Action E29.

E24 Reliability-based design. This is a recent COST Action whose objective is to extend established statistical methods and structural mechanics models to take into account the specific properties of wood, wood based materials and joints, making it possible to analyse the reliability of timber structures and structural systems and thus improve the competitiveness of timber structures and the economy of the forest sector. This Action will contribute towards more economical design of innovative and composite elements and components at their early stages of innovation.

In the normative areas the Action will closely co-operate in particular with the Working Group for Timber Structures of the International Council for Research and Innovation in Building and Construction (CIB W18) mainly supporting research for Eurocode 5, the ISO Technical Committee for Timber Structures (ISO TC165) as well as the International Association for Building Materials and Structures (RILEM). The co-operation with these committees will also be of great importance for this Action as their experience and knowledge will be invaluable towards achieving the goals of this Action. Equally the information gathered in this Action will also be fed through these committees (where relevant) for their consideration in the European and International standards.

Existing European co-operation in the areas mentioned above provides a robust basis for the implementation of this Action. International co-operation with leading countries in this field (North America, Australia and New Zealand) will also be explored.

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