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Reclaimed wood – a new quality in construction?

A photo of a building in Norway where the developed methodology will be tested

A building in Norway where the developed methodology will be tested

Experts from Poland, Finland, Norway, Latvia, Slovenia and Spain are joining forces to reduce carbon emissions in the construction industry and cut the need for new raw materials. The Polish part of the Ti-ReX project is led by Dr Jan Pełczyński from the Faculty of Civil Engineering of the Warsaw University of Technology, and the coordinator of the entire project is Dr Katarzyna Ostapska – a representative of the Norwegian organization SINTEF and a graduate of Warsaw University of Technology.

The team plans to develop a comprehensive and reproducible methodology for assessing the condition of timber used in construction, with application in either selected construction elements or entire buildings. This is a step towards the creation of a European certification system for reclaimed wood, which will help to increase usage and thus reduce the consumption of valuable resources and the emission of harmful substances into the atmosphere.

– We want to enable widespread reuse of load-bearing and non-load-bearing wooden structural elements, in original buildings with or without the need to change configurations, as well as in other buildings – says Dr Pełczyński.

Wooden elements in buildings can have several applications, e.g. they can be load-bearing, stabilising, they can prevent the spread of fire, provide thermal and acoustic insulation, and be primarily aesthetic. Before reusing wood as a load-bearing element, its structural and fire protection properties must be verified, as sustainability requirements must not compromise safety.

– Currently, we don’t have a practical method for a comprehensive end-of-life performance assessment of a wooden product – says Dr Pełczyński.

This is where the Ti-ReX project comes in. The international team set itself five key tasks, which comprise two large groups of activities: those related to wood testing and those focused on data processing.

Ti-ReX step by step

The first task is to identify a set of non-destructive tests (NDTs) best suited for a comprehensive and effective assessment of the condition of the wood (i.e. density, stiffness, strength, fire resistance, moisture, defects, fibre direction). These can be carried out both on-site and in laboratory conditions. At the same time, a procedure for post-processing NDT data is to be developed. The goal here is clear – to achieve the highest information value and risk assessment.

– Afterwards, we will test the developed methodology on a real case study – the adaptation of a five-storey wooden office building located in Norway – explains Dr Pełczyński.

This will allow for the implementation of step four, i.e. the assessment of the circularity of wood and the development of a procedure for assessing the lifecycle of wood products with a long useful life, including the risks connected to repeated reuse and recycling.

– The final stage is to prepare documentation and guidelines for the recertification of reclaimed wood as the basis for European standardisation – explains Dr Pełczyński.

Caring for forests and forest resources

The TiREX project (“A strategy for intelligent assessment of the condition of reclaimed wood to extend the life of long-life wood products using non-destructive testing and automated data processing”) has received funding under the ForestValue2 Call 2023 competition.

ForestValue2 (HORIZON EUROPE Coordination and Support Action) is an initiative whose mission is to support research on forest management. Applications were accepted from international research consortia carrying out interdisciplinary projects aimed at acquiring the knowledge necessary to support the best possible use of forests and forest resources. Agencies from eleven countries participated in the competition, and funding for the Polish research teams is provided by the National Science Centre.