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Reclaimed Timber: The Natural Choice for Sustainable Construction

The built environment supply chain is changing its throw-away culture as demand for reclaimed and reusable building materials continues to grow.

Across the UK, civil and marine engineers, landscape architects and manufacturers of public realm furniture are amongst the pioneers helping to transition the sector from the traditional linear economy (take, make, then waste) to a virtuous circular economy (use less, use for longer, use again).

Examples of this shift in mindset can be seen across the industry.  The RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) Sustainability Strategy, aims to reduce the use of virgin materials, in particular timber (which must be FSC certified), in favour of recycled and environmentally friendly alternatives. The Building with Nature Standards Framework advocates for a low carbon approach to design and construction. And the Institute of Civil Engineers is helping its members to shift their mindset to low carbon design.

Are you interested in seeing and learning more about the use of reclaimed timber as a sustainable building material of choice?

Take a tour of five sustainable built environment projects that have utilised Ashwells FSC reclaimed timber; from beach front defences to public realm furniture.

1. Back to Nature Garden, RHS Wisley, London

Responsible landscape architects and garden designers choose reclaimed FSC® certified hardwood because they want to increase sustainable design best practice. A shining example is the award-winning Back to Nature Garden (pictured below), designed by Davies White Landscapes Architects in collaboration with Princess of Wales.

The garden – first displayed at RHS Chelsea 2019 and now permanently housed at RHS Wisley – features a winding wooden walkway built using durable FSC® certified Keruing tropical timbers, which originated from South-East Asia and was reclaimed from the pier at Southend on Sea.

2. Southend on Sea, Essex 

Ashwells works with Southend-on-Sea City Council to keep the Pier and marine structures in tip-top condition. Here’s a roundup of our recent collaboration projects:

  • Ashwells sourced and supplied 6m lengths of FSC certified Greenheart to be installed as structural reinforcements as part of the pier’s £10.5m restoration project.
  • Ashwells supplied FSC certified reclaimed Balau timber to be installed as cladding on the Pier’s new public toilet block.
  • Ashwells reclaimed degraded Keruing timber from the pier’s structure before re-milling and supplying for use in the award-winning Back to Nature Garden at RHS Chelsea, co-designed by Andrée Davies and Adam White, in collaboration with HRH the Duchess of Cambridge (now the Duchess of Cornwall and the Princess of Wales).
  • Coastal defences for new sea groynes, reclaimed from Channel Marker Piles in Southampton Harbour, and the groyne boards were cut from fender timbers from Portsmouth docks.

Catch Ashwells Timber, Managing Director, Janine Davies-Tutt on Great British Landmark Fixers talking about the regeneration of Southend Pier, click here.

3. Blossom Garden, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, East London

In this poignant project, Ashwells supplied FSC certified timber, reclaimed from across London, to be repurposed into beautiful, sustainable walkways and benches. It was with immense pride that we joined the team to help bring this beautiful Davies White / Edible Bus Stop garden to life.

  • Greenheart Benches & Walkway Bands: Reclaimed from Duke Shore Wharf in London for Balfour Beatty and Diveco.
  • Ekki Benches: Reclaimed from Marwood Hire, Barking in East London.
  • Jarrah Benches: Reclaimed from the Olympic Park in 2011 for Bam Nuttall.

4. The Longest Bench, Little Hampton Beach, New Hampshire

This bench is situated on Little Hampton beach. It is part of the ‘cultural and creative regeneration programme,’ sponsored by Gordon Roddick as a tribute to his wife, Anita Roddick (founder of the Body Shop which is based in the town).

Thousands of hardwood bars, which we reclaimed from sea groynes and Littlehampton East Pier, take centre stage in this creative public realm piece.

5. Furnitubes Fordham Bench, Landscape Institute, Tottenham Court Road, London

As the landscape and construction sector continues to make progress on sustainability, the collaboration with Furnitubes sets a new standard in eco-friendly street furniture design and manufacturing. These benches are the future of street design and made from FSC certified reclaimed Greenheart.

The bench prototype can be viewed at the London Institute, London

To view the full Ashwells portfolio, click here.

Inspired by what you have seen? Explore reclaimed timber some more…

Recently Ashwells collaborated with construction leaders Morgan Sindall, supporting with CPD (Continuous Professional Development) knowledge, and learning within their materials selection ‘Best Practice Guide.’

Find out how you can include reclaimed timber in sustainable design projects in our downloadable guide, click here.