Timber Works
Design in the Round: the Ins and Outs of Birch plywood
17th July 2018

The Sun Rain Rooms

Design in the Round: the Ins and Outs of Birch plywood

Created as an extension to a Grade II-listed Georgian townhouse in London, the Sun Rain Rooms, designed by Tonkin Liu Architects in collaboration with local craftspeople, serve as a studio for the practice as well a part of the partners’ home.

Gathered rainwater held in a tank can flood over the curved roof to create a reflecting pool on the patio. The innovative insulated roof, made from different grades of Birch plywood, has round coffered skylights to echo the wave pattern of raindrops landing in the pool. Two grades of FSC®-certified Birch plywood were supplied by Timber Trade Federation member James Latham, to facilitate the design.

Latvian BB/BB grade, a general purpose plywood with a specified allowance for face repairs, is suitable for non-visible elements; Russian B/BB grade, with a surface suitable for clear finishing on one side, is usable for any visible face.

Birch plywood can be used for CNC machining of unusual shapes and features. As an every-day product in the design and construction sectors, Birch Plywood’s environmental contribution is often either unknown or overlooked.

Birch trees are plentiful and widespread in their range across Northern Europe, Canada and Russia, and particularly in Finland and countries bordering the Baltic Sea. There is virtually no waste from harvesting the trees. Timber is used for plywood, furniture and flooring, twigs for besoms, bark has been used in roofing and canoes, and Birch sap is still used for wine. Birch from well-managed forests also supports a myriad of wildlife. Companies like James Latham can advise specifiers on timber species from multiple perspectives.



Timber sourcing

James Latham was the first signatory to the Timber Trade Federation’s Responsible Purchasing Policy when it came into existence, and has continued at the forefront of improving its strict due diligence processes.

It is also a member of the TTF’s Forests Forever campaign. James Latham’s environmental responsibility includes its engagement with the WWF Forests Campaign: it holds the highest ‘Three Tree’ status on the WWF Forest Scorecard 2017. With its Forest Stewardship Council® and PEFC™ chain of custody certification, James Latham offers Timber you can Trust.


Projects Info

Location: The Sun Rain Rooms, Islington, London
Architect: Tonkin Liu Architects
Wood Supplier: James Latham
Main Wood Species: Birch plywood
Notes: RIBA Award 2017


[Download this project as .pdf here]