EATTA – Who Teaches the Teacher? Take two…
25th November 2019

EATTA – Who Teaches the Teacher? Take two…

Chris James, East Anglian Timber Trade Association (EATTA) chairman, knew what he was looking for when he started planning the second ‘Who Teaches the Teacher?’ trip. With a willing collaborator in Tabitha, TTF’s new Regional and University Engagement Manager, who engages teachers thirsty for first-hand knowledge – he had to find the right business to host the group of lecturers, with a willingness to share their forestry, mill and production practices. Ian Drane of VIDA Wood UK Ltd stepped forward keen to show how Vida AB operate in Sweden – and they could also throw in a visit to their house building factory too, if that might be of interest!

So in early September, dodging annual holidays, term time, airstrikes and job changes – Chris, Ian and Tabitha departed for Sweden with four lecturers from the EATTA region: Aftab Jalia, Architecture – Cambridge University; Rob Foster, Engineering – Cambridge University; Richard Longstaff, Architectural Technology – Anglia Ruskin; Terry Connolly, Carpentry – Bedford College. 

The packed two day itinerary included: A tree nursery – could these 75mm high Norway spruce (Picea abies) seedlings really produce trees of 45m in height with a butt diameter of up to 1m in 80 years – with just sunlight and water?; Forestry and modern harvesting – a chance to sit in a harvester cab and see first-hand how man and machine work together to fell trees to order, cutting to species, dimension and length; Vislanda Mill – producing 300,000m3 of long length red and whitewood pa with a timber yield of up to 70% from each log thanks to computer 3D scanning; Alvesta Mill – producing 180,000m3 of short length red and whitewood pa; Vida Building – producing flat pack and modular buildings up to Passivhaus standards – the fully finished panels for Rainham Passive Close, Essex came from here; Vida’s new head offices – CLT structure, clad with OrganoWood and roofed with ThermoWood. Accompanied throughout by Kristina Kuhner (Office manager customer service) and Anders Svensson (Quality Control Manager of Vida), who have both risen through the ranks in their 25 plus years with the company, we had a real sense of a caring and convivial company that appreciated its workforce, no mean feat considering its size! 

The lecturers came from architectural, architectural technology, carpentry and engineering disciplines “The aim is for each lecturer to enliven students’ and colleagues’ interest in the timber business and in timber as a sustainable building material,” says EATTA Chairman Chris James of Nason Davis. 

Chris James adds

“Through such visits we can get our industry’s message across directly to the specifiers and architects of the future. These four lecturers alone enable us to reach over 600 students, broadening their knowledge and increasing enthusiasm for wood amongst those teaching engineering and architecture plus updating our future carpenters’ knowledge. Over five years we could potentially see 1500 new specifiers favouring timber and wood products as a result of this initiative,” 

Ian Drane said “The Vida Group were delighted to host this most successful and enjoyable visit. The four university lecturers returned to the UK with a greater appreciation of the Swedish sawmilling industry and it’s sustainability, keen to share this knowledge with their students.” 

Tabitha Binding commented We are indebted to Chris, EATTA, Ian and Vida who have helped further the knowledge of our future professionals across multiple disciplines through ‘Who Teach the Teachers?’ This hands-on approach pays dividends – watching this years’ cohort of lecturers begin to fully understand the care, passion and collaboration that it takes to plant a seed, grow a tree and manage it for 80 years before harvesting, milling, grading and drying a fully sustainable construction materialreinforces my belief that you cannot comprehend the scale, sophistication and relevance of forestry and timber production to our current and future construction requirements by just reading about it – you need to see it. Students will directly benefit from the knowledge that these lecturers have gained.