Research Highlights Plants For Construction

By Jim Kelsey

A RESEARCH programme to discover and exploit various plant fibres to produce composite materials for the construction industry has been launched by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) in partnership with the University of Wales. The three-year project costing six million pounds sterling also includes 13 industrial partners who are financing the research.

BRE's input will be led by Dr Peter Bonfield, programme manager of the newly-formed Centre for Timber Technology and Construction. His job will be to identify and assess the manufacture of candidate plant-fibre composites with high potential for commercial success in construction. The work will draw on BRE's extensive expertise in this field, use its unique research and testing facilities and exploit its close links with the construction industry.

BRE - one of the world's leading research centres for all aspects of building and fire prevention technology - was bought by the management for 1.7 million pounds sterling in March 1997.

Under its managing director, Dr Martin Wyatt, the research laboratory has been divided into 10 centres focused on market sectors - for example, building services, timber construction and structural assessments. In addition to their own resources the centres will draw research and information services from whatever section is appropriate within the BRE organisation. A subsidiary, Breweb, specialises in the recycling of waste materials.

The reorganisation's prime aim is to provide clearer entry points to BRE's expertise for both government and industrial clients. The centres mirror recent construction policy developments, notably the emphasis on the productivity improvements required by United Kingdom industry to meet a target of reducing costs by 30 per cent and the environmental requirements of the Rio Conventions.

Tom Harvey, Building Research Establishment, Garston, Watford, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom, WD2 7JR. Telephone: +44 1923 664083. Fax: +44 1923 664083.

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