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Richard Harris by the Downland gridshell, the first double-layer timber gridshell building in the UK
Richard Harris by the Downland gridshell, the first double-layer timber gridshell building in the UK

Internal News - 11 October 2006

Local timber expert branches out into teaching at University

Structural engineer Richard Harris, from the local firm Buro Happold, has been appointed as a part-time Professor of Timber Engineering in the BRE Centre in Innovative Construction Materials, part of the Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering.

The appointment is in recognition of Harris’s unique experience working on timber structures. Professor Peter Walker, director of the research centre, said: “We are delighted to have such an experienced, international timber engineer join the team. Timber engineering is a very important area and Professor Harris’s expertise will play a vital role in the work of the centre.”

Harris began his career as a timber engineer in 1974 when he worked for Kier Ltd. It was his involvement in the design of two spectacular, landmark timber gridshells – the Workshop for the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum near Chichester, completed in 2002 making it the first double-layer timber gridshell building in the UK, and the Savill building in Windsor Great Park which opened this summer – that helped establish his reputation as a world expert in this field.

He said: “It’s a great honour to have been appointed to this post and it promises to be a fascinating and challenging time. The research work will be closely focused on innovation and should lead to more effective use of timber in construction.

As well as research, Harris will teach a lecture course to undergraduate students and will provide a focus for timber engineering expertise within the University.

“I’m also looking forward to teaching young people and I hope to pass on my enthusiasm for using timber as a structural material," he said. "The benefits - sustainability, low embodied energy, good strength:weight ratio, as well as architectural beauty – are well known but sorely under used.”

Harris joined Buro Happold in 1984 and is currently Associate Director. As well as heading his team of 20 engineers on the practice’s major timber projects, he is supervising civil engineer for Buro Happold’s Institution of Civil Engineers- accredited training scheme.