Essex University

Type and size of project

Student accommodation is a growing area for Stewart Milne Timber Systems. Following successful projects at the University of Bradford and the University of Plymouth, which respectively achieved BREEAM Outstanding and Excellent status, Stewart Milne Timber Systems was tasked with another project by the University of Essex.

The university has had a lot of recent success, resulting in a record number of students gaining places at Essex. Keen to ensure students get the most out of their time in higher education, the university has made a commitment to providing high quality on-campus accommodation for first year and overseas students.

In November 2012, Stewart Milne Timber Systems began work on a new £65 million student accommodation project for the University of Essex at its Colchester campus.

Designed to BREEAM Excellent standard by Lewis Hickey Architects, the site comprises of 228 bedrooms across 19 four-storey townhouses. Stewart Milne Timber Systems was selected for the timber frame contract, which is part of a wider project known as ‘The Meadows’, part of the University’s Knowledge Gateway site.

Key Facts

Keen for high-quality, simple and fast to build, energy efficient and cost effective student accommodation, the university placed an emphasis on using innovative building materials and systems. Timber was a natural fit for this as the lowest carbon embodied commercially available build system around. It is a well known fact that timber can reduce the embodied carbon dioxide of a building by up to six times compared to other materials, such as masonry.

By adopting a fabric first approach in parts over the course of the build programme, Stewart Milne Timber Systems supplied and erected Sigma II pre-insulated closed panel build system which achieved a U-Value of just 0.23 W/m2K, representing a low level of heat loss and maximising energy efficiency in the process. Additionally, the project achieved Y-Values between 0.05 and 0.06 as well as an air tightness of three.

For student accommodation projects, speed of build is an important factor, and it was crucial to the university that the accommodation was built in time for students arriving for the new academic year. Stewart Milne Timber Systems delivered 19 four-storey units in only 11 weeks, significantly quicker than projects delivered with concrete or steel frame systems.

The timber frame was erected using a mobile crane, with pre-fabricated bathroom pods pre-assembled floor cassettes simultaneously loaded into place which helped maximise productivity and kept waste to a minimum. In addition, Stewart Milne Timber Systems manufactured, supplied and fitted fire retardant, class O treated stair flights as the building was erected.

With tight budgets a perennial feature of the higher education landscape, it’s important to be able to demonstrate that you can deliver excellent energy efficiency and sustainability credentials without impacting on the cost of projects. Stewart Milne Timber Systems’ work with the University of Essex demonstrates well that by adopting the Sigma II Build System, and by taking a fabric first approach, it’s possible to have one without impacting on the other.

Homes For Scotland Home Builders Federation National House-Building Council Royal Institute of British Architects Structural Timber Association Timber Research and Development Association Constructionline British Board of Agrement Wood Campus Build Off Site Building Research Establishment WOOD FOR GOOD

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