Oct 13, 2016

Why timber is the building material of the future

The world’s tallest timber tower is in construction at the University of British Columbia and it was recently topped off several months ahead of schedule. The rapid construction time is attributable to offsite construction and ample capacity, which enabled two or more floors to take shape each week.

This project is just one of a new wave of projects that push boundaries due to the advantageous qualities of timber frame. More and more contractors are making timber their material of choice, and here are four reasons why it is fit for the future:

Timber is renewable and reliable

In an industry susceptible to material shortages, building with timber guarantees a steady supply of stock. Why? Because our suppliers, the Forest Stewardship Council and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes, actually plant more trees than they use. Whereas masonry projects are vulnerable to brick and block shortages, timber allows projects to run on schedule and hit build targets consistently. Our strong relationships with foresters mean that there is always an ample supply of timber stored at our factories, ready to use. A sustainable supply chain ensures we always have the capacity to take on new projects.

Unrivalled production capacity

The timber market is experiencing significant demand from medium and large-scale housebuilders as timber frame is increasingly seen as the build method of choice. Luckily, our factories in Witney and Aberdeen can easily meet growing demand. Although we can supply up to 12,000 units of high quality timber systems per year, we actually have raw material capacity to produce the timber for 500,000 houses. That is more than double the Government’s target of 200,000 new homes per year. One of our mills in Scandinavia produces 154m² of timber per hour and we have ten in our supply chain, so raw material or factory capacity is never an obstacle. Our facilities can produce 141,000m² of floor cassettes, equivalent to 7,159 Wembley football pitches plus a house only takes 60 minutes on average to assemble in our automated factory. With production easily overtaking UK demand, timber is the natural choice for forward-thinking housebuilders.

Carbon capturing system

The construction industry is responsible for a large output of carbon dioxide, however timber is a natural carbon sink. During a tree’s lifetime, carbon dioxide is absorbed and stored in its trunk long after it has been transformed into a timber system. For every cubic metre of wood used in construction, 0.9 of a tonne of carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere. Additionally, certified sustainable forestry ensures that each tree harvested is replaced by one or more, making it one of the most energy efficient, low carbon solutions around. Planting policies ensure no parts of trees are wasted plus they are easily recyclable, offering significant whole life benefits. Since the timber industry proactively plants forests, it holds the solution to a lower carbon future.

Lower embodied energy

Timber is unique in that it offers the lowest embodied energy of any mainstream building material. This means that the energy used during processes such as factory assembly and site installation is minimal. Lower embodied energy gives it an advantage over materials like steel, aluminium, concrete or plastics that require large amounts of energy to produce. Whereas a typical three bedroom house will have a 20-tonne carbon dioxide footprint, using timber can reduce this output by three tonnes. By making timber your construction material of choice, you can greatly reduce your carbon footprint. For many contractors, this is a key benefit of timber systems as building regulations adapt to environmental changes.  

Achieve a BREEAM rating

Timber is the perfect material to use in order to gain a BREAAM rating for your project. BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) is a sustainability classification given to buildings which have been scientifically assessed for a number of categories. Buildings are rated on a scale of Pass to Outstanding on aspects such as energy and water use, pollution, materials and waste. These benchmarks drive a commitment to sustainability in the built environment and the timber supply chain has some of the most impressive sustainability credentials of any product available. As well as being renewable, performance standards can be incorporated during offsite manufacturing. This enables buildings to meet sustainability regulations such as thermal performance and air tightness (the amount of controlled ventilation through gaps). Wood has the best thermal insulation of any mainstream building material, giving it the potential to reduce capital expenditure on add-ons such as central heating.

If you want to know how timber can prepare your project for the future, get in touch.

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

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