Fabric first building

The first priority of low cost, sustainable building


A Fabric First approach is the most cost effective and efficient way to meet performance standards.

  • No micro renewables
  • Fit and forget approach
  • Built in for life with no on-going maintenance
  • Reduced cost
  • High standards of energy efficiency without the need to change occupants habits
  • Designed, manufactured, and erected on site in a matter of weeks
  • Improved return on investment with protected cash flow

We place significant emphasis on R&D investment to develop not just energy and cost efficient products, but also ensure that they are used in the most energy and cost efficient manner.

One of the most effective ways to maximise energy efficiency and control build costs is to adopt a fabric first approach. This means incorporating energy efficiency into the build envelope and reducing the dependency on often expensive technology ‘bolt-ons’, thus keeping costs down.

Timber has the lowest embodied carbon of any commercially available material and can deliver an overall energy reduction of up to 33 per cent. However, fabric first is not just about the material used, but the way in which it is used. Energy efficient buildings have three key dynamics that must be approached in the right way to get the best results: U-values, air tightness, and thermal bridging. Our R&D focus has enabled us to develop products with U-values as low as 0.10, air tightness down to 1.5, and thermal bridging of only 0.02. As an example, our Sigma OP external wall system has helped customers achieve up to level 5 in the Codes for Sustainable Homes. Similarly our BBA certified Sigma II Build System, which can now support up to six storeys, achieves excellent air tightness and has won a number of industry awards for its superior performance and cost effectiveness.

A residual benefit of fabric first is its ‘fit and forget’ quality. With the shifting focus towards energy performance, it’s crucial that homes are easy to run and maintain, making saving energy easy. Incorporating energy efficiency into the build envelope reduces the dependency on end consumers changing their behaviour or adapting to new technologies in order to achieve performance standards. A fabric first approach means the building will continue to achieve high standards of energy efficiency whether the inhabitant elects to use energy efficient devices or not.

Finally a fabric first approach centred on, for example, a timber build system such as the Sigma II Build System can bring about additional cost savings and increase speed of build. Owing to the offsite manufacturing process, time on site is greatly reduced which brings about a reduction in labour costs. Equally, because the entire system can be designed, manufactured, and erected on site in a matter of weeks, return on investment is realised sooner and cash flow is better protected.

The industry is under pressure to deliver improved energy efficiency and, with the market still fragile following the effects of the recession, it’s important we continue to develop new products and methods by which to achieve governmental targets. Focusing on the building material as a first priority rather than solely relying on potentially expensive energy saving technology – which may or may not be adopted by the end user – can help deliver high energy performance while keeping costs down.

Energy efficiency

The Government has set clear goals for improving heat retention and reducing CO2 emissions within newly constructed houses.

As part of the UK’s commitment to combat climate change, progressive changes are being made to the energy efficiency requirements for new build construction in a drive to reduce carbon emissions. Building Regulations changes, the timelines laid out by the Code for Sustainable Homes, together with the consultations such as the Sullivan Report and CLGs Definition of Zero Carbon, support a progressive improvement in external fabric performance and airtight construction.

Keeping ahead of these regulatory changes, our range of open and closed panel systems offer external wall solutions with U-values ranging from 0.25 to 0.15 W/m2K.
The learning from our Sigma® research is being harnessed by Stewart Milne Timber Systems to ensure that current and future build systems are developed to provide a smooth progression towards ‘Zero Carbon’.

With zero carbon homes requiring more technology than current UK homes, we are keen to understand how technologies need to be simplified to meet the expectations of consumers and ensure that the operation of the home is straightforward and practical. The experience of living in the home will provide us with vital feedback to improve the sustainable design of our homes and to consider the usability of the new technologies

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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