Plymouth University, Plymouth

Type and size of project

Stewart Milne Timber Systems helped  achieved BREEAM Excellent status for an £8.5m bespoke medical student residential accommodation project in Truro.

Key Facts

In February 2011, work started on Plymouth University’s first on-campus combined student and medical staff accommodation at the Knowledge Spa, Royal Cornwall Hospital. The bespoke £8.5 million sustainable development will benefit Cornwall’s future doctors, dentists and other frontline health professionals at the county’s premier health education hub.

With Plymouth University’s awardwinning reputation for sustainability, sustainable building was fundamental to the project, and a key aim was to achieve Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) Excellent status.

The 232 bed development comprises seven blocks of four storey units, arranged as a series of self contained four and five bedroom flats, which feature modern facilities. Designed by Burwell Deakins, the development was driven by the desire to avoid an institutional feel or appearance. The blocks are arranged informally around a central landscaped area, with materials such as timber frame, Siberian Larch rain screen cladding and a low pitched standing seam zinc roof selected to complement the woodland surroundings and to create an entity distinct from that of the hospital.

Well experienced in completing large scale developments to meet BREEAM Excellent and Outstanding levels, Stewart Milne Timber Systems was selected to provide the timber build system. Working with main contractor BAM Construction, Stewart Milne Timber Systems used a fabric-first approach in order to meet the required U-value, by providing a semi closed pre-insulated panel system.

Timber frame was ideal for this sustainable project due to its environmental credentials and energyefficient precision build. Timber is naturally renewable and reduces the embodied carbon dioxide of a building by up to six times when used instead of more energy intensive materials such as masonry. For every cubic metre of wood used instead of other building materials, 0.8 of a tonne of CO² is saved from the atmosphere.

Along with the environmental credentials inherent when building with this natural material, timber frame also makes it easy to achieve a high performance building fabric by maximising thermal performance and minimising air leakage. This ‘fabric first’ approach is a low risk, costeffective way to achieve higher levels of BREEAM.”

Due to the level of offsite construction employed with timber frame, it also reduces waste, and dramatically reduces build times compared to other materials.

Timber frame projects were relatively new to this division of BAM, so partnership was crucial. We worked closely with the team from an early stage, engaging with the design team from the start and were in continuous dialogue with BAM to ensure a final design in line with the overall programme timetable. We believe that this is time well spent and ensures that the project runs smoothly thereafter.

With speed of build a vital aspect of the project, Stewart Milne Timber Systems utilised offsite construction to achieve the necessary requirements, allowing the timber kit for all seven blocks to be completed in just 16 weeks.

The pre-insulated panel build system and a pre-fabricated cassette floor helped to meet the tight build programme. Stewart Milne Timber Systems also fitted an acoustic floor system and the stairs for the project, which streamlined the supply chain process and helped to further speed up the process for the client.

For developers, it is imperative student accommodation projects are delivered on schedule because missing term deadlines could have major implications. Speed of build is essential and due to offsite construction, timber frame is one of the best materials for delivering large scale projects fast and effectively.

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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