Apr 22, 2014

Why fabric first is the future of housebuilding

In our inaugural blog, group managing director of Stewart Milne Timber Systems Alex Goodfellow discusses the importance of sustainability in housebuilding.

Welcome to our new website! It’s the first step in what looks like an exciting year for Stewart Milne Timber Systems. So far we’ve announced a number of new business wins and the appointment of John Cain to our North West team, both of which point to the upward trajectory of our business and our focus on future success.

If 2013 was considered an auspicious year for the construction industry, then let this be one of even further growth. In 2014 the upwards trend is continuing and it seems that many areas of the industry – especially housebuilding – are firmly on the road to recovery.

The construction sector grew for eight months in a row in 2013, reaching a 75 month high in November according to some indicators. Meanwhile figures from the NHBC show registration of new homes in London was the highest since records began over 26 years ago and across the UK it rose 27.9% compared with 2012.

But as we look to get started on new projects, it’s worth looking at how we can build quickly, cost-effectively and sustainably in the future.  

Whether we’re talking about a development consisting of a handful of single storey homes or a large regeneration scheme with hundreds of units, it almost goes without saying that all newly built houses should tick all three of these boxes.

But there are also important economic reasons for developing more sustainable housing stock. Not only does this allow housebuilders to offer their customers better value, but it cuts costs over the length of a project.

Homes that are assembled using a fabric first approach are more cost-effective to maintain and eliminate the need for additional “bolt-on” devices to meet energy standards. What’s more, timber has the lowest embodied carbon of any commercially available material and can deliver an overall energy reduction of up to 33%.

In many cases, and particularly in combination with our timber systems, fabric first buildings are also more cost-effective to construct, with many of the materials coming pre-manufactured and ready to fit into place. Our Sigma II Build Systems range can save £45,460 over masonry on a terraced project consisting of three homes.

A fabric first approach also takes into account other elements which affect a building’s energy efficiency. U-values, air tightness and thermal bridging are three important factors in reducing a building’s impact on the environment and ensuring that its ongoing energy efficiency will remain high. Fabric first approach, when using timber, can achieve exceptionally high standards in all three of these measurements.

The future of construction undoubtedly has to take cost and sustainability into consideration. Using a fabric first approach can reduce the lifetime cost of a building, making it cheaper to maintain without the need for expensive upgrades or ongoing requirements for occupants to adapt their habits to improve or maintain its energy efficiency.

As standards continue to rise, that’ll only become more important in the future.

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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