Jun 01, 2016

Sustainability and the Green Agenda

Alex Goodfellow, Group Managing Director at Stewart Milne Timber Systems, talks about why offsite construction and timber systems are key when building sustainable homes.

Why should housebuilders consider using timber frame systems in terms of sustainability?

Taking a Fabric first approach to sustainability is the cost effective way to meet sustainability standards.

The built environment is one of the UK’s largest sources of emissions, so it’s crucial to ensure sustainability is at the heart of both the build process and the fabric itself when building new homes. As demand increases in the UK for more homes and building regulations change, it’s crucial that house builders have cost effective and straightforward methods in place to ensure profitability and customer satisfaction.  There are robust build systems and processes which can help manufacture sustainability into the core of a home.  

By using fabric first timber systems, which are ready-made carbon stores, energy-efficient buildings can be erected both quickly and cost-effectively. Designing a home as one integrated system can significantly reduce the need for other mirco renewables which may be untested or costly and may not be desired by buyers.

Combining fabric first and timber systems offsite construction is an effective way of ensuring high energy performance, as the timber systems are precision engineered to achieve the highest levels of sustainability. Manufacturing offsite lowers the waste that can occur on site, and there are fewer transportation requirements, reducing overall pollution from the built environment.

To what extent are housebuilders still interested in sustainability given the government’s u-turn on zero carbon homes?

It’s a clear direction of travel for many house builders and we are working closely with our clients to value engineer systems that will provide the performance standards required cost effectively.  The housebuilding industry was, and still is, invested heavily in the delivery of energy-efficient homes. Britain needs more homes, and we have global ecological commitments which aren’t going to change. What is important is that changes to homes are taken with the consumer in mind along with sustainability targets and cost.

Do you think this u-turn was a step back for the housebuilder sector or a positive move? Why?

I think the immediate focus is on building more homes and supporting the house building sector in building volume more easily was a welcomed decision.  The broader imperative to cut the carbon output of the housebuilding sector hasn’t changed and isn’t likely to change.  Most housebuilders understand how house building needs to evolve towards ever-more sustainable models and many are already well on that journey.

What do you think the next innovation in building systems will be?

We have an extensive R&D programme,  working in collaboration with other companies in the construction and housebuilding sectors to innovate and think about how we can contribute to a more efficient, sustainable, high-quality and cost-effective industry.  We’ve recently opened a new training centre to enable house builders and contractors to see how timber systems operates and help them to integrate their follow on trades with ease.

Our last product innovation was our award-winning Sigma II build system which has been a very sought after product for all kinds of projects from BREAAM excellence student accommodation to high performance residential homes

We have a few exciting things in the pipeline but I don’t want to lift the lid on those just yet!

What are the most important things for housebuilders to consider when designing and specifying an energy efficient home?

Firstly get us involved. The earlier we can participate in a project, the more we can value engineer and clients get the real benefits of timber frame.  That leads you to think about the building fabric, the manufacturing process, the on-site build programme – all of these things contribute to the energy efficiency picture as a whole. Timber systems are the most energy efficient building material available, and allow performance standards to be designed in from day one. Precision factory engineering and offsite construction mean the architect’s plans can be accurately delivered, and once onsite the building envelope can be erected quickly with reduced transport, waste and equipment. Combined, that allowed housebuilders to meet very tight energy efficiency standards, and deliver high-quality homes that people want to buy.


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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