Jul 01, 2016

Timber in Construction

Alex Goodfellow, Group Managing Director at Stewart Milne Timber Systems, reveals why timber systems are best choice in construction.

Timber is natural, low in production energy, a good insulator, readily available and easy to work with. Perhaps Stewart Milne Timber Systems could give a comment in relation to these points on why building with timber should be considered?

Timber has been used for centuries as an effective method of construction and it provides many benefits for builders and developers building to today's high standards. As a natural material, it’s readily available and in constant supply. It can also ensure the highest standards of energy efficiency are locked into the core of a building. The level of flexibility in both design and construction offered by timber products is hard to beat with other methods of construction. Timber performs well as a build fabric for a variety of sectors including: housing, health, education and commercial builds.

It has many advantages, but these are only truly realised when timber is paired with offsite construction and manufactured into precision engineered timber systems. This is when timber in construction comes to the fore and displays timber production in all its glory.

Timber Frame offers a number of other benefits which would explain why timber in construction is becoming more popular. Perhaps a comment on these points?

Offsite construction method

As mentioned above there is a fundamental duo in modern building: offsite construction and timber systems. It’s this partnership that ensures that Stewart Milne Timber Systems are manufactured to the highest quality standards and can achieve client performance standards from build regulations through to BREEAM Excellence. Offsite construction guarantees quality through robust approval systems and contributes to significantly less waste on site, reduced need for site labour and lower health and safety risk.

In the current market with high housing demand and a skills shortage, many house builders are looking towards offsite construction as a way to ensure continuity on site and cost efficiencies.

Faster build times and reduced risk of delays

At our Aberdeen and Witney factories, we have the capacity to produce over 10,000 units per year. We can offer call-offs from as little as three weeks and once on site, a typical four bedroom detached home can be erected, wind protected and made watertight in as little as five days. It’s also possible to complete a project of ten blocks of terraced houses five weeks earlier than if building with masonry or other on-site solutions.

Reduction in overall costs

In any build programme there are inevitably cost pressures, but offsite construction and timber systems can significantly reduce overall project costs. Site labour is reduced as so much is manufactured offsite.  We can install windows and doors into our build systems too to save more time on site. There is less reliance on trade skills and on-site supervision and the accelerated build time provides a quicker return on capital outlay. Site prelim costs can also be reduced by up to 30%, with timber optimising profits throughout a project.

Reduction in site waste

There is a reduction in waste as timber systems are transported on site just in time for construction.  Timber waste is controlled in the factory, with 100% of the leftover material produced being recycled. This is a major benefit of using a highly renewable product for a large part of the construction process.

Timber is a sustainable building material and achieves a high BREEAM rating. How important is it that buildings have green credentials and why is timber the best choice?

Timber is the best choice when it comes to sustainability as the carbon dioxide sequestered by trees and stored in timber products is greater than the carbon emitted throughout the rest of the production supply chain for timber products. Buildings constructed with timber are actually net carbon stores rather than emitters.

In terms of how important it is to have green credentials, this varies from sector to sector. To illustrate this, green credentials and high BREEAM ratings are particularly valued in the education and health sectors.

However, building sustainably is a clear direction of travel in the construction industry as a whole and we work closely with our clients to value engineer timber systems that will provide the energy performance standards required.

Using timber systems, we can ensure sustainability is built-in during the design and manufacturing processes. Sustainability is important to us and many of our recent developments have achieved BREEAM excellent’ or ‘outstanding'.

Timber has enjoyed something of a resurgence in recent years, but is there ever a time when timber should always be selected over concrete?

Timber always has a role in any new build, given what we’ve outlined above in terms of sustainability and cost effectiveness.

What new technologies/innovations are being used?

We invest significantly in innovation, ensuring that our range of products meets client’s standards today and in the future.  At our facility in Witney, Oxfordshire, we have a Centre of Excellence and an extensive R&D programme. We work collaboratively with other companies in the industry to innovate, particularly focusing on how we can contribute to more efficient, sustainable, high-quality and cost-effective construction methods.

As a result, our last product innovation was our award-winning Sigma II build system. It’s a sought-after product for varying projects from BREAAM excellence student accommodation to high-performance residential homes. We have some exciting products on the way, but can’t reveal too much about them just yet.

Can building with timber help with the current skills shortage in the construction sector? If so, how?

Absolutely. Offsite manufacture can significantly reduce the need for site labour. Much of the factory process is automated and we work alongside skilled and experienced construction teams to erect our build systems on site, ensuring each is ready for follow on trades.

What kind of buildings has Stewart Milne Timber Systems constructed with timber? A couple of contrasting case studies would be great.

From housebuilding to hotels, schools, hospitals and student accommodation. There is fast becoming no building that can’t be constructed in timber.  A couple of different examples of our work would be in commercial builds, such as Premier Inns. We recently provided the timber systems for the six-storey, 144-bed hotel Premier Inn at Pacific Quay in Glasgow. In education, our timber systems helped Plymouth University achieve BREEAM excellent status and in housebuilding, we are involved in providing the timber systems for the UK’s first eco town in North West Bicester. Finally, another one of our big projects to date was to provide and erect the timber systems for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games Athlete’s Village.

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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