Jul 08, 2016

Eco Homes and Sustainability

Alex Goodfellow, Group Managing Director at Stewart Milne Timber Systems and a main board director of the Stewart Milne Group, uses over 30 years’ experience in house building to talk about why offsite construction and timber systems hold the key to unlocking sustainability.

The built environment is one of the UK’s largest sources of emissions, so it’s crucial to ensure that carbon reduction and sustainability are at the heart of our decision making when selecting the build fabric for new homes.

As demand increases in the UK for more high quality homes, during a time when there’s a skills shortage and building regulations are changing to demand higher standards of energy performance, it’s crucial that housebuilders have cost effective, readily available and straightforward construction methods in place to meet those regulations, all while retaining profitability and customer satisfaction. 

Now is the time to look at proven, available and cost-effective build systems which can deliver a low carbon, low waste, sustainable housebuilding material. This, alongside using an offsite construction build method, can produce high quality homes in a high volume manner across the UK.

According to figures from The National House Building Council (NHBC), over 156,000 new homes were registered in 2015, and with further increases in 2016, it is suggested that this number will exceed 200,000. The targets are encouraging, and the number of houses delivered in 2015 was the highest for some time. However, many experts believe we need go further and build a quarter of a million homes per year to alleviate the UK’s perennial housing shortage – a fact underlined by the Governments 2020 target of a million new homes.

Clearly, something needs to be done to escalate the speed at which we’re delivering houses. But, the vision to build a higher volume of homes with sustainability at the core is vital. This must be achieved all while maintaining quality, minimising cost and protecting profit.

This is where timber frame construction really comes to the fore. It gives housebuilders the opportunity to use a tried and tested, fabric-first approach to these challenges as opposed to introducing un-proven technologies and systems. Timber frame construction is the simplest, quickest and most cost-effective solution for housebuilding and utilises a low-carbon, sustainable and readily available material to help produce high quality homes at a high capacity.  

Housebuilders that build in timber frame can build efficiently and cost effectively while remaining sustainable. With timber systems, a typical four bedroom house can be erected in six to nine weeks, while with other build methods it can take up to 24 weeks. With offsite construction, there is less on-site resource required and less waste, as 100% of the leftover material is recycled.

Using timber frame construction, a home can be designed as one integrated system. This means energy efficiency is locked in its core, reducing the need for other micro renewables or for new and un-tried ‘bolt-on’ technologies to be added to enforce energy efficiency. It's a game-changer for the industry that is working to increase volume at a time when there is a skills shortage, material shortages and capacity constraints.

Offsite timber systems provide a solution to the skills shortage, offers guaranteed quality products, cost efficiencies and no capacity restraints. It should be the material and method of choice for a sustainable build. It's worth serious consideration.

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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