Oct 18, 2016

Four ways timber systems offer an energy efficient future for social housing

With a UK Government pledge to deliver 400,000 affordable homes by the end of the decade and huge demand for social housing, the race is on to deliver cost-effective homes to challenging energy efficiency requirements.

Figures from The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) reveal a decline in properties available for social rent, which is at its lowest level in two decades. Earlier this year The National House Building Council (NHBC) revealed that just over 150,000 affordable new homes were registered in 2015. However, commentators suggest that a further 50,000 must be built annually to meet the UK’s needs. This is underlined by figures showing that there are currently over a million people on council house waiting lists in England, further illustrating the urgent need for new housing stock.

Encouragingly, a deal for the largest-ever social housing loan of £1 billion for Britain has been signed by The European Investment Bank, aimed at helping housing associations build homes across the country. This is great news for the sector and an opportunity for the construction industry to play a key role in a vital initiative.  

While the need for new homes is acute, the Government has also outlined objectives for improving heat retention and reducing CO2 emissions, demonstrating a need for energy efficiency measures to be a central consideration during construction. Timber systems can help to future-proof social housing projects, enabling cost effective construction to exacting energy standards, combined with a faster speed of build.

Here are four reasons why they are the ideal choice:

1. Environmental assurance

By considering the material used, it is possible to incorporate energy efficiency into a home’s envelope. This is done by taking measures which consider the three key dynamics vital for effective energy efficiency: U-values, air tightness and thermal bridging. When energy saving measures are integrated into the timber system, there’s no requirement for developers to invest in energy efficiency technology such as micro-renewables. Our systems are precision-engineered to your requirements, which enable a ‘fit and forget’ approach. This means that performance-enhancing features are integrated during construction, reducing the need for retrofit energy efficiency measures.

2. Proven performance in social housing

Our BBA-certified Sigma II Build System achieves excellent air tightness. The Serpentine project in Aylesbury was a flagship affordable housing project built using this system, with an unusual design brought to life thanks to the flexibility of building with timber. The vision for the Serpentine was for a sustainable community build, which met high standards of energy efficiency. The finished project is a visually stunning development with U-Values of 0.15 W/m2K in the external walls, 0.15 W/m2K in the ceilings (pre-insulated cassettes), and 1.4 W/m2K windows, pre-fitted to the external walls.

3. Offsite construction benefits

All of our timber systems take advantage of offsite construction, which allows energy efficient measures to be incorporated during the construction process. Modern and automated factory processes and robust ISO procedures ensure the highest quality products are manufactured and transported to sites, ready to erect. Fast build programmes are made possible, since experienced teams can erect projects efficiently, ensuring a seamless handover to follow-on trades. This accelerated build time provides a quicker return on capital outlay, and site prelim expenditure can be reduced by up to 30%. Additionally, waste and transportation are minimised; 100% of leftover material can be recycled in the factory and transport is vastly reduced on-site.

4. Timber is a carbon store

Timber is the only mainstream, natural building material in the world which is renewable. It is a cost effective carbon capture system which sequesters the UK’s emissions. Less carbon is emitted in the timber production supply chain than the amount stored, resulting in an overall reduction of emissions from the built environment. Timber in construction can deliver overall energy reduction of up to 33%, making it an extremely energy efficient choice.

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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