Aug 26, 2013

Delivering Integrated Contruction Solutions

Timber has long been talked about as the green option when building homes but, beyond the potential ‘greenness’ of the material, what is the timber frame industry doing to deliver intelligent and integrated construction solutions which deliver sustainable and energy efficient homes?

While I can’t speak on behalf of all timber frame suppliers, at Stewart Milne Timber Systems we are doing our utmost to deliver integrated construction solutions that offer excellent sustainability and energy efficiency credentials while keeping in mind the context in which our customers operate. That means acknowledging that cost efficiencies are treated with as much importance as energy efficiencies. Cost is undoubtedly high on the industry agenda and we focus on developing innovative products that meet requirements for both cost effectiveness and high performance standards. 

We work with our customers throughout the build process and have identified a number of crucial points in the system where greater efficiencies are possible, from both a cost and an energy perspective. The structure of our build system means we can pre-fit windows, air seals, and membranes which allows air tests to take place prior to our handover to customers, creating a more seamless process. We also work closely with design and procurement teams from a very early stage in the build process, helping to save time and keep costs down. 

Acting as a single port of call for customers at every point in the project, we eliminate the requirement for customers to spend time and money on dealing with multiple suppliers. Additionally, we reduce the volume and cost of waste on site though offsite construction, one of the principal benefits of the timber frame build process. This precipitates a reduction in time spent on site management and contributes to the production of a weathertight, airtight, and secure building for our customers. Innovative processes and products like these demonstrate our ongoing commitment to cost effective sustainability. 

That’s also reflected in our spend on R&D, which has seen us develop a number of energy efficient, cost effective products. Among them, our award-winning BBA-accredited Sigma II Build System offers a combination of excellent air tightness, thermal bridging and thermal transmittance performance, as well as reduced material costs through using conventional materials in an innovative way. 

We promote a fabric first approach with high levels of energy efficiency delivered in the design and make up of the build envelope. Our 'fit and forget' products reduce cost through the increased speed of build afforded by offsite manufacturing, and enable a wide range of performance standards to be achieved without relying on the installation of expensive low energy devices after the building has been erected. Placing the emphasis on the build fabric avoids the need for the addition of unsightly and untested bolt-ons. This helps maintain the architectural integrity of our customers’ designs and maximises the aesthetic desirability of homes for the end user. 

The Sigma II Build System can offer U-values as low as 0.10, air tightness down to 1.5, and thermal bridging of only 0.02. Through our continued focus on product development, we have also recently upgraded the product to support projects of up to six storeys, allowing more of our customers to capitalise on the associated benefits. 

From a thermal bridging perspective, the Sigma II System uses pre-insulated edge junctions within floor cassettes, reduced wood content, ring beams within floor zones and insulated voids, and space stud structural studs to improve performance. The system can achieve y-values of 0.02 thanks to the innovative use of data in the design stage of building. 

Among the projects on which we have employed the Sigma II Build System is The Serpentine housing project with Thames Valley Housing Association (TVH), in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. This was a modern interpretation of a traditional Victorian terrace notable for its unusual “S” shape. TVH was keen to use innovative building fabric and methods to ensure high standards of energy efficiency and sustainability were maintained, while challenging the architects to deliver a design with a very low build cost of £60,000 per home. Equally important, however, was the speed of build, with tenants eager to move into their new homes. 

Another example of the Sigma II Build System in action is the Greenwatt Way development we worked on with Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE). Located in Slough, we built four Code Level 6 homes as part of this ground-breaking project, achieving air tightness measurements of 2 along with U-values of 0.12 W/M2K and y-values of 0.03. The closed panel construction helped to achieve maximum energy efficiency through the fabric and underlined timber’s role as one of the most effective materials in low and zero carbon building.

Sustainability targets are high on the political agenda, however the construction industry understandably remains focused on cost effectiveness and supporting the bottom line. As a supplier to the sector, it's vital we invest in product development to support our customers' priorities and help them deliver in a challenging market. Our targeted focus on innovation means we are able to offer a range of products which align with our customers' needs, help them meet sustainability targets, and reaffirm our strong position in the market.

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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