Sep 24, 2013

Timber frame delivers faster builds as brick shortage continues

As delays and shortages in brick supplies across the UK continue, timber frame could be the answer to helping developers get homes built to meet demand, with shorter lead times and enhanced speed of build, according to Stewart Milne Timber Systems.

With the UK housing market starting to pick up again, some developers are seeking faster build methods rather than risk build programmes and sales targets due to the current brick shortage,  brought on by a vastly decreased manufacturing base, and which has resulted in lead times being increased to four months in some cases.

Timber frame can be manufactured off site which decreases lead times to as little as three weeks. Once delivered it is hoisted into position for integration with the rest of the building envelope. Apart from significantly increasing the speed of build, timber frame decreases the need for additional labour, improves health and safety by requiring less work at height, and is more cost effective.

Alex Goodfellow, group managing director of Stewart Milne Timber Systems, said: “We’re experiencing an upturn in demand, from clients keen to ensure they take advantage of current positive market conditions. Delays at this stage could impact sales and profits at a time when both should be optimised".

“Timber allows developers to get projects completed on time and increase build programmes to meet growing capacity. It also saves time and budget in construction costs, while shortening the time it takes to realise a return on investment.”

With a 30 per cent rise in house building projects during May to July 2012 against the same period last year, some developers are experiencing brick supply and delivery delays of up to four months.  According to figures released by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, brick production is currently half of what it was at its height in 2000. This indicates a vastly reduced supply base with brick manufactures unable to cope with a recent rise in demand for new builds, driven in part by increased mortgage approval rates.

Currently, 10 per cent of new builds in England and Wales are built using timber frame, as opposed to 70 per cent in Scotland. The UK timber frame market is forecast to be the fastest growing sector of the industry over the next five years as developers increasingly seek cost effective and flexible routes to shorter build programmes and reduced carbon outputs.

Alex continued: “The current shortage might also have a substantial impact on costs, as the gap between supply and demand increases which can result in supply agreements expiring. This is prompting developers to see timber frame as a very attractive and advantageous option when planning projects.”

Timber frame is a highly sustainable material, and has the lowest embodied carbon of any commercially available building material. This can improve energy efficiency by 20 to 33 per cent in some new builds, depending on the size and type of structure.

With government legislation setting increasingly ambitious sustainability targets, developers will need to find solutions to the increasing demand for housing that can deliver energy efficiency quickly and cost effectively.  

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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