Building In Timber

Published Tuesday 05th March 2013
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The new build housing market continues to be steady at best but one sector – timber frame – is seeing year-on-year growth and, if some of the UK’s largest developers and retailers have their way, timber frame homes will become a mainstream option for house hunters in 2013.

The New Year has already seen a string of announcements from major developers and retailers reflecting the relevance of timber as a sustainable and practical building material.

Tesco has launched a new five-bedroomed timber flatpack home; Ikea, which built Britain’s first flatpack village of ‘BoKlok’ (smart living) homes in Gateshead, is considering a market entry in partnership with Skanska, and housebuilding giant Persimmon is using automotive manufacturing techniques to manufacture high quality timber homes in just one hour. The housebuilder reports a 19% increase in sales of timber frame kits in 2012, has the capacity to build 8,000 pre-fabricated timber homes per year and predicts it will build 3,500 in 2013 alone.

Clearly, timber is giving developers and self-builders the opportunity to build homes with extremely high build quality in a fast, affordable and sustainable way.

So what are the advantages of building in timber?

  • Beautiful aesthetics and flexible design
Wood is a beautiful natural material. BoKlok homes, for example, come in a choice of colour and cladding types and thanks to the use of modern timber treatments, home façades are low maintenance. If you prefer, there’s even the option of cladding your home to make look like it’s made from a traditional bricks and mortar construction. 

  • Superb insulation as standard (and 50% off your fuel bills) 
For homeowners looking for a sustainable home which has low energy usage and low energy bills, the advantages of a fully insulated timber home shell are clear. Modern timber insulation products, such as Saint-Gobain Isover’s ‘Vario’ system, protect the timber frame from moisture, are fire resistant and deliver high insulating performance. As a result, energy efficiency is optimised. Persimmon claims its timber Space4 homes are 50% more energy efficient than a traditional house.

  • Speed of construction and consistent build quality
Modern manufacturing techniques mean timber framed prefabs give house hunters the benefits of a consistent build quality, fast. 

  • Sustainability
We are living in the age of sustainability. It’s important to consider what materials you use to build your home, how they were produced, whether they are energy efficient and if they have come from a sustainable source. Timber is one of the most sustainable construction materials available. It outperforms brick, concrete and steel as an external cladding when it comes to thermal efficiency. It’s also versatile and can be used in virtually all areas of a building for a beautiful finish that complements the structure. As the move towards zero-carbon housing continues, timber will have a key role to play. 

Many countries in the world - notably German, the US and Sweden – choose the build the majority of their new homes in timber. In fact, 70% of the world’s new homes are built from timber compared to just 25% in the UK (source: The Guardian).

So the question is, when will the UK make the switch to timber and are these latest initiatives enough to make timber mainstream?