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ASK THE EXPERT


Setting the standards for structural timber


Structural Timber Association board member and managing director for Kingspan Timber Solutions and Potton, Mark Stevenson answers self-builders’ queries on how to use structural timber, and why solutions are increasingly likely to be factory-built


T


he Structural Timber Association (STA) has an objective to enhance quality through research and guidance, underpinned by the independently audited STA Assure Membership and Quality Standards Scheme. Having worked across all areas of construction for decades, we understand that for self-builders, property development is not a chosen career, it is much more than that – it is a personal mission which, more often than not, represents the investment of a lifetime. It’s therefore vital you make the right decisions, so why should you consider offsite manufactured structural timber?


WHAT ARE THE MAIN BENEFITS OF BUILDING WITH STRUCTURAL TIMBER?


With impressive green credentials, combined with cost and time efficiencies, structural timber systems are rapidly becoming the building material of choice – currently accounting for around 75 per cent of the self-build market. Advanced prefabricated systems such as closed panel timber frame, structural insulated panels (SIPs) and volumetric modular options are driving innovation in the timber industry – offering customers more choice than ever before.


WHY IS THERE A MOVE TO BUILD HOMES OFFSITE?


Offsite-manufactured structural timber systems have advanced greatly in recent years, offering self-builders cost, programme and performance assurances. The solutions are increasingly likely to be ‘factory-built,’


20 www.sbhonline.co.uk


with greater levels of prefabrication as part of controlled manufacturing processes. If required, complete houses can be finished in the factory ready for onsite installation. Commonly in the self- build sector, the focus is towards panelisation, with doors and windows fitted as part of the manufacturing process. This and shorter construction timescales, better build quality and enhanced energy efficiency – vastly reducing on-going running costs for the life of the building – are compelling reasons to specify these solutions.


WHY IS FACTORY MANUFACTURING OF SYSTEMS THE IDEAL SOLUTION FOR TIMBER HOMES?


With standards for efficiency constantly ramping up, the construction industry as a whole has faced a real challenge in creating homes that achieve the actual predicted energy performance. What was an industry wide issue – achieving the actual energy performance as specified in the design brief, has been difficult to attain using traditional site-based methods. This issue has been overcome


using a range of timber-based offsite technologies within a quality-controlled factory environment to create high performance low energy build systems. Manufacturing in factory-controlled conditions with stringent controls minimises waste, optimises quality and assures the performance of the building for its intended lifespan.


DOES OFFSITE MANUFACTURING MEAN I HAVE TO HAVE AN OFF-THE- PEG DESIGN, OR CAN IT BE MADE FULLY BESPOKE?


Absolutely not – from traditional cottages, to contemporary designer led architecture, structural timber solutions enhance design ambitions and deliver beyond expectations. The timber industry is no longer defined simply by the supply of timber frame kits – it is driven by intelligent and integrated construction solutions. The breadth of the product portfolio means that any cost, performance and design expectation can be achieved.


I HAVE A DIFFICULT SITE, HOW CAN OFFSITE TIMBER HELP MAKE THINGS EASIER?


The range of technologies available for offsite manufacturing enable innovative hybrid solutions to be created which overcome almost all the problems that self-builders can face on challenging sites. Often, timber structures are thought as not being suitable for sloping sites, but the reverse is actually true. Prefabrication enables most of the work to be removed from site, and by employing advanced lifting equipment, we can overcome the challenging terrain


september/october 2018


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