This article outlines the key benefits of timber frame construction focusing on the Sustainability of Timber Frame construction. The homes in which we live and the buildings in which we work contribute significantly towards our overall carbon footprint – around 47 per cent of the UK’s total carbon emissions. “A ten per cent increase in the number of timber frame homes built within the EU would produce sufficient carbon dioxide savings to meet 25 per cent of EU requirements under the Kyoto Protocol”.
This saving in CO2 emissions can be made as timber uses less energy to manufacture from raw material to finished product than any other building material. We need to build more homes quickly and efficiently. Within the UK, if 200,000 new homes were built using timber frame construction each year this would store around 4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year!
There are four main benefits of timber frame as a sustainable construction method;
- Renewable Material
- Carbon Capture and Storage
- Low Embodied Carbon
- “Green” Properties
Timber frame systems promote a fabric first approach to construction, providing more energy- efficient and airtight buildings, as we move towards implementing zero carbon homes. The potential for timber-based building products to create a new generation of low-carbon energy-efficient homes is huge! Not only this but the use of Timber frame also creates huge benefits whether you are a self builder or a developers:
- – Timber frame typically requires 20 per cent fewer on-site labour days than masonry construction and ensures a significantly faster construction period overall. This means a faster return on investment and reduced disruption to local communities, with reduced periods of unsold stock standing empty, vulnerable to damage or vandalism.
- – Due to the lightweight nature of structural timber the amount of groundwork required compared to concrete or steel is much reduced. This means far less disruption for building site neighbors.
- – Society as a whole as well as local authorities, housing providers and builders, want to see high quality housing delivered quickly – ‘off-site manufacture’ is a key part of this.
- – Timber frame technology embraces all the successful principles of off-site manufacture with quality, speed of production and consistency of design and delivery.
- – The quality-controlled factory environment means fewer product faults and on-site complications. It provides a number of project efficiencies and environmental benefits, such as savings in preliminary site preparation, on-site labour (including wet trades and teams of sub-contractors), construction time-scales, health and safety risk and less material-intensive activity.
- – The reduction in on-site work alone often saves weeks on project completion times.
Wood is effectively a carbon-neutral material (even allowing for transport) and timber frame has the lowest CO2 cost of any commercially available building material. For every cubic metre of wood used instead of other building materials, 0.8 tonne of CO2 emissions are avoided.
Most of us are aware of the issues that affect us all in our daily lives with regard to climate change, through the news and even the weather forecast, with more extreme weather conditions and events in various parts of the world. Many people may be concerned about deforestation and the impact that this has on climate change and, therefore, associate timber in construction with increasing deforestation and having a negative effect on climate change.
CARBON CAPTURE AND STORAGE
Trees play a key role in the carbon cycle, being able to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through the process of photosynthesis. When the tree is harvested the carbon remains stored in the timber until the end of its physical life – roughly one tonne per metre cubed. While this carbon is safely locked up in timber products – such as walls, windows, doors or floors – more trees are planted, absorbing and storing carbon as they grow. In fact, studies show that more emissions are absorbed and stored in timber products than are emitted during harvesting, processing, manufacturing and transportation combined. This provides a net emissions reduction process. A timber frame house, using as much wood products as possible, may capture approximately 19 tonnes of carbon.
LOW EMBODIED CARBON
Manufactured timber products require far lower energy inputs to produce than competing materials such as concrete. This reduces pressure on the UK electricity grid while producing high-performance, low-carbon goods which can substitute or outperform their high-carbon counterparts. It also gives timber very low embodied carbon content. Figure 6 shows the fossil fuel requirement to produce four common building materials with 1m3 of timber only taking 750MJ/m3 compared to concrete taking almost 6.5 times this amount of energy at 4800MJ/m3.
Timber also has some of the best insulating properties of any construction material, helping keep us naturally warm and achieve energy efficiency targets, with a thermal conductivity (lambda (λ) value) of 0.13 W/mK. Dense concrete blocks have a thermal conductivity of around 1 W/mK whilst common insulation products have thermal conductivities ranging from 0.022 to 0.044 W/mK. Timber products can be readily reused and recycled and, increasingly, used as a low-carbon fuel. Timber products provide low-carbon benefits throughout their life-cycle, with none of the subsidies or incentives associated with other low-carbon sectors.
If you have any questions relating to the sustainability of your new build and wish to speak to QTF Homes please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.