While England has 80% market share of UK housing starts, just 9% of these new build homes were constructed using timber frame (Source: NHBC HMI Report 2019) compared with 92% in Scotland.  England, therefore, has the greatest potential for growth.  In fact, the Structural Timber Association (STA) forecasts that this figure will have doubled by 2025.


This is ambitious but in recent years the credibility and importance of MMC Category 2 timber frame has risen sharply as UK housebuilders commit to high-volume developments using timber frame construction and, in some cases, acquiring timber frame manufacturers and investing in offsite production facilities.


But why now, after almost five decades, is this construction method finally gaining national recognition and government endorsement?  Quite simply, timber is a crucial contributor to the UK’s Net Zero Target.


Housebuilders, housing providers and landlords across England are all seeking ways to improve sustainability and reduce carbon emissions during construction in support of the country’s net zero ambitions.  Timber frame can help achieve this.  Something which the government acknowledges in its policy Timber in construction roadmap, updated last December.


The government has identified that ‘…an increased use of timber in the construction industry would make a significant difference to stimulate demand for domestic planting stock in England.’ (source: gov.uk)


By increasing tree canopy in England and with proactive forest management, the country would be less reliant on imported timber.  It would also stimulate sustainable planting of hard and soft woods.  Using this homegrown timber in construction would then help reduce embodied carbon in the built environment.


There are two forms of carbon in the built environment, operational – resulting from the type of energy or heating system used in the building and embodied, from the manufacture, maintenance and disposal of the construction products which form the building.


The ‘Wood in Construction in the UK’ analysis commissioned for the Climate Change Committee (CCC) suggests that substituting timber frame for masonry can reduce the embodied emissions in a single building by around 20%, and carbon storage at building level is approximately 50% higher for timber frame than masonry (source: theccc.org.uk).


In actively promoting the use of timber in construction the government is highlighting the environmental benefits associated with this material and modern method of construction, but there are others too.


It’s a fast yet high-quality build method.  Using timber frame can speed up the build programme by about a third.  Timber frame is highly engineered and can offer extensive design flexibility.  Smart design can future-proof a property – ideal for HA and LA housing stock.  As a natural insulator, timber, when used in construction can help to reduce running costs and energy bills.


Combined, these benefits prove that the use of timber in construction – one of the country’s oldest build methods – is the future of UK construction.  From housing to care homes, education facilities to student accommodation, timber is a proven, trusted, and sustainable building material.


As featured in PSBJ