Wood for Good
Climate Change Driver
Globally, the threat of climate change and the struggle to manage non-recyclable products means sustainability needs to be at the forefront of everybody’s minds. Engineering, innovation and forward-thinking will each play their part in defining our future housing policies, in turn helping to design for inevitable climate change while also minimising and slowing down its effects.
It’s a material world
One way to combat climate change is to choose construction materials that are low-carbon, a carbon store, reusable or recyclable, creating a circular economy. Recent reports show that materials such as cement in concrete contribute up to 8% of total global carbon emissions. Therefore, choosing materials like timber, which sequesters carbon, as a primary construction material helps the fight against carbon emissions. Materials such as concrete and steel will continue to be used but using timber as part of a hybrid structure can help to offset the negative effects.
Vancouver’s Terrace House, designed by Shigeru Ban, is a stunning example of hybrid timber on a grand scale. Due for completion in 2020, the 19-storey apartment block is set to be the tallest hybrid timber structure in the world and will be constructed from locally-sourced wood, concrete and glass. Mass timber was chosen for its sustainable and renewable credentials. Building in a city the developer struggled to find land, a common issue in urban areas, so building up was the logical answer. An intriguing geometric design, the timber used in the tower will be behind a glass exterior, removing the need for treatment over the years.
Ride the tide
Flooding is a huge issue for our heavily-populated island and as the ice caps continue to melt, it’s an issue that needs to be addressed, especially for future housing. Mortgage lenders don’t want to lend, developers don’t want to develop, and insurers don’t want to provide insurance. It’s four years since Storm Desmond caused chaos, particularly across Cumbria, Lancashire and the Scottish Borders. More than 5,000 homes were flooded, many of which were left inhabitable. Cue Flood Re, a re-insurance scheme introduced by the Government which helps households at the highest risk of flooding keep their premiums down.
Timber Beats Water
So, what can be done for building in areas prone to flooding? The Norfolk Broads is notorious for flooding but that didn’t prevent Platform 5 Architects from building a client’s home there. A stick-built timber frame superstructure was chosen for its lightweight yet high strength-to-weight ratio, its ease and speed of assembly and its environmental benefits. Built on top of a dry deck, the house is raised on piles with galvanised steel ground beams mounted on top to accommodate changing water levels.
For a more unusual approach, the Redshank is a spaceship-like structure located in the flat coastal landscape near Clacton-on-sea in Essex. Perched on three elliptical steel legs to raise it above the floodwater and painted red as a nod to its namesake of the common redshank bird, it sits on a concrete raft foundation. The superstructure is made from cross-laminated timber (CLT), light enough to be supported by the steel legs and forms the floor, walls and roof, with no need for any interior decoration. It’s clad in non-hazardous and biodegradable cork, adding to the environmental benefits of using a low embodied carbon material such as CLT. Though the design may not to be everybody’s taste, it’s a structure that works.
Rise of the micro-home
Lack of land availability is already an issue in the UK and as the population continues to grow, freeing up more land to build on will only become more pressing. With this in mind, many architect and design practices are looking to use infill sites in built-up areas. Bristol-based project ‘We Can Make’ identified more than 2,000 ‘micro-sites’ in the area that would suitably fit one to two bedroom dwellings. As part of this initiative, architect practice White Design and straw technology company ModCell developed the Tam house, a flexible home built with renewable materials, designed specifically to meet the needs of ‘Generation Rent’.
Other micro-homes include an unlikely collaboration between architect Sam Jacob and car manufacturer MINI, which created the 15-square metre Urban Cabin. Based on a modular concept, the cabin incorporates wood in the exterior and has undergone various adaptations as it’s been taken on a world tour to further explore the design’s possibilities.
Evolve with timber
Modular construction has been cited as the saviour of the construction industry as it increases quality, can be made from sustainable materials such as CLT or timber frame, minimises disruption on site and helps to address the UK’s skills shortage. For a country in the midst of a housing crisis, offsite manufacturing can quickly provide the homes we need. The other bonus is the adaptability it provides. As our living situations change, the ability of our homes to grow and evolve with us is a fundamental part of housing design.
Zero Carbon Expandable Home
Wudl has embraced this concept with its Space design that starts off with basic studio-style spaces that can be extended or have additional storeys added to expand in line with the homeowners needs. Made from a timber frame, the structure incorporates wood fibre insulation, composite timber-aluminium windows and can be cladded with cedar. This makes it a sustainable option which can achieve zero carbon status.
Adaptable Living Spaces
The challenges that we face in providing housing for our growing population are both complex and varied. Choosing timber can help to reduce and mitigate the impact of climate change, while providing comfortable, adaptable living spaces for generations both now and into the future.
As supporters of “Wood for Good” since their inception, it’s no secret that we are passionate about timber as our preferred building material. This doesn’t mean that we don’t use other materials, like steel and plastic, but we avoid them wherever possible. As Structural Timber Engineers we consider ourselves fortunate to be blessed with such a truly flexible and universal raw produce which – after all – is the only sustainably renewable building material on our finite planet. Specifying any system is an important step for engineers, architects and all who strive for improved, lower cost, more environmentally sustainable construction, but timber still seems to offer all the benefits with few of the disadvantages.
So in our drive to turn concepts into factory built components for on-site assembly, we still prefer timber. In this respect we believe we are at the forefront of making DfMA (Design for Manufacture & Assembly) a reality. It begins with the way we design, specify and incorporate ‘appropriate’ technology into all buildings. It also draws together concepts from over 50 years interest in sustainable development.
DfMA at the forefront
As Off-Site construction matures into Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) it is clearly at the forefront as an enabler for such delivery. New homes will very soon be ‘Smart’ in numerous ways, including full incorporation of energy saving and TIoT (the internet of things) to deliver major components. This is something that ‘Off-Site’. DfMA (Design for Manufacture & Assembly) will need to seriously consider as the industry moves forward.
Greater collaborative ‘partnering’ between architects, builders and manufacturers is needed to accomplish this The greater speed, accuracy and quality that can result from manufacturing components in a dry, controlled factory environment, together with the ability tom incorporate (yet to be invented) ‘Smart Ware’ gives home builders perhaps the only way of achieving this, together with improved on-site build quality AND controlling costs.
While resistance to the change to DfMA has been the norm, the wish of most UK Builders to deliver excellent customer service and top notch homes is now driving an increasing number to choose Off-Site for their developments. Also, as ‘OffSite Hub” note, architects and designers are moving toward DfMA, something w have been encouraging for over 20 years. The emergence of LA Developers will only speed up this process.
Easy Timber Frame
To assist them in doing so our “Easy Timber Frame “ now offers standard size modular timber frame elements for them to use as a design base, cutting down on technical design and engineering to produce win-win results.