The advantages of building in timber frame

By Engaged Expert Lewis Taylor

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We’re specialists in timber and our experts have a long history and wealth of experience in the timber industry. We offer a full range of timber services including testing, inspection, surveys, consultancy, training, certification and technical support to the industry.

Over 70% of the population of the developed world live in timber frame housing.  In Canada and the US, over 90% of low-rise buildings use timber frame technology. In Scotland, three quarters of all new building houses and up to 90% of UK self-build houses are timber frame. Mainstream house builders are also recognising the benefits in speed of build which prefabricated timber building systems can offer.

The advantages of timber frame construction

As more and more people are recognizing the benefits of building with this method of construction, BM TRADA timber frame consultant, Lewis Taylor shares five reasons why it’s time to consider timber.

Thermal insulation 

With insulation between studs, timber frame combines structure and thermal performance into the same thickness, delivering slender walls with excellent U values. With thin lightweight cladding options even thinner walls can be achieved whilst meeting thermal performance targets. The added benefits are fewer materials - therefore reduced cost - thinner walls and more useable floor area. Timber frame has always delivered great air tightness too, because the vapour control layer installed to the inner face of the wall also acts as an air barrier.

Sound insulation

Timber frame party walls have always delivered excellent acoustic performance - think of a pair of semi-detached houses as two separate buildings constructed 50mm apart. This lack of shared structure means fewer paths for sound to travel through materials. Twin leaf party walls are now often used by other sectors because of this advantage. Along with this gap, insulation and plasterboard are used to deaden and absorb sound.

Speed of build

Private developers have historically looked to the timber frame industry to shorten time to market and provide more stable and predictable building programmes. By moving to timber construction, the time taken to build a house can be reduce by 25% or more compared to masonry building systems. Plus, build programmes become predictable with timber frame, almost irrespective of weather-related issues.

Environmental impact 

Timber is the most sustainable form of construction, as it benefits from the lowest embodied C02 of any building material, as well as being organic, non-toxic and naturally renewable.  Research has shown that even imported timber has a significantly lower carbon footprint than other mainstream methods of construction. 

These environmental benefits continue throughout the lifetime of the property, as timber is the best material with which to create modern, energy efficient homes – offering a warmer home and a reduction in energy consumption.

There is a real opportunity for timber, as greater use of timber could actually mitigate climate change. Over the next 5-10 years, wood will be the most important resource for a sustainable economy. Timber is available at scale, it is advanced, and can grow on land you wouldn’t want to grow food on.

Cost efficiencies 

Timber frame guarantees a faster construction time, requiring around 25% fewer on-site labour days and a shorter construction period overall.  By planning and executing the use of timber frame at its optimum, there are significant cash-flow benefits to be had.

As off-site panels are pre-fabricated, there are also higher levels of quality control, which helps to keep costs down.  Reduced site prelims, less material and labour waste, lower site and office overheads, improved productivity and reduced labour and supervision on site all save time and money. Improved build quality also means fewer call backs, resulting in reduced snagging costs and higher customer satisfaction levels.

For more details, please see our popular book ‘Timber Frame Construction (5th edition)'.  This is a must read for those considering building with timber frame, offering advice and best practice for the entire build process.

If you would like more information on this, please get in touch with one of our timber specialists on +44 (0) 1494 840 349 or  contact us.

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