02 Oct 2017

The Structural Timber Association explains why self-builders should take this route

Greater prefabrication offers more control over quality, productivity and predictability – making off-site construction a great choice for self-builders. Here Andrew Carpenter, Chief Executive of the Structural Timber Association, shares with i-build the reasons why self-builders should consider a factory-built home.


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Offering impressive environmental credentials, along with cost and time efficiencies, structural timber systems are a mainstay of the self-build market. In fact, STA research suggests the method currently accounts for around 75% of one-off custom homes. As time progresses, timber solutions are moving towards a more factory-built focus, with greater levels of prefabrication – so your new house can be delivered as part of a controlled process, rather than relying on site-based methods. Here’s what you need to know about the rise of pre-manufactured homes.

The basics

The terms ‘off-site manufacture’ and ‘off-site construction’ are now entering the self-build vernacular, and very much replacing the historic ‘prefab’, which can engender negative connotations. Modern options can help to optimise quality, productivity and predictability.

In fact, the UK Government is now championing off-site methods as a potential silver bullet in resolving the wider housing crisis.

But what do these terms really mean? Well, fundamentally they describe structural systems that are factory-manufactured to an advanced level to allow for on-site assembly (as opposed to construction) via controlled installation processes.

Exact levels of prefabrication can vary, from factory-fitted insulation and pre-cut service channels through to panels that come complete with windows and doors already installed. Even internal finishes and external cladding can be pre-applied – especially where volumetric modular building techniques are used.

Built-in benefits

Off-site manufactured structural timber systems have advanced greatly in recent years, and can offer genuine cost, programme and performance assurances for self-builders. Indeed, intelligent, integrated construction systems such as closed panel timber frame, structural insulated panels (SIPs) and volumetric modular options are now driving innovation in the timber industry – giving you more choice than ever before.

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 energy performance that is specified in the design brief. The accuracy and control involved in using timber-based off-site technology overcomes this issue.

The perfect solution

It is not perfect for every project, of course – if your plot suffers from restricted access, for example, highly-manufactured options may not be suitable. But combine the enhanced energy efficiency of these advanced systems with shorter construction timescales, guaranteed build quality and vastly reduced ongoing running costs for the life of the building, and it is clear that there are compelling reasons to specify these solutions for your project. When it comes to measuring value, taking all of these factors into the equation demonstrates that structural timber systems are a cost-effective option.

Reasons to choose an off-site route

Speed of construction

The high degree of factory prefabrication enables a rapid build process, which will not be adversely influenced by inclement weather.Cost and programme certainty Off-site construction for on-site installation makes scheduling and costing more predictable than with traditional building methods.

Quality assurance

Stringent factory quality control enhances the manufacture of buildings ensuring you get a modern, high-performance structural envelope for your scheme.

Energy usage

Thermally-efficient, highly airtight structures vastly reduce energy consumption across the life of the building.

Design flexibility

With a wide range of innovative products and cladding solutions, timber systems can meet the aspirations of designers, architects and self-builders.


All Structural Timber Association members use timber from PEFC- or FSC-certified sources, ensuring responsible management of the world’s forests. New off-site methods of timber construction are gaining acclaim across the private residential, social/affordable housing and self-build sectors – winning industry awards for design, performance and product innovation.

Structural Timber Association

The Structural Timber Association (STA) is a UK-leading organisation representing the structural timber sector, including timber frame, structural insulated panel systems, glulam and cross-laminated timber.

The organisation runs an STA ‘Assure’ membership and quality standards scheme. This aids customers and members by promoting STA companies’ specialisms, accreditations and quality standards, giving self-builders the reassurance to invest in innovative construction methods.

Further information....

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