23 Sep 2022

A Green and Healthy Home

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Padraig Hurley, Self-Build Manager at Taylor Lane Timber Frame, explores the green benefits of timber frame and how this modern method of construction can positively impact the quality of life and reduce energy costs.

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Timber frame is generally considered to be the most environmentally-friendly building material when compared to brick, steel and concrete; it has the lowest energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. The natural properties of timber also make it the ideal choice for those seeking a healthier home.

CO2 savings

Wood products are low-carbon materials. They can help reduce CO2 in the atmosphere and help slow climate change. For every cubic metre of wood used instead of other building materials, 0.8 tonnes of CO2 is saved from the atmosphere. A typical 100m2, two-storey detached timber frame home contains 5 to 6m3 more wood than the equivalent home built using traditional build methods such as brick and block.

Carbon capture

Trees capture harmful CO2 from the atmosphere and store it as carbon. When harvested, that wood is used for products such as timber frame components, and those products store carbon for that product’s entire lifecycle. After being harvested, we plant more trees, and the cycle of capturing CO2 continues (for more information, visit www.woodforgood.com).

The sustainable option

As a Structural Timber Association (STA) Assure Gold member, we encourage the use of timber from PEFC- or FSC-certified sources. We recommend that self-builders choose certified timber, whether that’s locally sourced from a FSC-certified forest or further afield. Look out for FSC-, PEFC-, SFI-, CSA- and MTCC-certified sources.

A reputable timber supplier should also provide a full chain of custody. Wood for Good, the timber industry’s campaign to promote the use of wood in design and construction, says that “…sourcing wood from sustainably-managed forest helps encourage biodiversity. It increases forestation and maximises CO2 absorption”.

Biophilic design

For self-builders wishing to promote wellness and wellbeing in the construction of their home, you may wish to consider the principles of biophilic design in the creation of your new home. Timber is one resource that can generate a positive biophilic response. Generally associated with accessories and furniture, this also applies to the structure and fabric of the building. With financial and environmental benefits, timber-frame construction works on many levels to boost mental and physical wellbeing.

Waste management

As a timber-frame manufacturer, we are proud of our responsible handling of waste timber. Current wastage in the production of our products is between 8 and 12% waste. We are constantly working to reduce this further still with investment in optimised cutting technology – this is another area where the accuracy of timber-frame construction has its benefits.

100% of our waste is diverted from landfill, with 60% being recycled and the remaining 40% incinerated to produce electricity. Our non-treated waste timber is used to heat our factories. Not only do our efforts benefit the environment, but they also reduce skip waste. This cuts down on the number of skips required on site and ultimately saves you money.

Energy savings

Energy efficiency is now a key requirement for many self-builders. As a natural insulator, timber, when used as a build method, can help to reduce running costs and energy bills. A property will remain warmer throughout the winter and stay cooler during the summer months. It can heat up quickly and retain that heat for longer.

One of the best ways to understand the thermal performance of a timber frame system is to review its U-value. A U-value describes how well or poorly a building component (i.e., roof, wall or window) or material transmits heat from the inside to the outside. For a comfortable home with relatively low heating requirements, aim to keep the U-values as low as possible.

It is far easier to achieve a low U-value with timber frame than with traditional build methods. It goes beyond Building Regulation requirements without filling the cavity!

It is important to decide the level of thermal performance that you will require early in the project. This will help determine the level of insulation needed – information that can be shared with your timber-frame supplier ahead of the design process. This is also important for the Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) calculation and Energy Performance Certificate – both are required by Building Regulations.

For property owners, Mr and Mrs Swift, energy performance is one of the biggest benefits of living in a modern timber-frame house. “This is the first property we have owned in which the temperature is constant in whichever room you go,” comments Mrs Swift.

The property is Acorn Cottage, a new build on an exclusive development in rural Herefordshire. “We first became aware of the development by chance when we were out for a drive on a Sunday afternoon. We were so impressed with the style of the properties that we drove onto the site even though we were not considering a move.

“Whilst we were having a nose around a partially-completed cottage, we were approached by a man who turned out to be the developer, Les Chambers, who asked if we would like to have a look inside.

“Les explained that the properties were built using timber-frame construction, which provided excellent insulation, and this would keep heating costs low. He also pointed out that the construction technique made it easier to ‘redesign’ the house, if needed. In the future, bedrooms two and three, for example, could easily be made into one, if required.

“We had considered buying a cottage in the past but were put off because the cottages we had seen tended to have small windows, making them dark inside, and because of the potential maintenance costs. We could both see immediately that this property would give us everything we wanted – a modern house with a cottage design having plenty of light and low maintenance. We would also be living on a small development with close neighbours, which is desirable as you get older!

“Even though the property was still to be completed and having listened to what Les had to say, we decided there and then that we wanted to buy it. Arrangements were made the following day for our property to be marketed. We sold within two weeks and moved into our new home five days before Christmas.

“We have now been in Acorn Cottage for several years and have absolutely no regrets about the decision we made on that Sunday afternoon. The lounge and kitchen are probably our favourite rooms, but the cottage character can be found throughout the property.”

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