Project1_Layout 1 07/05/2013 PITCHED ROOFING
Wood: the answer to the
UK’s housing shortage?
Jeremy English, sales director at Södra – Sweden’s largest forest-owner association – explains how timber is perfectly placed to meet the needs of
With its clean, cost-effective,
attractive and efficient properties,
there’s no doubt that timber has
a huge part to play in the future
of UK construction. The word
about wood is spreading: Rowan Moore, The
Guardian’s architecture critic, recently dubbed
engineered timber “the new concrete” and “a
miracle building material”, thanks to its ability
to extract carbon from the atmosphere rather
than add to it.
As a uniquely renewable building resource,
timber is hard to beat in the sustainability stakes.
As they grow, trees absorb harmful carbon
dioxide, locking CO2 into the wood forever
rather than releasing it into the atmosphere.
Therefore, trees should only be felled when
they have fully matured and stopped absorbing
CO2 – allowing the environment to fully benefit.
And when forests are responsibly managed by
owners who put more in than they take out, you
can be sure that the timber you’re using has been
094 MAY 2018 RCIMAG.COM
the UK construction industry
Embodied energy is the sum of energy
required to create a product or service. In the
construction industry, this factors in energy
expended through building, production and
transportation, typically accounting for around
30-50% of a project’s entire carbon footprint.
It takes very little energy to convert trees into
timber for construction, while the building
process typically requires a fifth of the vehicle
deliveries demanded by concrete. These factors
give timber the lowest embodied energy rating of
any mainstream building material.
For example, a wooden floor beam requires
around 80 megajoules (mj) of energy per square
metre of floor space and emits 4kg CO2. By
comparison, a square metre of floor space
supported by a steel beam requires 516mj and
emits 40 kg of CO2, while a concrete slab floor
requires 290mj and emits 27kg of CO2.
Timber is remarkably strong and durable,
guaranteeing no compromise in quality even
when speed of construction is taken into account.
Timber structures can last hundreds of years and
are less expensive and easier to maintain than
The material’s inherent qualities further enhance
its green credentials. As a natural insulator,
timber contains small air pockets which limit
its ability to conduct heat. This helps minimise
the energy needed for heating and cooling
homes, which typically leads to less use of fossil
fuels. Timber frames also allow more space for
insulation than brick constructions, enhancing
Easy to work with
Lightweight and versatile, timber is easy to
handle and install. This facilitates a faster,
less expensive and less disruptive construction
process, making it the ideal material for
brownfield site construction and urban
development – as well as altogether quieter,
calmer and cleaner building sites.
Off-site, timber gains points thanks to its
ability to streamline the off-site manufacturing
process, cutting build time by as much as
50%. A timber frame can be precisely pre-cut
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