2006 will be "the year of timber frame", predicts the UK Timber Frame
While the cost of bricks and blocks used in most new home construction will
continue to rise disproportionately due to skyrocketing gas prices, the introduction
of tough new building regulations expected in April will also encourage more
housebuilders and housing associations to try timber frame construction
and the tangible business benefits of this way of building will keep the construction
industry coming back for more, says the trade body.
Phil Key, chairman of the
UKTFA, particularly points to the dramatic conclusions of a National Audit
Office (NAO) report into modern methods of construction (MMC) published late
last year which proves timber frame construction delivers a tangible financial
boost to public and private sector developers in England and Wales of up to
£35 per square metre.
The report confirms that timber frame is already cost comparable to traditional
brick and block construction methods, even without the latest price hikes affecting
the masonry sector or the significant efficiencies being achieved in timber
frame construction in more established markets such as Scotland.
Phil Key says: "Timber frame is extraordinarily well placed to benefit
from the economic and legislative developments that will affect UK housebuilding
"Spiralling materials costs are already hitting the construction industry
hard, and gas-guzzling plants are closing as energy prices continue to rise.
In contrast, timber frame manufacturers are extending their production capacity
around the country.
We are nowhere near as dependent upon expensive fossil fuels. In fact,
77% of the energy used in the production of wood products in the UK comes from
wood residues and recovered wood. Through recycling our own waste we help to
keep our manufacturing costs and environmental impact as low as possible.
"We also start the New Year with the official verdict of the National
Audit Office that timber frame is cost competitive. Housebuilders have the capacity
to build one additional house per week with exactly the same cost and resources
if they swap to a modern method of construction such as timber frame.
Whats more, we know from the experience of a more mature timber
frame market in Scotland that developers' productivity and profitability could
be even better than that, through the faster and more efficient sequencing of
the building process that is common north of the border.
"These economic advantages come at the same time as regulatory changes
that will hit masonry construction hard, but that are negligible to us. New
energy efficiency regulations for the construction of new homes being introduced
from 1 April 2006 can be achieved with a simple, highly insulated timber frame
solution that is already standard across our industry. This means more timber
frame homes that use less energy to run, which is a benefit to home buyers that
will continue to increase in importance as domestic fuel bills rise.
"It's clear to me that this is going to be a bumper year, but it's not
just the timber frame manufacturers that will benefit - the health of the whole
UK housebuilding industry in 2006 could benefit significantly from changing
to timber frame."
In addition to highlighting cost benefits to private sector housebuilders,
the NAO report confirms that registered social landlords and housing associations
using timber frame construction and similar modern methods of construction benefit
from earlier rental income streams and can draw down Social Housing Grant earlier,
which reduces interest payments on capital to fund developments.
Snagging costs are reduced because of the tighter quality control of factory-produced
components, and the need for on-site inspection decreases as the amount of off-site