Timber construction offers a more sustainable solution for future buildings than concrete or steel. It is renewable, insulating and versatile, as well as having aesthetic appeal. However, there is some reluctance to fully embrace timber as a building material. What are the barriers to the wider acceptance of timber buildings?

Timber: A Substitute for Carbon Intensive, Mineral-based Building Materials

Timber construction is nothing new. Visit the historic heart of many towns and cities in the UK and you will spot examples of timber-framed buildings. You can also discover historic examples of timber buildings across Europe and Japan, evidence that they can stand the test of time.

Timber fell out of fashion, with brick, cement and steel taking favour. These materials are widely viewed as more robust and resilient, yet all have their vulnerabilities. In reality, steel is affected by corrosion and is less fireproof than timber, whilst concrete is prone to cracking and carbonisation. The vulnerabilities of any building material are overcome through considered design, quality sourcing and excellence in construction.

There is now a resurgence in timber construction, with many architects seeing it as an essential component in the move towards a bio-based economy. By 2030, all UK new builds must operate at net zero and timber, a naturally insulating material can aid the achievement of climate change targets. In France, it is now a requirement that all public buildings are constructed from at least 50% timber

Is Felling Trees for Timber Construction Destroying the Environment?

We all know that trees are essential to life on earth. We’ve seen images of the devastating effects of deforestation, so feeling trees for construction can be viewed as an ecological disaster. The reality is that the hectares of responsibly managed forests in Europe are increasing each year.

In these controlled environments, the flora, fauna and people that rely on these forests are protected. Biodiversity is encouraged, more trees are planted than are felled and the landscape is carefully managed. Due to sustainable management, the volume of forests across Europe has been expanding for decades.

When sawmills and builder’s merchants can evidence that timber is sourced from responsibly managed forests, it is a renewable building material. One that provides life for many other species, whilst also absorbing and storing carbon as it grows.

Contemporary Timber Buildings: Aesthetic & Practical

In addition to the ecological advantages, timber is also a beautiful, tactile material that connects us to nature. Timber cladding complements other materials, blends into the surrounding landscape and creates a harmonious finish that suits both contemporary and heritage projects.

It is versatile to work with, providing architects with greater creative freedom and enabling spectacular design. What’s more, timber can be fabricated off-site. This supports build efficiency, minimises on-site disruption and often helps to keep projects on time and budget.

Is Timber Construction Safe?

In the horrific Grenfell Tower fire incident, lives were lost. This disaster has made people sceptical about the safety of timber cladding. However, in this case, poor quality materials, unfit for purpose were installed. Bad design, cheap materials and inferior installation are at fault.

Premium quality timber, which has been suitably treated to enhance preservation and fire resistance, is safe, durable and requires minimal maintenance. As specialists in charred timber cladding, we offer a market-leading range that has been widely used on commercial, residential and public buildings across the UK and beyond. Our timber cladding is safe.

To enquire about Shou Sugi Ban® timber cladding or request samples, please contact us on 01494 711800.

Structural Timber Awards 2022

If you are in any doubt about the potential of timber as a building material for the 21st Century, take a look at the projects shortlisted for the Structural Timber Awards 2022. Recently announced, these showcase stunning examples of UK architecture and construction using timber frames and timber cladding.

To illustrate the scope of design and build, the awards are categorised:

  • Social Housing
  • Private Housing
  • Custom/self-build
  • Education Project
  • Healthcare Project
  • Commercial & Retail Project
  • Low Energy Project

We are delighted to see that James Latham Timber, supplier of Shou Sugi Ban® Charred Yukari has been shortlisted in the industry innovation category. Aware of the need to monitor and evidence carbon produced and offset in an increasing number of build projects, James Latham Timber offers the carbon calculator.

Developed in collaboration with Bangor University, this incorporates a database of all products in their range. Therefore, the total carbon figure for every order can be calculated. This is a significant innovation in the move toward carbon-neutral developments.

Timber: The Future of Construction

In summary, timber is a tried and tested building material that is seeing a considerable resurgence. It offers a sustainable, renewable, practical and aesthetic solution that ties into environmental targets. From traditional timber frames to modular systems, it is time to fully embrace timber construction.