Grand Designs impresario Kevin McCloud gave a ringing endorsement for timber frame construction as part of a panel discussion looking at custom build at this year’s Timber Expo.
Responding to questions about the role of timber in custom build, Mr McCloud referenced the two projects his company HAB is doing, bringing pre-glazed panels to site enabling a timber frame house to be constructed in three to four days.
“The potential the timber has to offer providers is really significant,” he said. “Add to that the way that the timber industry is bringing in new products like timber made out of recycled newspaper and it is a really positive thing.”
Also joining Mr McCloud on the panel was Richard Bacon, MP for South Norfolk, who earlier, as part of the custom build session, had provided an insight into the Right to Build Act.
Commenting on the lack of available land for building new homes, Mr Bacon said: “When asked why we have a shortage of housing people give the strangest answers. And yet it’s really simple: if demand exceeds supply, the price will increase. The question is why is this the case? Most of the land in the UK is not taken up by houses. The problem is accessible land that people can get their hands on.”
Meanwhile, Andy Lewis, from custom build supplier Sylva, revealed that around 6.1 million people are currently researching and planning a self-build project – although very few of these actually make it to fruition.
Sylva’s service involves completing the architectural drawings and evolving the design with the client. “If we can make sure we’re sending clients away happy, that’s our goal. We also take care of the structural and civil engineering, making sure that all the players are working together.”
Phil Cringle, Senior Project Manager at the Graven Hill Village Development Company, a large self-build project owned by Cherwell District Council, said they’d experienced a steep learning curve working with all the constituent parties involved in getting the project off the ground. “We took on planning permission on the basis of new build and tweaked it into self-build so we have had to deal with issues around planning and highways,” he said.
The morning seminar session in TRADA’s Timber Focus Theatre was focused on specifying timber for structures made easier. Author of TRADA’s Structural timber elements: a pre-scheme design guide James Norman provided a whistle-stop tour of how the guide can help specifiers and timber engineers in their decision-making about the use of timber.
“The idea is that you use the guide the moment you decide to construct a building,” he said. “It will help people choose the right type of product. It also gives you an idea of how deep and wide things need to be. It is not a detailed design book; it helps engineers used to designing in steel and concrete to use timber and have confidence in their decisions.”
Meanwhile, Greg Cooper, Pre-construction Manager, B&K Structures, examined whether TRADA’s National Structural Timber Specification (NSTS) can help to get timber specifications right for major timber sub-contractors.
Mr Cooper talked through a number of on-going projects and explained how the NSTS has streamlined the process of agreeing the specification for timber structures with clients, architects and engineers. He also provided an update on recent changes to the document, which includes the use of hardwoods.
“Why did the timber industry need the NSTS?” said Mr Cooper. “To give people confidence that they would get the buildings they needed. We spent a long time building timber buildings to the Steel and Concrete Specification documents: hence the launch last year of the NSTS that explains how it all comes together in timber.
“We use it in three ways – design, manufacture and on-site. It allows you the individuality in a project to use which timber you want. Having the specification allows us to work with other manufacturers earlier.”