Timber frame has long held prime position in the eco building hall of fame. Housebuilders, developers and designers all know timber frame is a lot more green than grey…
But did you know?
A typical 100 square metre two-storey detached timber frame home built to the latest Building Regulations contains 5-6 cubic metres more wood than the equivalent masonry house. This means that every timber frame home we build saves about 4 tonnes of carbon dioxide (about the same amount produced by driving 14,000 miles).
If all new houses built in the UK since 1945 had been timber frame, more than 300 million tonnes of CO2 would have been saved. At the current building rates, it will take us another 200 years to achieve carbon savings of this magnitude.
Using a standard 140mm stud timber frame system achieves U-values between 0.30 and 0.27 using readily available and standard insulation – and using higher performance insulation and insulating breather membranes can boost these figures even more.
A thriving timber frame industry means the need for well run, sustainably managed forests, full of trees that soak up carbon dioxide within their core and keep it locked inside. Timber is an organic, non-toxic and naturally renewable building material.
Although worldwide, deforestation remains a significant issue, it is not caused by the European construction industry which mainly uses softwood. Over 90% of all wood consumed in Europe is sourced from European forests. UK timber frame uses 99% European softwood. The total carbon sequestered in those trees throughout Europe’s forests is over 9.5 million tonnes.
Mature trees, however, absorb far less carbon dioxide and produce less oxygen than those at earlier stages of growth. So the harvesting of older trees for construction purposes, and their replacement with saplings – two planted for every one harvested in Scandinavian forests – ensures a constant cycle of CO2 absorption and oxygen production.
Whole life performance
Wood is effectively a carbon-neutral material (even allowing for transport). Timber frame has the lowest CO2 cost of any commercially available building material.
For every cubic metre of wood used instead of other building materials, 0.8 tonne of CO2 is saved from the atmosphere.
Processing timber is not a gas-guzzling procedure either. 77% of the energy used in the production of wood products comes from wood residues and recovered wood.
Converting timber into a useable building material takes far less energy and creates minimal pollution compared to other mainstream alternatives such as aluminium, steel, concrete and brick.
Strength for strength, concrete uses 5 times (and steel uses 6 times) more energy to produce than timber.