Industry roundtable took timber debate into the heart of Parliament

8 February 2016

The Structural Timber Association (STA) took the debate around the potential for timber and offsite construction methods to make a positive contribution to housebuilding into the heart of Parliament when it organised a roundtable discussion of industry leaders.

Hosted by David Warburton MP at the Houses of Parliament, it was attended by representatives from The Housing Forum, Zero Carbon Hub, and Wood for Good, among others. The discussion is said to have produced an optimistic and positive outlook towards industry growth and development.

The event was based around three key areas of discussion: the recent changes in Government regulations and its impact on provision of affordable housing; implications of the postponement of the Zero Carbon Homes target; and the opportunity and benefits of offsite construction. Each conversation led to placing the consumer at the forefront of the timber housebuilding industry.

“Following the recent changes announced by the Government surrounding providing affordable housing, the opportunity to build more, better homes is clear and well-known within the timber frame industry. However, the benefits of using timber frame needs to be communicated not only to developers and contractors but also consumers,” said Andrew Carpenter, the STA’s chief executive.

“The energy efficiency and sustainability of a home is not currently a priority, or for some even a consideration, when purchasing a new home. And so, in the same way efficiency has now become an important factor when it comes to purchasing a car, we need to instill this into the house buying process too.”

Following the postponement of the Zero Carbon Homes target, disappointment was felt across the housebuilding industry, the STA said. The discussion, therefore, focused around the need for a new target and aim to drive forward the desire for energy efficient homes.

Due to the current shortage of affordable homes, it was agreed that any drive toward educating consumers and developers on building better homes should come from the Government. This would then enable the construction industry to communicate benefits of timber and offsite building methods to the wider market.

“Offsite construction has taken off within the self-build market as a quick and cost-effective way of building a home. However to enable the method to gain a significant market share, other sectors including mainstream residential developments should be considered,” Carpenter added.

“A large area for development is retrofit, where significant energy efficiency increases can be made, bringing older buildings up to date with modern day standards. This was recently demonstrated in a pilot project in Thamesmead, where high performance prefabricated timber façade panels were used to over-clad the existing concrete building. This resulted in significantly improving the building’s insulation and each building only taking a week to complete.”

Making use of the skilled professionals already within an industry with a severe skills shortage, offsite construction allows the skills within the industry to go further, it was said.

“Both timber frame and offsite construction present the housebuilding sector with the speed of build, energy efficiency and ease of erection needed to meet the Government housebuilding targets,” Carpenter said.

“To ensure as a sector we grow to meet this demand, we need to educate developers, contractors and consumers of the benefits of modern alternatives to brick and block construction.”