A serious and urgent issue

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Introduction / Rationale

(explain the background to the research: definition of research area / boundaries; subject area context - maximum 400 words)

Climate change is a serious and urgent issue as the whole world is constantly finding better resolutions to try and control the situation. Scientific evidence shows that in 2005, more than 550 million tonnes of carbon dioxide was emitted from the UK and a quarter of the emissions came from the energy used to heat, light and run our homes. (Local Government, 2007).

Developers are constantly under economically pressures, whilst they may want to build "green"; they need to balance this to achieve shareholder value and profit. Local and national governments require them to build new homes that minimise the use of energy and reduce CO2 emissions. Before the economic climate worsened, they were trying to construct energy efficient, environmentally friendly buildings, which would generate a decent return and will be even more problematic, if not impossible.

As developers review their construction costs for future developments, the speed of construction and value of raw materials will certainly play significant factors. As a result, both land prices and construction methods will become the focus of more scrutiny. So how can the speed of construction and profit margins be improved?

The UK Timber Frame Association promoted the developers to consider timber frame construction. A number of benefits that were highlighted ranged from design perspectives to a modular approach and being quick to erect. On site the simplification of construction and reduced costs for developers, as they only deal with the timber frame manufacturer and not various suppliers of materials. The structures are lightweight, quick to erect and meet all the new regulations for sound performance and sustainability. This meets the sustainability needs proposed by the Government, which is demanding that the building industry contributes to reducing the development of CO2 emissions in the UK. So what is this timber frame?

"Timber Frame is an engineered precision made solution to house building, which brings the benefits of factory pre-fabrication, fast construction times, reduced errors and call-backs plus high performance and insulation levels. Timber Frame provides better buildings, more quickly and at costs comparable with other construction methods." (Walker Brothers (Timber Frame) Ltd 2009).

Timber frame housing is not a new concept, it has been around for centuries, back then it was one of the most common construction materials to be used. Still today there are many fine examples of timber frame housing dating back to the 12th century which were constructed by softwood timber (similar to ones in use today). (Carmichael, 1984) But it was not until the dramatic growth in the market share came as the housing market boomed in the 1960's and 1970's that timber frame housing was widely adopted. In 1982 nearly 27% of all new build homes in the UK were constructed from a timber frame structure. Combinations of hostile publicity regarding the strength of the homes and a slowing of the housing market have seen a decrease in Great Britain to approximately 6% over the last 15 years. It is estimated that out of the existing 20 million homes in the UK, around 2 million are constructed from a timber frame. In the last 18 months there has been a dramatic recovery in the market with timber frame structures, which now accounts for over 8% of all new homes. (NHBC 2009) Looking at the bigger picture, around the world over 70% of the houses are constructed from timber frame, in countries such as USA, Canada and Scandinavia it accounts for over 95% of all the houses constructed. (TRADA 2006).

Research Aim, Objective(s), Hypotheses

(state the general research aim, measurable objective[s] and hypotheses [if appropriate], and explain why they are important in the context of the research - maximum 400 words)

It is critical for any dissertation of a particular subject that the aims and objectives are in order to ensure the development of the investigation remains focussed. "Ideally a ONE sentence aim should be provided, highlighting your ultimate goal." (Naoum, 2007) He also suggests that between three and five one sentenced objectives should be developed in order to achieve the main aim.


The research aim of this dissertation is to carry out an investigation on an alternative and sustainable method of construction (Timber frame).


This aim is to be achieved through the following objectives:

  1. To conduct a critical review of literature relating to find how timber framed housing can be beneficial to the UK's construction industry.
  2. To conduct a critical review of literature relating to the advantages of timber frame construction.
  3. To seek and obtain professional views on the construction of timber frame housing.
  4. To summarise, analyse and evaluate the collected data and to understand the timber frame construction principal.
  5. To draw conclusions on the sustainable timber construction method that can then be used for further development into the future.

Literature Review

(critically appraise what other people have written about your subject, describe the work of other writers, highlight similarities and contradictions made by other references, aim to include a minimum of 20 sources, use headings and sub-headings to structure your account- maximum 2500 words)

For this aspect of the investigation there will have been information and knowledge obtained by other persons who have carried out work on similar subject areas in the past. The use of various different paths will be used to help in the search for previous information; including reports, published books, web sites and journals for the researcher's knowledge enhancement in this area. All areas where material has been obtained will be clearly identified and laid out in a proper manner according to the university requirements.

Timber frame construction

In the book "No timber without trees" (1989), the author Poore describes how valuable timber is, and that it should not be wasted at any cost.

"If it (the forest) is not used for a purpose which is seen to bring economic and social benefit to the country, it will eventually not survive. Nothing more is certain; it will be converted to agriculture and pasture lands and too often ends up as waste".

He describes timber as having the advantages of being a social and an economic benefit to any country. It should be used for the purpose of a lot more than just agriculture and pasture needs on land. One of the views that the people have with regards to timber is that it is mainly just used for firewood and for the frames in roofs of houses, but Poore is trying to point out, that it should be used for a lot more, such as construction.

Timber frame construction is a method of building which relies on a timber frame as a basic means of structural support.This type of construction is usually referred to as 'lightweight construction', but don't be misled, like the skeleton in your body, it's aprecision engineered structurethat is very strong and durable. (UK Timber Frame Association, 2009)

During construction, the open panel timber frame is covered internally by plasterboard, filled with high performance insulation, vapour barriers are incorporated to stop any moister penetration and the outer leaf of the wall completes the structure which can be of stone, brick, render or timber. The most common and effective use for the outer leaf in the UK's construction industry is cladding using brickwork to provide the rain screen.

"Timber frame is an engineered, quality assured tried and tested building method that is the norm in most parts of the developed world". (Build-it Baltic, 2008).

Timber frame construction has constantly shown a yearly market growth, which is owed to its procurement and construction procedures being in formation with the principals of the 1998 Egan Report (Murray & Langford, 2003), its ability to adapt with tighter building regulations and its environmental recommendations.

With timber frame growing and becoming more popular, it has achieved a niche in today's market, which should only grow due to the current atmospheric state and how we should be looking to improve it. Not just the UK but every country on the planet is concerned with these issues and have taken a step in becoming more environmentally friendly or greener towards the world's atmosphere and therefore more self-aware of the current state.

With timber frame providing an alternative method of construction which is aesthetically pleasing and environmentally friendly, more and more people will be looking with great interest at these particular factors. This has been emphasis in the statement:

"The construction industry has undergone a major step change in its bid to improve the quality of buildings and reduce their environmental impact. One of the leading protagonists in this area has been the timber construction industry". (Grantham & Enjily, 2003).

The above statement clearly acknowledges that timber frame has an economical advantage over traditional construction and due to its awareness of factors, the environmental impact it has on the world.

When architects and contractors decide to build with timber frame construction, they make a positive contribution to tackling climate change. When constructing using timber and using the standard 140mm stud wall with standard insulation, the U-value that can be achieved is between 0.30 and 0.27, but when using high performance insulation and insulating breather membranes, the U-value achieved can be considerably better. (Encon, 2007) Therefore, carbon savings can be made and have beneficial lower running costs. A timber frame property will be warmer and more comfortable.


Timber frame is very durable and a good sustainable resource, but all too often it is wasted. The estimates show that 2.5 million tonnes of wood each year is wasted in the U.K. from the construction industry alone, and 3,000 tonnes of re-usable timber is burnt or put in landfills every single day. (WRAP 2009).

As a material, timber is generally considered to have excellent environmental credentials as it is naturally renewable, easily worked and non-toxic. As a renewable resource, its main characteristic is that it absorbs and therefore reduces the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, only released if it decays or is burnt. Essentially every cubic metre of timber alternatively used in place of other building materials saves the release of 0.8t of CO2. For example, an average detached timber frame house would save the release of approximately 4 to 5 tonnes of CO2. (Harris, 2005).

Timber frame is also environmentally efficient and comfortably lies within the Governments priorities of reducing climate change and providing a low carbon economy with sustainable production and consumption; by improving in the energy efficiency of buildings by around 20% and by maintaining natural resources. (Part L of the Revised Building Regulations 2006).

It is also the most environmental building material as it is a totally renewable resource as European softwood forests are growing by over 250 million m3every year. It is waste efficient as the parts of the logs that are not used for timber are used for paper, chipboards, energy and other applications. Once used, the timber can then be recycled or biodegraded.Therefore, there really is no more environmentally friendly way to build. (New World Timber Frame, 2007)

Sustainable Timber

The forests that supply timber for the construction industry are in desperate need of sufficient management if there is any hope to avoid losing them forever. Unfortunately, much of the timber that is used in construction may have been logged illegally.

It is estimated that the UK consumes 6.4 million hectares of woodland from around the globe (an area that is nine times the size of Ireland) just to supply wood for building and furniture trades. This is why the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is now incorporating the use of sustainable timber in housing regeneration programmes. Contract administrators, other construction professionals and contractors are now required to demonstrate that their projects use only sustainable timber had have internationally recognisedForest Stewardship Council(FSC) "chain of custody" certification. (FSC, 2009).

Now architects and builders are looking in depth at the environmental impact of their projects and are incorporating the certification scheme which will help promote greener construction. The timber frame industry believes that it can make a significant contribution to sustainable construction for sustainable communities. Timber, as a construction material, that plays a significant role in helping to protect the local and global environment. (UK Timber Frame Association).

In March 2008, the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) announced that for the construction of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the venues and infrastructure would solely be constructed using only sustainable timber.

This ground breaking plan is to help ensure that all timber used on the construction project is from fully traceable, legal and sustainable sources, as the goal is to help make London 2012 a truly 'Green Games'.(London 2012, 2008)

The ODA are in search for up to 20 timber suppliers who can make up a dedicated 'Timber Supplier Panel'. The panel will supply up to an estimated 600,000 square metres of hardwood, softwood, plywood and other products and 40,000 metres cubed of softwood timber to the ODA's contractors and their suppliers. They have also published a sustainability update showing that they are continuing to beat the target of reusing or recycling over 90% of demolished materials on the Olympic Park site. (London 2012, 2008).

Benefits of Timber Frame Construction

There are many benefits to timber frame construction, but the most popular of them is in the quality of its environmental excellence. Timber Frame has been on pole position in the eco-builders hall of fame. Architects and contractors know that timber frame is a lot greener than it is grey. An example of this can be, a typical 100 square metre two-storey detached timber frame home that is built to the latest Building Regulations contains between 5 and 6 cubic metres more wood than the equivalent masonry house. If all new homes since 1945 in the UK had been built using timber frame, a saving of 300 million tonnes of carbon dioxide would have been made. If a saving of that rate was attempted to be made in the current CO2 rates, it will take over 200 years to achieve this, even when using the Governments latest energy regulations for new homes. (Lockton, 2009). Other benefits will include:

Speed of construction

The speed of construction is a major consideration. Timber frames can be erected and made watertight even in wet weather which often delays the construction of brick and block buildings. Typically a family home can be built 30% more quickly.

Thermally Efficiency

Wood is a highly effective insulating material even before any additional insulating materials are added. Therefore, timber frame homes far exceed the increasingly strict building regulations (Approved Document L, 2006) in the UK. Homeowners can typically benefit from a 30-50% reduction in their heating bills.

Less Maintenance

The timber frame design and manufacturing process is concentrated in a controlled factory environment prior to construction. So, construction defects are much lower compared to methods using onsite manufacture and construction. Timber frame is also a dry construction method, which takes away the possibility of plasterboards cracking. Maintenance during the first year after construction is also significantly lower.

Energy Conservation

Conventional building materials have an extremely high impact on the environment. During the construction of a concrete building, 75% of the total energy was used is used in the manufacture of the construction materials. The energy used during the manufacturing process of timber frame constructions is low. In addition, the reduction in heating used due to the excellent thermal performance of timber frame structures reduces carbon emissions.

Environmentally Friendly

Timber is an environmentally friendly product provided it comes from managed forests. Unlike conventional materials wood is a sustainable resource as more trees are planted than cut down. In addition, water based eco-friendly timber pre-treatments are widely available and used.

Acoustic Performance

Timber Frame party walls provide outstanding sound insulation which will improve domestic comfort. In an acoustics study the Building Research Establishment (BRE) stated that "if all dwellings had sound insulation as good as that measured in the party walls of timber frame dwellings, the problem of noise from neighbours would be greatly reduced."

Healthy Living Environment

Timber frame construction methods create a dust free environment, which is beneficial to people with asthma and eczema related illnesses.

Design Flexibility

Timber frame is highly design flexible and compatible with any type of cladding. Timber frame can be used for everything from one-off houses, churches, leisure centres and hotels to university halls of residence and other applications.


Timber frame can last as long as any other type of building construction. According to the Timber Frame Association there are Norwegian churches which are over 1,000 years-old and 200 year-old buildings in the UK using the same type of soft wood employed today.

(High Value Timber Frame, 2009)


There is an old saying "time is money" and this statement is no more accurate than the construction industry. The more houses that there are to be built and put up for sale in the coming years the greater profit that will be made. Therefore if a timber frame can be built in half the time of a masonry house then the answer would be easy, construct more timber frame houses as there will be a financial advantage to the builder and the selling party.


(explain, and justify, the proposed research methodology: nature of data required, collection method[s] and form[s] of analysis linked to your research objectives - maximum 400 words)

When an investigation is carried out, there can be various methods of research that can be employed. There will be an in depth analysis on timber frame and will be aided by primary and secondary date collection techniques. This approach is one type adapted from the qualitative research method which is subjective in nature empathising meanings, experiences and descriptions. (Naoum, 2007).

Primary data collection will be identified as literature sources such as academic research journals, questionnaires, reports from professional bodies and interviews. Whereas the secondary date collection will be conquered from textbooks.

The advantage of using secondary data collection derives from the relationship between time and cost. In general, it is less expensive to use this method over primary, although there are costs associated in obtaining the secondary data. (Naoum, 2007).

Secondary data can be used in different ways, such as reporting the data in its original format or analyse and reinterpret the data. (Stewart & Kamins, 1993). A good example of this was Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) the French sociologist who took official statistics of suicide cases and analysed them to identify the variables to see the most likely to commit suicide than others.

The advantages of primary data collection are that the data can be collected from a number of ways such as interviews, telephone surveys, case studies etc., the data can be collected across the national borders throughemailsand the post, it can include a large population and also it is relatively cheap with no prior arrangements being required. Furthermore, primary data is current and it can give a better and a more realistic view to the researcher about the topic that is being undertaken.

On the other hand, the major disadvantage of primary data is of the surveys. The questions must be simple to design a general understanding. Some respondents do not give timely responses, and sometimes may give fake, socially acceptable and sweet answers to try to cover up the realities. In some primary data collection methods there is no control over the data collection. Incomplete questionnaires always give a negative impact on the investigation.(McDaniel & Gates, 1995).

To gain an invaluable insight into timber frame and to obtain maximum understanding, there will be a need to investigate into the opinions and attitudes of the major parties involved in the construction of timber frame. The parties will include Architects, Estate Agents, Manufacturers and Contractors.


(explain the likely restraints and limitations, e.g. resources, access to data, data analysis - maximum 300 words)

Research Programme

(insert here, or add in an appendix at the end of this submission, a bar chart which indicates: principal activities to be conducted and milestone dates [e.g. submission deadlines])

Please refer to Appendix A

Ethics and Safety Approval

(append to this proposal your completed Ethics Application Form signed and approved by your supervisor, summarise here the ethical and/or safety implications for the proposed investigation - maximum 300 words)

Please refer to Appendix B


(provide a list of references of material, collected to date, using the 'Harvard' referencing system, aim for a minimum of 20 sources - no word limit)

  • Building Regulations. (2006) Approved Document Part L: Conservation of Fuel and Power
  • Carmichael, E. N. (1984) Timber Engineering: Practical Design Studies, London: E. & F. N. Spon Ltd
  • Department for Communities and Local Government. (2007) Building a Greener
  • Future - Policy Statement, London: Crown Copyright
  • Encon Building Insulation. (2007) Building Product Guide
  • Grantham, R. & Enjili, V. (2003) Multi-Storey Timber Frame Buildings: A Design Guide, Watford: BRE Publications
  • Harris, R., (2005) 21st Century Timber Engineering - The Age of Enlightenment for Timber Design Part 2: Environmental Credentials.
  • McDaniel, C. & Gates, R. (1995) Marketing Research Essentials, 2nd edition.
  • International Thomas Publishing
  • Murray, M. & Langford, D. (2003) Construction Reports 1944-98, Oxford: Blackwell Science
  • Naoum, S. G. (2007) Dissertation Research & Writing for Construction Students, 2nd edition. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann
  • Poore, D. (1989) No timber without trees: Sustainability in the tropical forest. London: Earthscan Publications Ltd.
  • http://www.timber-frame.org/index.php?page=46
  • http://www.bibaltic.co.uk/
  • http://www.wrap.org.uk/downloads/Wood_waste_market_in_the_UK.42c04363.7547.pdf
  • http://www.newworldtimberframe.com/environment.html
  • http://www.london2012.com/press/media-releases/2008/03/sustainable-timber-to-help-build-london-2012-as-green-games-.php
  • http://www.fsc-uk.org/wp-content/plugins/downloads-manager/upload/FSCUK-FS-102-coc.pdf
  • http://www.lockton.com/Resource_/InsightPublication/630/LIM1228_ContractorNewsletterMar2009.pdf