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This report will look at the increasing popularity surrounding timber frame construction in the construction industry. It will look at why this trend is continuing across the UK and how this form of construction can be applied to various building types. Timber frame construction is most notably used in parts of the world such as USA, Canada and Australia but it is being used more frequently throughout the UK in more recent times as well. Year on year the market share for timber frame construction has increased. Scotland is leading the way in this field by using timber frame construction much more than their neighbours.
There are in fact two types of panels available- namely the Open Panel meaning the panel will be dry-lined after the insulation, vapour layer and services have been installed on site. The other panel is the Closed Panel and is this case this is all done in the factory. UK timber frame association preview 2010 page 11 (www.timber-frame.org)
How accurate these figures are will be open to debate but there is little doubt that timber frame construction does have an advantage when it comes down to thermal performance. Many different timber frame companies exist and because of this they will specify the materials and construction and installation of the components slightly differently, thus giving slightly different results. However, the UK Timber Fame Association, who represents over 85% of UK timber frame manufacture states that "Using a standard 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."(www.timber-frame.org)
To prove that these panels are indeed extremely thermally efficient- they have been tested by the National Physical Laboratory who confirmed a U-value of 0.11 W/m2K; when the external cladding is taken into account. This system can be installed without the cavity insulation- but as can be expected, the U-value results will not be as good. This system from Scotframe actually meets the meets the C02 targets which have been set at intervals of 2010, 2013 and 2016- at this stage. (www.scotframetimberengineering.co.uk/)
Timber is more susceptible to fire than materials such as concrete, bricks, blocks or steel. This however, does not mean that timber frame structures are more of a fire hazard. Timber frame structures are more likely to be burnt down during the actually construction phase, when the installation is not complete. This could be due to an accidental fire starting on site or probably the more likely case of vandalism. The HSE's figures of 11 fires each day in the construction industry advocates this theory. Fire Safety on Timber Frame Construction Sites, page 5 highlights this, "Government's annual UK fire statistics show that two thirds of fires in construction industry premises are started deliberately." (www.timber-frame.org/)
Other such projects include a NHS Adolescent Unit in Wales, where in this instance timber frame was ideal due to the fact that it was manufactured offsite and this meant less time onsite, making noise and disrupting the patients. A further example includes the theatre that was built on the Isle of Mull. Since this structure would be subject to winds and rain- it would be anticipated that steel or concrete would be the material of choice. However, cost of transporting these materials proved to be a huge factor, coupled with the fact that once again timber frame could be installed much quicker.
As well as these structures, timber frame prototypes have also been erected to improve our knowledge and findings on the performance of timber frame. One such prototype is the Kingspan Lighthouse which was designed and built to show how well timber frame would or would not perform when the structure was going to be an unorthodox shape. As with all buildings, small faults were found and good feedback was received on how improvements could be made. However, a Level 6 rating under the Code of Sustainable Homes was reached- even though this target doesn't need to be achieved until 2016.
All timber that is to be used for construction purposes will have a certain moisture content. Different timbers will have different moisture content depending on their use. For example, timber that is going to be used at junctions in the building where dampness could form will need to have a low moisture content. Kilns are used to dry timber out to a certain specification. Moisture content can be calculated by completing the following calculation;
Rot spreading throughout a building is the nightmare of every client and builder, as it can cause unlimited damage and mean that in the extreme cases the building cannot be repaired. However, "Dry timber", which is a timber with a moisture content of under 20%, is not at risk of decay. Lyons (2007, p.105) noted that "â€¦ the reduction in water content to below 20% will arrest any incipient fungal decay, which can only commence above this critical level."
This report has briefly looked at how timber frame structures perform in numerous fields. It has also outlined how timber frame can be used in a variety of different structures- some of which many people would not associate timber frame construction with. It is therefore clear to see that this market will continue to grow, with the market possibly accelerating more so in Ireland in the near future. This is because Ireland is possibly the country which has the most room for growth in this sector, coupled with the fact that Scotland is nearby and would prove to be a very good source for timber.
This report has also addressed concerns relating to timber and the perception many people still have about using timber in construction- such as fire hazards, risk of rot, unable to be used in multi-storey buildings; to name just a few. Once people are better educated and made more aware about using timber as the structure for buildings- then these myths will soon be dispersed. After all, as mentioned in the introduction; this form of construction is used in countries such as USA, Canada and Australia. It is of course the most popular form of construction used in the developed world- meaning it can handle the hot summers in Australia and also the windy wets nights and wintry conditions in Scotland. It has taken Britain and Ireland many years to adopt this practice and some will no doubt wish to never embrace timber frame construction.