House builders turn to timber as sharp rise in housing construction continues

UK house builders are turning to timber frame in order to meet increasing demand for new homes as the economic recovery takes hold, according to Stewart Milne Timber Systems.

The company has booked a 40% increase in contract wins from house builders over the past 12 months, while the latest Markit/CIPS purchasing managers’ index (PMI) for construction has indicated that September marked the sharpest rise in construction output for eight months.

The company attributed this success to a combination of increased demand across the house building sector, its ability to meet capacity demands, and its partnership approach to value engineering resulting in strong delivery to meet client deadlines and budgets.

The rise in demand for new-build homes brought about by Help to Buy and other government schemes has helped the market to grow, and house builders have been taking advantage by looking at other build methods, material sources and skills supply.

This, coupled with a growing awareness of the ‘cost and speed benefits’ timber frame offers, has resulted in business growth for Stewart Milne Timber Systems. Typically, new homes built in timber frame can be completed in nine weeks, compared to 16 weeks with a comparable masonry build.

Alex Goodfellow, group managing director of Stewart Milne Timber Systems, said the need to meet demand while maintaining profits and achieving high performance standards has encouraged house builders to consider the benefits of timber. A key advantage, he stated, is the flexibility and availability of timber, which offers a robust and established supply chain where current UK annual requirements are less than 10% of available capacity.

The Markit/CIPS report indicates that materials supply and rising labour costs are causing delays for construction projects as the industry begins to recover capacity lost during the recession. Timber frame typically reduces labour requirements for clients on the building premises as components are factory manufactured before being erected on site.

Alex said:

“With the construction industry, as a whole, growing, we’re noticing a real upturn in the demand for timber frame construction. House builders are looking at it as an alternative, and once they see the benefits, they are increasingly extending the number of developments being built with timber frame. That’s reflected in the increased number of contracts we’re winning from the sector. “

According to the Structural Timber Association, roughly 22% of homes across the UK are built using timber frame and this is likely to increase to around 30% in the next few years.

Stewart Milne Timber Systems has recently won contracts including 78 new-build homes as part of Hadley Mace’s Greenwich Square regeneration project in London and a major housing development in Northampton for Taylor Wimpey which will eventually comprise 228 new homes.

Additionally, the company has commenced work on a timber frame housing project at Barratt Homes’ Meadows Keep development at Felpham, West Sussex. It will also be supplying its Sigma II Build System for the Exemplar phase of the UK’s first eco-town, North West Bicester.

Alex Goodfellow continued:

“Timber frame is a sustainable, cost-effective material which enables house builders to quickly increase capacity in response to demand. Offsite manufacture in particular allows for shorter call-off periods and less material wastage. Our timber systems can be erected within a matter of days, and can also be pre-fitted with windows and doors, significantly reducing the time it will take to build a home.

“Timber is the most energy efficient building material available and will likely become the build material of choice across greater swathes of the UK as more house builders realise how cost effective and environmentally friendly it is.”

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