A report by the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Timber Industries indicates the potential to contribute positively to both the unemployment issues and the affordable housing backlog. It has equal relevance to South Africa. This is the second of a two-part series.

In 2016, 83% of new housing starts in Scotland were made from timber. Image credit: Inhabitat

In 2016, 83% of new housing starts in Scotland were made from timber. Image credit: Inhabitat

The report states: “Almost every part of a house can be built from timber, whether you look to the stairs, window frames, fittings or fire doors, and through advances in engineering, timber can be made to have a stronger strength to weight ratio than steel.

Also read: How the timber industry can help solve the affordable housing crisis: Part 1

“Timber frame construction was used in almost 30% of new homes in the UK in 2016, up from around two per cent in the 1980s, to deliver more than 50 000 houses in the UK that year. This equated to 83% of new housing starts in Scotland, 30.7% in Wales, 22.8% in England and 17.4% in Northern Ireland. Besides speed, the advantages of using these methods for constructing with timber include being quieter to assemble, requiring fewer deliveries, producing fewer defects, and up to 90% less waste. The Structural Timber Association (STA) estimates that currently there is capacity in the timber industry to immediately increase delivery to up to 100 000 timber frame houses per year or greater in the UK, if there were enough demand.

“Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) have long featured in the timber industry. Timber frames are built using offsite construction methods, providing up to 30% quicker build times than traditional masonry according to the STA.

“Recent data from the STA indicates that currently there is a cost saving in projects of 2 – 3% when using timber frame. Longer term the wider adoption of MMC, including those which use timber, has the potential to bring about cost savings of 30%. This is due to the speed of construction, quality of build, decreased size of the workforce, and the ability to bulk purchase.

“These advantages have been acknowledged by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors who said that timber frames are a ‘mainstream and intelligent way to build, it presents cost effectiveness, speed and energy-efficiency advantages from inception to construction’. Witnesses at our evidence sessions said these advantages are increasingly being recognised by politicians and the larger home building companies,” according to the report.

The report concludes that timber structural companies would be unwilling to ramp up the production required to meet housing backlogs, without some assurance from Government of a change in policies to encourage the adoption of timber materials.