May 28, 2017 Last Updated 9:00 AM, May 26, 2017

The Structural Timber Awards reveals finalists for the Best Social Housing Project

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The Structural Timber Awards is a celebration of innovation, best practice and expertise in timber technology. The finalists have just recently been announced and four outstanding social housing projects have been shortlisted for 2016.

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These projects are leading examples of how the use of technologically-advanced timber products and innovative methods of construction can result in exceptionally high-quality social housing – delivered in optimum timescales.

Each of the shortlisted projects clearly demonstrates the social housing provider’s commitment to their residents and the environment. With an ongoing responsibility for their tenants, the social housing providers involved made a conscious decision to utilise leading timber technology to create energy-efficient, sustainable homes – reducing their tenants’ fuel bills for the lifecycle of the building with an objective to eliminate fuel poverty and in turn, reducing carbon emissions.

The four shortlisted companies and projects are:

  • Gilbert & Goode – Windmill House
  • T2 architects – Symonds Close
  • Worthing Homes – Meadow Road
  • Kingspan Timber Solutions, Dover District Council, Jenner (Contractors) – Castle Street, Dover

Timber technology as an off-site construction method provides predictable performance levels, with fewer construction defects or wasted materials – delivering a marked decrease in the build time with a marked increase in the standard of build. Off-site methods reduce on-site waste and the potential impact of bad weather on build times and swift weather-proofing of the structures diminishes delays for follow on trades.

SIP technology or timber frame systems were used as the core structural components for these four projects.

SIP technology, specifically Kingspan TEK, was specified for the development in Castle Street, Dover, which is a social housing project comprising eight apartments in a conservation area of Dover. The project was the first step towards regenerating the area of St James’ Street, with new retail outlets, restaurants and further houses planned. The purpose-built apartments, set in a conservation area, were developed to provide compact accommodation for the retired residents of Dover.

Timber frame was specified for the Windmill House, Symonds Close and Meadow Road projects, being predominately chosen for the speed of delivery and construction.

The off-site manufacture was a crucial factor in Gilbert & Goode specifying timber frame for the Windmill House project. As the site was restricted with poor access, using off-site construction allowed for a rapid and efficient build. This was also key for T2 architects for the Symonds Close project, not only due to the restricted site access, but also minimising site traffic to reduce noise and pollution levels – keeping disturbance to a minimum for the local residents.

Energy efficiency was a primary reason for all of the projects specifying timber. The prevention of air leakage was important in creating high thermal performing buildings, resulting in a low heating load, keeping energy bills to a minimum.

Worthing Homes, which was behind the construction of 12 two-bedroom family homes on Meadow Road, particularly highlighted this benefit. When Worthing Homes visited the new residents a few months after they had moved in, all of the tenants were delighted with their new homes, with all seeing a reduction in their energy bills within the first quarter.

Each of the shortlisted projects highlighted how the use of timber made a real difference in lowering the environmental impact of the scheme. Timber technology contributes to the wider decarbonisation agenda, both in terms of the forestry acting as a carbon sink and in terms of processing the timber, as this is a less carbon-intensive process than the manufacture of concrete.

Those involved also stated that collaboration was key to success.

The main contractor at Symonds Close, FE Chase, worked closely alongside the timber frame supplier that was appointed at the outset. Early engagement and involvement in design decisions, allowed any interface issues to be resolved and fully coordinated with other elements of the design before any work begun on site.

The Meadow Road project used Building Information Modelling (BIM) to facilitate collaboration with the Government’s Innovation and Technology Board. As the tender process commenced, all contractors, consultants and researchers, together with the housing association staff, worked in synergy using a BIM 3D model throughout the design and build programme.

Jenner (Contractors) worked closely with Dover District Council and Kingspan Timber Solutions on the Castle Street project throughout the design and construction journey. Close liaison between Building Control resulted in problems being identified and resolved at an early stage – essential as this project is in a conservation area.

Tenant engagement was part of the collaborative process for Windmill House. Throughout the design stages, residents were able to freely discuss their preferences and concerns. This truly collaborative method involved cost consideration, quality, design, liveability, sustainability and buildability.

Each of these projects are outstanding examples of how the use of innovative building timber technologies, along with collaborative working, can achieve high-quality, warm and affordable social housing.

The Structural Timber Awards is a celebration of innovation, best practice and expertise in timber technology. Taking place on 19th October 2016 at the National Conference Centre, Birmingham, the awards will showcase innovative solutions and ground-breaking developments from across the UK timber industry. To see which other innovative projects have been shortlisted as finalists or if you would like to attend, please visit the website.

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