The STA - Defining the Standards for Structural Timber

Structural timber systems are moving towards a more factory-built focus, with increased levels of prefabrication - offering the assurance of greater control over quality, productivity and predictability. STA Board Member, Mark Stevenson of Kingspan Timber Solutions and Potton - discusses why this is of particular importance to self builders.

Having worked across all areas of construction for decades, I understand that the dynamics of the self build sector are very different. Putting this into context - for self builders, property development is not a chosen career, it is much more than that – it is a personal mission which, more often than not, represents the investment of a lifetime.  

Built-in benefits
With impressive environmental credentials, along with cost and time efficiencies, factory-manufactured structural timber systems are the mainstay of the self build market – so new homes can be delivered as part of a controlled offsite process, rather than relying on site-based methods.

Undeniably, intelligent, integrated construction systems such as closed panel timber frame, structural insulated panel systems (SIPs) and modular options are now driving innovation in the timber industry – offering more choice than ever before. 

With standards for efficiency constantly ramping up, the construction industry as a whole, has faced a real challenge in creating homes that achieve the actual energy performance as specified in the design brief. The accuracy and control involved in using timber-based offsite technology overcomes this issue.

There are many aspects to consider before embarking on the build process but one of the most important, is deciding on the build system and making sure you have all the relevant information prior to making the decision.

Investing upfront in an advanced prefabricated and well insulated structural timber system, will offer vast savings down the line on site labour and enhanced energy efficiency. 

Timber Frame
Modern timber frame structures are precision-engineered, strong and durable. The build method relies on a factory manufactured timber frame as a means of structural support - carrying the loads imposed by the floors and roofs, before transmitting them to the foundations, which can be built at
a lower cost due to the building being robust yet lighter in weight.

The construction of timber frame based structures utilise factory manufactured wall panels, floor and roof panels. The systems used are classified as either open panel, insulated or closed panel. These panels can include the pre-fitting of insulation and can even include doors, windows and service zones for onsite installation of M&E works. 

Timber frame currently accounts for around a quarter of all new homes being built in the UK but is believed to be much greater in the case of self builders.  This build method is utilised by every sector of the construction industry, particularly self build, due to timber frame’s superb environment credentials, as well as being quick and easy to construct.

Structural Insulated Panel Systems (SIPS)
Structural Insulated Panels are an advanced method of construction, exploiting composite panel techniques - delivering excellent structural and thermal characteristics in one system. SIPS have two parallel faces - usually Oriented Strand Board (OSB) - sandwiching a rigid core of Polyurethane (PUR) foam. The result is a lightweight system which is quick to erect and free from the complications surrounding compression shrinkage and thermal bridging, that is often associated with other forms of construction.

Delivering rapid and robust energy efficient buildings, with superior insulation, structural strength and airtightness - SIP systems are used for walls and roofs. Structural Insulated Panels offer extremely high thermal performance throughout the lifecycle of the building, whilst minimising wall thickness. 

Using SIP technology for residential applications will reduce build programmes enabling houses to be completed much faster than conventional building methods. If the house design facilitates a habitable living space in the roof zone – then SIPS are a fantastic solution, as they do not require roof trusses, ensuring maximum space availability, whilst providing superb thermal performance and limited air leakage.  

Cost-effective and Dependable Option
Highly-manufactured options may not be suitable for every project but when combining the enhanced energy efficiency of these advanced systems, with shorter construction timescales, guaranteed build qual-ity and vastly reduced ongoing running costs for the life of the building - it is clear that there are compel-ling reasons to specify timber systems for self build projects. When it comes to measuring value, taking all of these factors into the equation clearly demonstrates that structural timber systems are a cost-effective and dependable option which is why they are proving to be so popular amongst self 

The Benefits of Offsite Manufacture
Here are the key advantages of opting for an offsite manufactured structural timber solution for your pro-ject:

Speed of construction 
The high degree of factory prefabrication enables a rapid build process, which will not be adversely 
influenced by inclement weather.

Cost and programme certainty
Offsite construction for onsite installation makes scheduling and costing more predictable than with
traditional building methods.

Quality assurance 
Stringent factory-quality control enhances the manufacture of buildings, ensuring a modern, high 
performance structural envelope for your scheme.

Energy usage 
Thermally efficient, highly airtight structures vastly reduce energy consumption across the life of the building.

Design flexibility 
With a wide range of innovative products and cladding solutions, timber systems can meet the
 aspirations of both architects and self-builders.

All Structural Timber Association members use timber from PEFC or FSC certified sources, ensuring 
responsible management of the world’s forests.

Why Use an STA Member?
As the UK’s leading organisation representing the structural timber sector, the STA has an objective to ensure our members meet with current legislation and regulatory requirements. Our mission is to enhance quality through research and guidance, underpinned by the independently audited - STA Assure Membership and Quality Standards Scheme.

Offering confidence to self builders by promoting the differing levels of accreditation held by individual member companies - STA Assure has received formal recognition from six of the industry’s leading structural warranty and building control bodies.  

There is a wealth of information available on the STA website, from guidance on structural timber 
systems to top building tips and an enquiry system. For more information and advice for your project, please go to:

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