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Timber structures Off-site construction

Building the construction workforce of the future The social aspects of off-site timber construction are not limited to the built system, with the factory environment offering clean, safe places of work capable of providing improved job security and flexible shift patterns. This type of work environment improves workforce diversification and allows the implementation of improved career pathways. The workforce of the future may be less interested in a career on a cold, damp construction site working in an adversarial framework. The next generation can, however, be inspired towards a career in manufacturing, particularly when it offers the opportunity to deliver a more sustainably built environment. The skills required for this will be different to the skills used in current construction practice, with the need to develop more holistic knowledge sets. Workers will also need an improved understanding of project management, scheduling and planning requirements, all geared towards efficient delivery. On this basis, Edinburgh Napier University has established the Built Environment Exchange (beX). beX is a platform approach to accelerating change in construction culture, developing dynamic talent and delivering experiential learning and funding opportunities for students. Created to address the challenges of the construction sector, which is adversarial by structure, overly complicated by design and flawed on delivery – ‘snagging’ as it is universally known, beX offers an alternative collaborative approach to education capable of harnessing top talent and providing the skills needed to deliver a more sustainable built environment. One of the activities was a joint learning week with Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) students visiting timber industry partners in Scotland.

Edinburgh Napier beX and Harvard GSD students at Carbon Dynamic. Photo: Edinburgh Napier University

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Digitisation and economic advantages In the future, a digital thread will be capable of running from forest floor to built solution. This digitisation of the built environment is happening in what is regarded as the fourth Industrial Revolution. Buildings will become intelligent assets, creating new opportunities for innovation. Offsite timber construction is well positioned for this modern context given the sector’s early adoption of enterprise resource planning, computer-aided design and computeraided manufacture. Building Information Modelling (BIM) will facilitate the interoperability and visualisation of these processes, as well as the further augmentation of structure, thermal and environmental performance content. Harnessing digitisation will present the opportunity to better demonstrate the holistic value proposition of off-site timber construction and its sustainable credentials socially, environmentally and economically. The economic arguments do, however, need to be better structured. There are wider economic impacts to be created through improved upskilling pathways for localised labour adding value to localised supply chains. The economic advantages that can be gained through enhanced levels of productivity improving construction delivery programmes and corresponding financing costs need to be better evidenced. The whole life cycle cost of off-site timber construction must be demonstrated given its ability to reduce the performance gap in terms of less standard deviation, addressing built-as-designed and better assurance towards the fabric performance.

Performance requirements Regulations have in many respects helped to move the needle on off-site timber construction uptake. Environmental and energy performance requirements are now more easily ascertained relative to traditional forms. Higher levels of insulation, airtightness and reduced cold bridging, combined with limited embodied carbon as standard. Regulation will largely drive future performance requirements and, with enhanced levels of post-occupancy evaluation going forward, captured via a feedback loop to the digital model, the evidence base can be created. Performance in fire has often been a limiting criteria, particularly when considering medium to high rise. The recent UK Government consultation to consider banning the use of combustible materials in the external walls of high-rise residential buildings following the findings of the Hackitt Report4 was an example of this. The outcome of this type of process could undermine the strides being made >> Timber 2019 Industry Yearbook

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Profile for BM TRADA

Timber 2019 Industry Yearbook  

The annual publication of the Timber Research and Development Association (TRADA) includes topical and technical features on all aspects of...

Timber 2019 Industry Yearbook  

The annual publication of the Timber Research and Development Association (TRADA) includes topical and technical features on all aspects of...

Profile for trada
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