The now obvious and very real threat of climate change means that sustainable materials need to be at the forefront of the minds of Engineers, designers and housing policies that will cater for the growing need of everyday housing in the country.

Supplying Sustainable materials

One way to combat climate change is to choose construction materials that are low-carbon, a carbon store, reusable or recyclable, creating a circular economy. Recent reports show that materials such as cement in concrete contribute up to 8% of total global carbon emissions. Therefore, choosing materials like timber, which absorbs carbon, as a primary construction material helps the fight against carbon emissions.

For the mean time and not so distant future, materials such as concrete and steel will continue to be used, but using timber as part of a hybrid structure can help to offset the negative effects.

There are a variety of benefits related to using wood in wood-concrete-steel hybrid systems, including:

• A lighter building for poor soil condition sites

• Reduced environmental impact with carbon storage

• Opportunity to expose wood products as a design solution

• Prefabricated elements reduce costs and speed up construction

• Using wood products is a sustainable and renewable choice

• Ability to span long distances

• High strength-to-weight ratio

Brock Commons, Tallwood House is an innovative tall wood hybrid building at the University of British Columbia.

Aside from providing much needed student residence spaces, Brock Commons showcases mass timber as a practical building material in a high-rise application and demonstrates an innovative and sustainable way to improve the performance of buildings.

Construction of Brock Commons demonstrated that its innovative mass timber-hybrid structural system is economically viable, repeatable and adaptable to other building types and uses. Using a crew of nine, the mass timber construction was completed less than 70 days after the prefabricated components arrived on site, approximately two months faster than a typical project of this size.

When the flood gates open.

Flooding is becoming even more of a pertinent issue regarding housing and where it’s build upon. Mortgage lenders don’t want to lend, developers don’t want to develop, and insurers don’t want to provide insurance.

So, what can be done for building in areas prone to flooding? The Norfolk Broads is notorious for flooding but that didn’t prevent Platform 5 Architects from building a client’s home there. A stick-built timber frame superstructure was chosen for its lightweight yet high strength-to-weight ratio, the house is raised on piles with galvanised steel ground beams mounted on top to accommodate changing water levely

Located in the flat coastal landscape near Clacton-on-sea in Essex. The Redshank is perched on three elliptical steel legs to raise it above the floodwater and sits on a concrete raft foundation. The superstructure is made from cross-laminated timber (CLT), light enough to be supported by the steel legs and forms the floor, walls and roof, with no need for any interior decoration. It’s clad in non-hazardous and biodegradable cork, adding to the environmental benefits of using a low embodied carbon material such as CLT. Though the design may not to be everybody’s taste, it’s a structure that works.

Evolving with timber

Modular construction has been cited as the saviour of the construction industry as it increases quality, can be made from sustainable materials such as CLT or timber frame, minimises disruption on site and helps to address the UK’s skills shortage. For a country in the midst of a housing crisis, offsite manufacturing can quickly provide the homes we need. The other bonus is the adaptability it provides. As our living situations change, the ability of our homes to grow and evolve with us is a fundamental part of housing design.

Wudl has embraced this concept with basic studio-style spaces that can be extended or have additional storeys added to expand in line with the homeowners needs. Made from a timber frame, the structure incorporates wood fibre insulation, composite timber-aluminium windows and can be cladded with cedar. This makes it a sustainable option which can achieve zero carbon status.

The challenges that the construction and design industry face to provide housing for a growing population are both complex and varied. Choosing timber can ultimately help to reduce and mitigate the impact of climate change, while providing comfortable, adaptable living spaces for generations both now and into the future.