New methodology for mass timber construction available

An expert cross-industry team of engineers and architects has launched a pioneering set of design principles, demonstrating how mass timber can be used safely to construct multi-storey residential buildings, in full compliance with UK building regulations.

The development of 'The New Model Building' was funded in part by Built by Nature, a network and grant-making fund dedicated to accelerating the timber building transformation in Europe and the UK. The new methodology was created by structural and sustainability engineers at Buro Happold, Waugh Thistleton Architects, cost consultants Gardiner & Theobald and fire engineers at UCL (University College London), has been developed to help unlock and stimulate the construction of net zero homes.

The New Model Building project team have been working with NHBC, who have reviewed the New Model Building methodology. Chris Hall, Technical Innovation Manager at NHBC said: "We support the use of natural construction materials in housebuilding when employed in line with our technical standards. Natural construction materials can offer various advantages during the construction process and are being increasingly employed across the industry. Timber is very versatile and perhaps the oldest of all construction materials, and its use in housebuilding continues to evolve."

The New Model Building is exemplar guidance for building residential developments in a climate emergency, illustrating how substitution of a traditionally constructed superstructure with engineered timber can reduce the whole life carbon footprint by over 50%.

The methodology has been pre-assessed by the NHBC to ensure that it meets its technical and safety standards. This facilitates developers to more easily apply for Buildmark for buildings, NHBC's ten-year warranty and insurance cover for newbuild homes.

In the wake of the Grenfell tragedy, changes in UK building regulations prohibiting the use of potentially dangerous external cladding systems in residential buildings has created hesitancy around the use of engineered timber in construction. This lack of confidence threatens the UK's ability to meet emerging embodied carbon targets and address the climate change crisis, despite wide acceptance of the knowledge that the use of structural timber is one of the primary ways to reduce the carbon emissions produced by construction.

Jonathan Roynon, Technical Director at Buro Happold, said: "This groundbreaking design and engineering work demonstrates just what's possible with mass timber. Embracing the use of the material in medium rise residential buildings and beyond will be a critical part of our response to the climate emergency. With the team's breadth of experience with mass timber, we've been able to develop a comprehensive methodology for delivering all parts of a project, including architectural designs, the structure, buildability plans and fire safety.

"The key element of our engineering work – the structural strategy – is flexible too, so it can be adopted by as many construction projects as possible. And we've made sure the strategy gives absolute clarity on how to build a structure that's safe. Ultimately, we hope all this work will encourage the construction industry to reemploy timber as a core construction material, in our drive to achieve net zero."

Paul King, CEO of Built by Nature, added: "Game-changer is an over-used phrase, but truly applicable here. Six storey residential timber buildings that exceed UK Building Regulations, meet GLA policy and slash embodied carbon by over 50% – all pre-assessed by a major national warranty provider. We believe this will unlock a significant shift in the way we build housing in the UK."

As part of The New Model Building launch, its design principles and details have been published and made available at: solutions/new-model-building/5

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