The Versatility of Timber Frame

Rebekah Bishop, Marketing Manager for Taylor Lane Timber Frame, explores the versatility of timber frame and explains how it enabled Acorn Property Group to realise a striking and complex design and meet stringent environmental demands on its Cubis Bruton development.


Timber frame construction provides a host of benefits for the supply chain. The modern construction method enables architects and designers to realise the full potential of their creativity; builders, contractors and developers benefit from the speed, ease and accuracy of the factory-manufactured kits while homeowners and residents enjoy the financial and wellbeing rewards of living in an energy-efficient, comfortable home.

The joy of timber frame is that these benefits can be realised regardless of the building design. From standardised housing on large developments to design-led properties in exclusive communities and unique, individual homes; timber frame provides the scope, scale and capability to build them all.

Standard homes

When designing and building with timber frame construction, setting standard room sizes on similar-sized plots is an easy win. Standardisation generates speed throughout the process, from estimation to design; manufacture to delivery; erection right through to fit-out. This is particularly popular on high-volume housing developments.

And don’t think that standardisation means losing individuality; when it comes to the exterior, variation is infinitely possible. The timber frame structure can be ‘wrapped’ in any number of external finishes, including traditional brickwork, cladding and render.

On housing developments where millimetres matter, it’s timber’s naturally-insulating properties that provide valuable space on restricted plots. It is far simpler to achieve a low U-value with timber frame than traditional build methods. To achieve a U-value of 0.19W/m2K, a traditional build would usually need a wider wall construction than that of a factory-manufactured timber wall panel. It would require a bigger cavity with more insulation and would have a negative impact on room size. With timber frame, the savings soon add up.

Exclusive homes

Where creativity and innovation take precedence, it is worthwhile engaging with the timber frame supplier early in the design process. This can help save time and money later. Most timber frame suppliers will work with the architect to realise their design and ensure that the timber frame solution is practical, economical and structurally sound, seeking advice from structural engineers when required.

Early engagement is particularly important when drawings incorporate big rooms with large spans. These larger spans require a bigger structure, often with steel supports and more complex roof structures. With building height set by planning, bear in mind that increased structural support, e.g. steel, may impact ceiling height.

This was one crucial consideration on Acorn Property Group’s landmark development, Cubis Bruton, in Somerset.

Landmark development

Comprising three- and four-bedroom houses and two-storey apartment blocks, Cubis Bruton is both striking and architecturally innovative. Combining sustainability and environmentally-aware technology with compelling design, the properties offer flexible, future-proof living.

Timber frame was specified because of its ability to achieve the complex design, meet the stringent thermo-performance criteria and speed of construction.

Due to the demands and design complexity of Cubis Bruton, it is highly unlikely that this scheme could be achieved using traditional masonry construction.

Timber frame design challenges

Cubis Bruton is unique, requiring complex design and product engineering. Large, open-plan internal spaces with modern lines combine with a distinctive roofscape of geometric shapes, cantilevers and green roofs. The number of variations (up to three) per house type (x 11) added to the timber frame design challenge.

While 80% of the properties featured flat roofs, several had sedum roofs. The weight of these affected the centre and size of the joists required. Taylor Lane utilised Posi-Joists as the engineered metal web joists can span further and bear additional load over standard timber joists whilst accommodating services.

The contract also included a penalty clause if a room size was reduced. When a steel post encroached into the room on one unit where the first floor stepped back, Taylor Lane designed the steel post to be more square so it would retreat into the wall structure. Additional strength was then designed elsewhere in the building, e.g. sheathing walls etc.

Thermo-efficient homes

“Green features are employed throughout the development to ensure high-performing thermo-efficient new housing within a setting where enhanced biodiversity has been encouraged,” said Robin Squire, Regional Managing Director of Acorn’s Bristol region. “Timber frame construction has contributed to the environmentally-sensitive nature of the scheme.”

The Taylor Lane 140mm pre-insulated timber frame, plus a continuous layer of 50mm insulation on the inside face, achieves an exceptional U-value of 0.15W/m2K. The added continuous layer prevents cold bridging and improves the U-value enormously. This level of thermal performance could not be achieved with masonry construction without a negative impact on room size and build costs.

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