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Rethinking Timber Buildings

Rethinking Timber Buildings

Seven perspectives on the use of timber in building design and construction

Seven perspectives on the use of timber in building design and construction

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Interest in the use of timber in the built environment is growing rapidly, from helping us to reduce the environmental impact of construction to providing new approaches to urban densification and prefabrication. New uses and hybrid materials are emerging that could transform how and where we choose to build, and the sustainability and resilience of our designs.

This report considers the trends, technologies and new uses that are supporting a resurgence in this most ancient of building materials. Supported by historic precedents and recent global exemplars, Rethinking Timber Buildings examines seven different perspectives on the use of timber in building design and construction. It aims to consider a range of implications – including speed, quality, safety and human experience – relevant to anyone who has a stake in the materials we choose to build with.

The report highlights the key considerations in timber construction including:

  • Sustainable and zero-carbon – the use of timber could significantly reduce the carbon footprint of buildings and contribute to limiting the carbon emission contributions of the wider construction industry.
  • Faster and quieter – the use of timber is well-suited to construction in dense urban environments. It is lightweight enabling less road deliveries and is also quiet and quick to assemble. This can help reduce construction noise, time and disruption.
  • Reduced waste – timber produces less waste because it can be prefabricated off site. New digital fabrication technologies enable timber buildings to be constructed very efficiently.
  • Mass timber is also attractive and can often be left visually exposed, reducing the time and cost of applying finishes.
  • Fire safety – robust fire safety can be achieved where timber is considered as part of a holistic fire strategy and is supported by tested, certified, and coordinated detailing throughout the design and construction process.
HAUT Timber Residential Building, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Macquarie University Innovation Hub, Sydney, Australia
The Smile, London, UK
Believe in Better Building, Osterley, UK

Rethinking Timber Buildings is aimed at accelerating the construction industry’s response to reducing global emissions and achieving net zero carbon buildings by using sustainable materials.

The report highlights the time and efficiency savings that can result from the use of mass timber as a sustainable and safe alternative to more commonly used materials. It states that architects, developers, planners and corporate organisations should consider mass timber when designing low and mid-rise buildings.

Timber lends itself to prefabrication because its lightweight and it can be digitally fabricated to high tolerances. This enables a timber building to be constructed quickly and with minimal disruption.

Andrew Lawrence
Timber Specialist, Arup