Our study for improving the timber construction supply chain in Wales continues to make good progress. Since the last update in September there have been some important developments, we’d like to share.

Assessing the potential of small and medium-sized sawmills

Following a number of sawmill visits throughout the summer, Llandre Sawn Wood near Builth Wells and Cilfiegan Sawmill near Usk welcomed our team members, Dainis Dauksta and David Hedges, this autumn. The tour of the mills showed saws and ancillary equipment in action. Like so many of the smaller sawmills in Wales, these are family concerns and focussed on producing a range of products but no output of graded structural softwood at any significant scale. Where construction timber is produced it’s principally cladding – the timber used in timber frame construction is predominantly produced at scale in the larger mills in Wales and the Marches. For the smaller mills there is potential to produce niche or specialist products using logs too big to be milled in the large mills. These can typically be machined to provide high value joinery quality material for use in making windows, staircases and more. Read more about specialist sawmilling techniques for oversized logs here.

Cilfiegan Sawmill’s yard & products Llandre’s primary and original saw in action

Testing practical solutions to evaluate building performance

Leading on this research package, Diana Waldron from Cardiff Metropolitan university has finalised and mapped out a programme of Building Performance Evaluation tests with a selection of exemplar projects. Progress has specifically been made on projects in Powys and Cardiff. We are very pleased to have building performance evaluation expert Professor Fionn Stephenson on board, and to be able to collaborate with Build Test Solutions on a number of the building performance tests. We are also finalising a sub-contract to produce industry guidance on Building Performance Evaluation.

September: In-construction air testing at Croft Court in Welshpool Diana capturing the evidence

Developing guidance on Whole Life Carbon

We are aware of a number of housing associations asking for help in being able to carry out and commission Whole Life Carbon (WLC) analysis. As part of the project we are currently carrying out a WLC analysis of one of Clwyd Alyn housing association’s schemes near Ruthin. We are also actively thinking about the shape of industry guidance on Whole Life Carbon analysis and are in discussions with expert Jane Anderson, author of the Green Guide to Specification.

October: Clwyd Alyn’s Llanbedr scheme – an Innovative Housing programme project

Manufacturing, standardisation & procurement – the client view

BM TRADA have been carrying out a series of interviews with housing associations. These aim at identifying their experience of timber frame solutions and to gather their views on a future which sees a degree of standardisation in the frame design and manufacturing process. The latter is seen as an opportunity to reduce defects, tackle some of the most common challenges and enable a degree of quality assurance in the production process. As part of the interviews, development directors also commented on procurement methods, risk and the social, economic and political factors which influence the types of homes we deliver. Further interviews will be carried out with contractors, who have a critical role to play in the choice of build system. Results are expected to be available by the end of the year.

Timber frame – could standardised approaches produce better performing social housing

Developing a zero-carbon building solution

We are developing a zero-carbon building solution with the help of an expert development team, led by architect Rob Thomas of r+m studio. The current build solution is based around a closed panel, twin-wall timber design that allows flexibility in terms of the choice of materials for the exterior wall. The current focus is on the development of the building fabric, plans (the first sketches are looking promising!) and a fully elevated 3D model that will be assessed using the Passive House Planning Package (PHPP) and used to ensure the structural integrity of the design. The intention is to develop a net-zero whole life carbon housing solution that aligns to the UKGBC framework. It will consider both embodied and operational carbon, renewables and carbon off-setting.

Management board strengthened

The Powys CC led Project Management board has been expanded to include Sian Howells from Mid-Wales Housing (representing CHC) and Simon Inkson representing Welsh Government Housing. Other board members include Dafydd Evans and Tom Simmons (Powys CC), Nigel Elias (WG Innovation), Jim McKirdle (WLGA). We’re hoping to announce a senior forestry expert shortly. We’re looking forward to a successful collaboration.

New team members

The Woodknowledge Team has been joined by two new members. Christiane Lellig is a Strategic Marketing Consultant with 20-years experience, known to some from her role as Campaign Director at Wood for Good. She is working with Ceri Loxton on the project communication. Miles Thomas, a Sustainability Consultant and former Environmental Manager with Castleoak timber frame, has been contracted to collect and analyse information on the quantity, specification and source of timber used in different housing projects throughout Wales. This will inform the interventions which might be required to ensure more timber and more manufactured timber products flow from the Welsh timber supply chain.

If you would like to find out more about the Home-Grown Homes Project please get in touch in touch with our project manager David Hedges via email david.hedges@woodknowledgewales.co.uk or mobile 07989345140