The Benefits of Offsite Manufacture for Self-Builders

Using structural timber systems can give you the assurance of more control over quality, productivity and predictability on your self-build project
by Structural Timber Association
31st January 2018

Offering highly impressive environmental credentials, along with cost and time efficiencies, structural timber systems are a mainstay of the self-build market. As time progresses, timber solutions are moving towards a more factory-built focus, with greater levels of prefabrication – also known as offsite construction.

This means your new house can be delivered as part of a controlled process, rather than relying on site-based methods. Here’s what you need to know about the rise of pre-manufactured homes.

The basics

The terms ‘offsite manufacture’ and ‘offsite construction’ are now entering the self-build vernacular. But what do they really mean?

Fundamentally, they describe structural systems that are factory-manufactured to an advanced level to allow for onsite assembly (as opposed to construction) via controlled installation processes.

Exact levels of prefabrication can vary, from factory-fitted insulation and pre-cut service channels through to panels that come complete with windows and doors already installed.

Even internal finishes and external cladding can be pre-applied – especially where volumetric modular construction techniques are used.

Built-in benefits

Offsite manufactured structural timber systems have advanced greatly in recent years, and they can offer genuine cost, programme and performance assurances for self-builders – especially when backed by the STA Assure Membership and Quality Standards Scheme.

Intelligent, integrated construction systems such as closed panel timber frame, structural insulated panels (SIPs) and volumetric modular options are now driving innovation in the timber industry – giving you more choice than the classic kit systems and panelised solutions.

With standards for energy efficiency constantly ramping up, the construction industry as a whole has faced a real challenge in creating homes that achieve the actual performance that’s specified in the design brief. The accuracy and control involved in using timber-based offsite technology overcomes this issue.

An offsite-manufactured timber floor cassette being craned into position
A closed panel timber frame project by Scotframe

It’s not perfect for every project, of course – if your plot suffers from restricted access, for example, highly-manufactured options may not be suitable.

But combine the enhanced energy efficiency of these advanced systems with shorter construction timescales, guaranteed build quality and vastly reduced ongoing running costs for the life of the building, and it’s clear that there are compelling reasons to specify these solutions.

When it comes to measuring value, taking all of these factors into the equation shows that structural timber systems are a cost-effective option.

6 reasons to choose offsite construction

Here are the key advantages of opting for an offsite manufactured solution for your project:

  1. Speed of construction The high degree of factory prefabrication enables a rapid build process, which will not be adversely influenced by inclement weather.
  2. Build cost and programme certainty Offsite construction for onsite installation makes scheduling and costing more predictable than with traditional building methods.
  3. Quality assurance Stringent factory-quality control enhances the manufacture of buildings, ensuring you get a modern, high- performance structural envelope for your scheme.
  4. Energy usage Thermally efficient, highly airtight structures vastly reduce energy consumption
    across the life of the building.
  5. Design flexibility With a wide range of innovative products and cladding solutions, timber systems can meet the aspirations of both architects and self-builders.
  6. Sustainability All Structural Timber Association members use timber from PEFC or FSC certified sources, ensuring responsible management of the world’s forests.

In summary, new offsite methods of timber construction are gaining acclaim across the private residential, social/affordable housing and self-build sectors – winning industry awards for design, performance and product innovation.

The Structural Timber Association website contains a wealth of information for self-builders, from guidance on timber building systems through to top tips and an enquiry system to help you find the right partner for your project.

Main image: A contemporary self-build project by Flight Timber

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