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What is volumetric timber construction?

Have you ever wondered whether there is a way to build faster, with less impact on the environment and to high quality? Volumetric timber construction could be part of the answer.


What is it?

Volumetric timber construction falls within the offsite systems category, where a proportion of the building work is transferred from the building site to a factory environment. This results in a mindset change. A production-line type materials flow process is introduced, and as consequence the opportunity to introduce a quality control system is increased. Volumetric, also referred to as ‘modular’, timber construction is the offsite system with the highest degree of prefabrication: up to approximately 90% of the build process is completed in the factory. Three-dimensional modules are assembled in the factory, including insulation, MEP services, internal finishes, windows, doors, built-in furniture and lightweight cladding.


Why should we use volumetric construction?

Volumetric timber construction is widely used in the Scandinavian countries, where the harsher winter weather requires buildings which are constructed quickly and which retain heat for energy-efficiency. Volumetric construction can be applied to many building types: low, mid and high-rise housing, nurseries, schools, healthcare centres, hospitality and student accommodation. From these, affordable housing and student accommodation are especially suitable for volumetric timber construction because of their component-based design nature, where repeatable units are grouped together creatively to form a building.


Are there any examples?

The Dyson Institute of Technology is about to start construction of its Cross-Laminated Timber modular student village. The volumetric modules were developed by Carbon Dynamic using the same prototype approach as Dyson use to develop their technological products: cutting-edge DfMA engineering was combined with a 1:1 loading test. In this way, the buildability of the connection details for the 3-storey module stack with cantilevers was tested and optimised to maximise efficiency on the building site.

In Alva, an affordable housing development was constructed on a former school site. This was the first of its scale volumetric timber development constructed to the Scottish Gold level sustainability standard. To achieve the ambitious goal, a Construction Scotland Innovation Centre brought together academic expertise in acoustic specification and energy-efficiency from Edinburgh Napier University with industry partners Tigh Grian and Link Group.


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