Industrialised home building is one of the latest trends in the construction sector. Advances in technology now mean it is possible to fabricate elements for later on-site structure assembly, whilst offering full quality guarantees.
When it comes to prefabricated timber buildings, the principal advantages include the speed of construction and cleaner building sites, together with more effective planning and monitoring of the construction process, as well as enhanced sustainability.
The degree of prefabrication applied to House Habitat’s constructive systems varies in accordance with the project type. However, in all cases they include the use of top quality wood sourced from sustainable forests. One such supplier is Pyrenees-based company Egoín, which has participated in Spain’s most ambitious timber architecture projects.
We talked to Unai Gorroño, Commercial Director of Egoín, about the trend for the use of timber in industrialised building systems.
What is the reason for the growing popularity of industrialised timber building?
In today’s society, any form of production that is not based on sustainability criteria is simply unthinkable. Governments around the world are introducing legislation that will reduce CO2 emissions into the atmosphere in order to combat climate change. The construction sector is responsible for 40% of all greenhouse gas emissions.
Against this scenario, wood technologies and solutions represent an alternative, and are playing an increasingly relevant role. Moreover, the false myths about wood are finally being overcome, and technicians as well as contractors are no longer reluctant to include timber systems in their projects. As a result, society is become increasingly aware of the following:
- Wood is just as resistant and hard-wearing as other building materials.
- Wood burns, but from the point of view of structural safety, and due to its good thermal conductivity, it is safer than other materials such as reinforced concrete or metal structures.
- With the right type of building system, timber structures are as or even more long-lasting than other kinds of materials.
In the light of these two trends, both private and public developers are calling on their architects to include sustainable wood in their designs; what’s more, architects are working to raise awareness among developers, urging them to follow these trends.
The forecasts that pointed to an increased use of wood in building have proved accurate in central and northern Europe, as well as on other continents such as America, Oceania and Asia. The trend has now spread to Spain, and we are hopeful that it is here to stay, although it requires quality building systems with professionals and companies with experience and expertise in timber building techniques.
What are the main advantages of industrialised timber building?
- Wood is the most renewable construction resource we know. It is not a material that has to be produced; it simply grows, nourished by the sun, earth and rain.
- Wood also has a lower carbon footprint than any other building material; it requires minimum amounts of energy and water during the transformation processes and is 100% renewable.
- Every m3 of wood offsets the emission of a ton of CO2 into the atmosphere. Wood-based buildings are essentially ‘carbon banks’.
- Wood generates green employment.
2. Structural safety and an excellent mechanical resistance-to-weight ratio
Structural timber is more resistant to fire than steel or concrete. Its low thermal conductivity reduces the propagation speed, thereby preventing structural alteration for longer. Timber structures are lighter than concrete ones, require less foundation excavation and the building processes are far quicker.
3. Speed, cleanliness and cost control
Timber building systems do not require water or drying times and can use modular components which are quick and easy to install. In fact, they can cut construction time by 50%. They are cleaner and more predictable systems, generate limited noise pollution and less waste. These systems are ideal for city building projects as they minimise any disturbance to local residents and adjacent businesses.
4. Insulation, hermeticity, passivhaus construction, comfort and health
Industrialised timber building makes the construction of efficient passivhaus buildings simpler and more economical, guaranteeing users comfort, health and wellbeing. It is an exceptional heat insulator, 15 times more efficient than concrete, 400 times more than steel and 1,770 more than aluminium.
Its thermal conductivity is second only to cork, making it an ideal temperature moderator, and it also contributes to energy savings, thereby cutting the cost of heating and cooling systems.
Wood also has excellent acoustic properties thanks to its porosity and elasticity, which means that it can absorb much of the energy from the waves it receives. This contributes to reducing reverberation and noise pollution.
How are developers and architects reacting to these innovative systems?
Everyone who tries them out repeats the experience, as they value the speed of assembly, site cleanliness and order, zero budget variation and site control.
How has the current pandemic affected the industrialisation trend?
As in all areas of economic activity, COVID-19 is having a negative impact. However, we have observed that this crisis is heightening sensitivities regarding the use of locally-sourced, sustainable materials that contribute health and quality to the construction industry. In this sense, wood ranks amongst the best-positioned materials.