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Timber Frame takes the Passivhaus tour

An UK Timber Frame Association product story
Edited by the Buildingtalk editorial team Jan 23, 2009

UK Timber Frame Association (UKTFA) learn how Passivhaus design concepts and other benefits of German timber frame construction can be applied to the UK.

A fact-finding trip to Germany organised by the UK Timber Frame Association (UKTFA) has helped to identify future options for the timber frame industry, including how Passivhaus design concepts and other benefits of German timber frame construction can be applied to the UK.

The two day study tour at the end of last year involved 30 members of the UKTFA.

It included factory visits to see Passivhaus schemes and pre-fabricated off-site construction, a presentation on how the very low U-values of the Passivhaus system are achieved and demonstrations of the latest woodworking equipment and automation systems.

Passivhaus is a fast-growing 'design movement' underpinned by very good technical knowledge from widespread use in Germany and Austria.

It includes a rigorous performance standard for energy efficiency in buildings which, when achieved, results in highly airtight buildings that require little or no energy use for heating or cooling, very low energy bills overall, and excellent internal comfort and air quality.

The Passivhaus approach is proven to work and is gaining increasing interest in the UK.

Since the first Passivhaus was built in German in 1990 there are now about 20,000 Passivhaus buildings across Europe.

Most are new homes or apartments, but refurbishment projects, schools, offices, sports centres and fire stations have also been built to the standard.

The UKTFA's trip was hosted by Weinmann Timber Construction System Engineering, which provided the visitors with a live demonstration of modern and highly flexible machines and tools for timber frame housebuilders.

Geoff Arnold, UKTFA chairman and managing director of Pinewood Structures, said: "The trip was a great opportunity for us to experience and learn about the German housebuilding industry".

"Clearly the market is different to the UK, and many more homes are sold direct to the consumer, rather than through volume housebuilders controlling the development and specification of large sites".

"As a consequence German homes are built to much higher specification levels of energy efficiency than the majority of homes built in the UK and it is pleasing to see that timber frame is clearly the way forward where energy efficiency is concerned".

"This is supported by the UK self build market where the a high percentage of self build new homes are highly specified and built using timber frame".

"German manufacturers are also able to capture the complete supply chain value by delivering a complete house - for example, we saw the erection of a complete house in one day, including internal wiring, windows, doors, walls and a roof".

"We were also shown an impressive demonstration of Weinmann's automated equipment, and how Passivhaus technology is able to deliver an extremely comfortable and large family house with heating and hot water energy bills of less than GBP200 a year".

"That's a remarkable achievement and an example for the UK.

My home heating costs are about that every month, and it's no mansion".

Passivhaus design principles have started to gain greater interest in the UK, and it's certainly much easier to achieve the required airtightness and insulation levels by building in off-site manufactured timber frame.

I am even more convinced now that timber frame will be the build technology of choice for energy efficient UK homes"".

"Neil Smith, director of Holbrook Timber Frame Limited, said: "I firmly believe that we have much to learn from the successes of the German timber frame industry.

We must strive to be more innovative and sustainable like our European neighbours".

"The UKTFA trip to Germany was very thought provoking as it showed us how we could adapt and apply the same principles of Passivhaus construction in the UK in order to comply with the Government's regulations and initiatives such as the Code for Sustainable Homes.

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