House Building & The Environment

Going Green In House Building

The image of house construction, to the glance of the passer-by, would not seemed to have changed a great deal over the years.

Site clearance, and foundation digging, with a varying assortment of trench digging mini-diggers, dumpers, and all-powerful back-hoe machinery goes on as it seems to on all sites, followed by endless quantities of cement mixing, as blocks and bricks slowly rise week after week.

There is an alternative type of construction gaining ground in Britain, helped, not least, by the Government’s drive towards zero carbon housing, and that is a prefabricated timber frame construction.

Although requiring similar foundation laying, the process of the build is far quicker. The factory-built frames are delivered to site, and the shell erected in a few days, and the whole building sealed and weatherproofed in under two weeks.

This is when the trades can start on the interior and have it plumbed, wired, insulated and plaster dry lined and looking for completion in a matter of weeks, rather than the conventional build of brick and block taking several months.

This obviously lowers the carbon foot print of the house, but the green credentials lie in the timber itself.

As a construction material, looking at where it comes from is an important part of the picture. Trees are an important part of the eco system, being vital in holding back levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Heat from the earth, much of it man-made is trapped in the atmosphere due to the man-made high levels of carbon dioxide and other gases, which prevent that heat transferring out in to space.

This creates the situation known as the greenhouse effect, causing rising global temperatures. Trees, as they grow, absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, replacing it with oxygen. The carbon remains locked in the very fabric of the wood, giving an effective atmospheric cleanser.

To maintain the numbers of trees whilst cutting a proportion down to facilitate the timber frame construction industry, sustainable forestry ensures that at least as many trees that are harvested are replaced by planting new young trees.

As a mainstream building material it carries a far smaller manufacturing foot print, needing only minimal processing to get to the stage of arriving at the building site than concrete, blocks, or steel, whilst still holding on to its carbon extract.

Sustainable forestry ensures that this basis of house construction relies on a truly renewable material, that is good for the environment in its manufacture, bringing green benefits to modern house building.