Sustainability Benefits of Timber Frame and SIPs

12 February 2021 Potton News
Image of a plot of land

In today’s climate, it’s really important to be environmentally conscious wherever we can. Using a natural material like timber is a great opportunity to reduce our impact on the environment. In fact, choosing to build with timber frame or SIPs (structural insulated panels) can actually lower your carbon footprint.

What is Sustainability?

Sustainability simply means the ability to exist constantly. When applied to natural resources, it includes the avoidance of their unsustainable depletion, i.e., using up more than can be planted and/or grown. Not all natural resources are sustainable; they must be managed properly. For example, overfishing depletes fish populations faster than they can naturally reproduce, so ensuring resources are sustainable relies heavily upon considerate management.

Sustainable Forests

All the timber used at Potton originates from sustainable forests. These plant many more trees than are cut down, while ensuring there is no damage to the surrounding environment, or to native flora and fauna. Our wood experiences an independent chain of custody, which means it is checked at every stage of processing, which we can prove with certification. Furthermore, increasing demand for timber means an increasing demand for these sustainable forests, which provide habitats for thousands of animal species.

Carbon Emissions

Aerial image of a timber-frame house under construction
By now, we all know that carbon emissions are bad for the environment, to put it simply. Since timber originates from trees, it has the ability to store carbon. Around a tonne of carbon is stored in every cubic metre of timber, and as long as the wood is not burned or rots, the carbon remains locked in. Harvesting timber therefore causes no extra carbon to be emitted.

In fact, the harvesting and replanting process is actually beneficial when it comes to carbon storage. This is because trees absorb carbon very rapidly when they are growing, so the net effect of this process is actually removing lots of carbon from the atmosphere. Therefore, sustainably-managed timber forests in which trees are carefully harvested then replaced are an even more effective carbon store than just an undisturbed forest.

Embodied Energy

This is the energy required for the manufacture and construction of different materials. Timber has a lower embodied energy than all other mainstream construction materials. Curing / cutting timber and using it in construction requires only basic tools and very little energy, in comparison to materials such as brick, metal or plastic which must be heated to extract the raw materials.

What Does it All Mean?

Timber-frame construction has the lowest CO2 cost of any commercial building method. Compared to steel and concrete, the methods used to produce, harvest and transport timber are the least harmful to the environment. And the difference is pretty significant: building a house from timber instead of bricks can reduce carbon emissions by up to ten tonnes.

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