The environmental advantages of Timber Frame Construction are many, making it an up-and-coming construction technique in the eco-housing sector in Spain.
Timber is unique in being a renewable structural building material, as opposed to a material which involves the extraction of non-renewable resources. This of course assumes that each tree felled will be replanted.
Timber also has a low embodied energy compared with other structural building materials. A concrete block wall takes 1.7 times as much energy to construct as a timber wall. The production process, as well as installation, maintenance and disposal are relatively simple operations. Most of the embodied energy in timber derives from its transportation. Note: all Spanish timber is imported, although it is possible to find sources of recycled timber beams which are typically used in roof construction.
As a low-energy process, the extraction and conversion of timber accounts for only a small amount of pollution: again, most of this can be attributed to the motorised transport.
Minimal waste is generated in the production and use of timber, as there are viable end uses for virtually every part of the tree. Good quality timber can easily be re-used or recycled, while poor quality pieces or offcuts can be burnt to create heat and so offset fossil fuel use.
The use of untreated timber in buildings poses no health risks to the user and can help to regulate the humidity of the indoor environment. Because growing trees absorb carbon dioxide, harvested timber can be seen as a ‘carbon sink’. If the forests that are harvested are then replanted, timber becomes a carbon-neutral material.
In general, it is easier to achieve higher insulation values, and therefore lower energy use, with a timber construction than with a masonry one. It is difficult to increase the cavity depth in a masonry wall substantially, without extra-long ties and additional structural support. As regulations call for higher standards of energy efficiency, so contractors are turning to timber frame construction to minimise extra works and cost.
Timber frame structures are usually commissioned as a prefabricated package which is transported to site by the fabricator and erected by them. The completeness of the package which can be provided varies significantly and needs to be investigated: some will include fully glazed windows and doors as well as the external cladding system, whereas others will provide you with simply the structure itself. There will be an issue of the co-ordination of the interface both with the foundations and slab, which will have been built in preparation by others, as well as the roof finish etc.
There are Spanish companies who have subscribed to a national system of quality approval for their system which is signified by the acronym ‘AITIM’, and ensures the compliance of the materials and standard of details and connections provided will be up to regulations.