In contrast to traditional masonry construction, timber frame construction is light in weight which allows the building envelope to heat up very quickly. In a house, where heating is intermittent, this fast response can result in increased comfort and energy saving. Timber is a natural material and requires minimal energy to process it into construction materials. During its growth, timber absorbs carbon dioxide and stores the carbon in its cellular fibers. When it is burnt, or rots away, the wood releases a quantity of carbon equal to the carbon it has already absorbed through its lifetime, thus making it carbon neutral.
Timber frame homes are manufactured as panels under factory conditions then transported to the site where the building is assembled. The panels are constructed with timber studding and composite wood board materials, known as sheathing, which are nailed onto the exterior of the timber frame to form the rigid panel.
Benefits: In addition to its low thermal capacity, timber frame construction has several other advantages over masonry cavity walls. Because the insulation is incorporated within the thickness of the frame, a greater thickness of insulation can be provided. An external wall cavity is not necessary in timber frame house construction, as long as an appropriate vapor control layer is incorporated on the warm side in winter of the insulation.
Better U-values: Timber frame homes construction can achieve U-values significantly better than the minimums required by current building standards. A typical timber studding wall consists of a waterproof breather membrane, sheathing board, structural timber framing, vapor barrier and inner lining of plasterboard. Insulation is fitted between the uprights of the timber frame, usually filling the full thickness of the external wall. Where higher than normal standards of insulation are required, a thicker external wall can be constructed.
External wall cladding: External walls of timber homes can be faced with load bearing brickwork or cement rendered block work to give the appearance of conventional houses. A number of lightweight cladding materials are also available including: tiling, slating, timber boarding, cedar shingles, cement render on lathing, as well as proprietary rain screen cladding solutions.
Speed of construction: Timber frame homes can be constructed much more rapidly than masonry cavity wall construction, as the timbers are cut under quality controlled factory conditions. The absence of wet trades internally results in reduced drying out time. Shorter time on site means a shorter total build program.
Warranties and guarantees: Housing warranty and guarantee authorities may have additional requirements for aspects of the timber frame construction such as sheathing materials, breather membranes and the preservative treatment of the external wall framing. Timber frame homes have the lowest embodied energy of any commercially available building material delivering up to 33 per cent reduction in energy consumption.