Revisited: Mass Timber Commercial Developments – What do you need to know?

Forest with sunlight through the trees

Updated April 2022

One year on from when we launched the summary whitepaper for our mass timber office series, we brought the network back together and revisited some of the key challenges identified at the outset of the programme. We heard from experts in the insurance and fire sectors, as well as updates on the supply chain and government incentives, including the development of greater collaboration across the built environment.

During the session 65% of the audience said they'd seen an increase in the number of mass timber developments over the last 12 months, with 89% saying that if the key challenges could be resolved they'd see at least a 25% increase of mass timber within their own development pipelines. If nothing more, this data highlights the industry's appetite for investment in this market and the steps being taken by this forum, the timber accelerator hub and many others in this sector are moving us closer to overcoming these challenges.

If you want to find out more about the developments over the past 12 months, watch the webinar for the latest updates.

Read on to discover the findings from our mass timber office forum including the seven critical success factors we identified when building with mass timber.

An Introduction

There has been a significant increase in interest for using mass timber within construction projects across the UK over the last few years. A combination of the UK Government’s net zero 2050 target, growing concern about the global climate crisis and people’s attitudes towards the spaces they live and work in has created a substantial shift in demand.

However despite this shift in demand, mass timber is often still seen as a challenging choice for many developments when compared with more conventional building materials such as concrete and steel.

Why is this the case and are there opportunities with mass timber that the market may be missing?

To investigate the use of mass timber in office construction and to better understand the specific challenges being faced by the industry when using these technologies, G&T launched a Mass Timber Office Forum. The forum brought together panels of experts from across the industry to debate and discuss the barriers for using mass timber for commercial developments.

In the introductory session key challenges for clients and developers were identified and included the ability to obtain insurance, the risk of fire and water damage, access to testing data and out of date regulation in relation to mass timber construction.

These challenges were debated over the course of 12 months across 10 different panel discussions by more than 60 sector experts from fields such as insurance, building control, mass timber manufacturing and the supply chain. Not only were deliverable solutions determined, breakthrough collaborations were also formed enabling significant steps forward to encourage a greater uptake of mass timber across the industry.

Key Success Factors

Key Success Factors - G&T Mass Timber Office Forum
© G&T's Mass Timber Office Forum

The forums identified several key factors for ensuring success when using mass timber for office construction. These included the importance of choosing the right project team with the right experience from the outset of the project, having a robust fire and water strategy and involving building control early on in the decision-making process.

Teams were encouraged to engage with the supply chain in the early design stages to ensure that the programme and logistics strategy are aligned.

When determining areas that need to be addressed in order for the industry to tackle the challenges preventing the widespread adoption of mass timber across the commercial sector, the forums found that improvements in research and testing were required, as well as new regulations specifically for mass timber construction.

Greater incentives and Government policy to reward the reduction of embodied carbon were also highlighted as being important for making mass timber a more attractive choice. This, alongside increased collaboration, education and knowledge sharing of lessons learnt by those who have already begun to use timber products, will help to increase take-up of mass timber across the built environment.

Perhaps the greatest challenge identified by the discussions was the general perception of the material - from those that may not understand its properties, to a lack of widespread expert knowledge in sectors such as insurance and fire regulation. For mass timber to become mainstream, a good educational programme (informed by findings from series such as this) will be crucial in disseminating knowledge and information across the wider marketplace.

“The G&T forum has proved to be an essential tool in highlighting the demand for more construction of mass timber offices and focusing on particular barriers, suggesting pathways to overcome them with an impressive array of experts each month tackling specific issues and providing feedback for the development work in the TAH.”

— Simon Corbey, Director at Association of Sustainable Building Products

Looking to the future of the mass timber office market, it is clear to see that there is an appetite for increased demand and the networks that have been created throughout this forum will help, through knowledge sharing and increased collaboration, to drive forward the accessibility and viability of mass timber to a wider market.

To find out more:

Are you considering mass timber for your next project but not sure how it might impact your programme? Do you want to know more about the cost implications?

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