Homegrown timber project receives funding boost ahead of COP26 initiative

A project exploring the use of Scottish homegrown timber in construction has secured funding to create a demonstrator home for COP26.

The Transforming Timber initiative will see the first two-storey modular home manufactured from Scottish mass timber displayed during the event.

The project – led by Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC) with support from Edinburgh Napier University, ECOSystems Technologies, the University of Edinburgh, and SNRG – has been awarded £1.45 million from Innovate UK’s Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) to create a prototype that highlights the business case for using Scottish timber resources in building projects.

The commercialisation of homegrown timber has been tipped to boost the Scottish economy and help support ambitious environmental targets. A recent study estimated that over the next 30 years, replacing concrete floor slabs with timber in steel building frames could avoid up to 50 megatons of upfront greenhouse gasses or carbon dioxide equivalent.

Despite 85% of Scottish homes being built with timber frame, the UK is the second largest importer of forestry products such as timber behind China. The demonstrator project and prototype unit – which is being built with a mix of cross laminated timber, glue laminated timber and nail laminated timber components – could lead to the development of a mass-manufacturing facility for homegrown natural resources.

Sam Hart, innovation manager at CSIC, explained, “There is a huge opportunity for the greater use of renewable Scottish timber in UK construction and research has proven that with the right treatment and processing, it can be used for a wide range of structural elements. The construction of a functioning prototype will allow us to take this research one step further, showcasing the strength of the opportunity and the associated environmental benefits, while enabling us to monitor and test the performance and behaviour of the building in a real-world environment, outside of the factory.”

The two-storey, two-bedroom timber demonstrator home will feature as part of the After the Pandemic showcase and will be displayed throughout November.

The project also includes a homegrown timber resource library, while the team will produce a virtual reality walkthrough and digital twin of the demonstrator unit to capture information such as structural, thermal, acoustic and fire performance data.

Professor Robert Hairstans, head of the Centre for Offsite Construction and Innovative Structures at Edinburgh Napier University, commented, “Biogenic offsite manufacturing is an industrialised form of construction that utilises naturally renewable resources with an emphasis on timber, factory, and digital approaches. This project will help accelerate the adoption of these approaches, supporting the utilisation of homegrown timber in line with the declared climate crisis and corresponding necessity to achieve net zero carbon adopting a circular approach.”