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UK lags behind Europe in Sustainable Building Techniques. Enter CLT…..

Britain is at risk of encountering a major skills gap in the construction industry if the sector does not catch up with sustainable building practices elsewhere in the world.

As other European countries, including Germany, Austria and Sweden, continue to lead the way in sustainable construction and design, British firms are falling behind in the race to develop more sustainable buildings.

CLT ( Cross  Laminated Timber) is the material du jour” on the continent as builders and designers strive to find more  ingenious methods to build quickly and cheaply yest comply with ever increasing CO2 reduction targets.

CLT is produced from industrially dried, quick growing spruce (larch or pine are alternatives) boards, stacked at right angles and glued together over their entire surface in generally 3, 5, 7 or more board or panel layers. The majority of CLT is manufactured in Austria and imported to the UK. CLT is increasingly being used in the construction of high-rise residential buildings. 

Bridport House, on the Colville Estate, in Hackney, London, is a recently completed project comprising 41 maisonettes and apartments in two joined blocks, one eight storeys high and the other five storeys. The panels are used as large external and internal wall, floor, ceiling and roof elements. They are factory manufactured with precision cut-outs for doors, windows and building services. 

Delivered to site in prefabricated form, they are slotted into place in situ. In addition the timber used in CLT has many design benefits. It lends itself to offsite construction, less waste and a shorter build programme. It offers accuracy and long spans and, aesthetically, timber will improve the look and feel of a building. Also there are the lifecycle benefits of a renewable resource.

Drawbacks to the wider adoption of CLT buildings include the need for early decisions on the form of construction and the relatively high-embodied energy impact of transportation of large loads to site within the UK.

In Britain,such techniques have yet to progress beyond piecemeal application, particularly in the residential sector – something which needs to be addressed now in order to avoid sleepwalking into a skills gap in the future. 

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