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As a construction material CLT seems to be the answer to so many environmental, social and economic problems

5th October 2016 - Cross laminated timber is a form of engineered timber that is becoming increasingly popular as a construction material for the residential and commercial property sector. Its rise in popularity accompanies a growth in understanding of its potential safety, environmental, well-being, cost and delivery timeline benefits.

In the UK, residential developers choosing to make use of this highly sustainable construction material include Lendlease, Mace and Telford Homes.

Telford Homes’ nine storey Murray Grove’development in east London was completed in 2009. Taking just 49 weeks to deliver from start to finish, the project saved an estimated five months on delivery time when compared with a typical concrete frame building of the same scale.

Down at Elephant & Castle, Lendlease and Mace are also both in the process of delivering cross laminated timber (CLT) homes at their adjacent Elephant Park and Highpoint schemes. Meanwhile, in February, Legal & General Homes was launched, seeking to deliver quality, efficient and lower cost factory built timber homes through its warehouse outside Leeds (which just happens to be the largest modular home construction factory in the world).

There are fewer commercial examples to draw on in the UK but the expectation is that this will not remain the case for long. BskyB’s “Believe in Better” building in Osterley, west London, is the tallest commercial timber structure in the UK (at 28m high) and was designed and constructed in less than one year.

More recently, City Developments Ltd bought Development House in Shoreditch on which it has plans to deliver a nine-storey timber-framed office block. Once delivered this would be amongst the tallest modern timber-framed buildings in London.

Those who have delivered buildings using CLT extol its virtues. Not only are improved project delivery times cited, so too are the facts that CLT can provide safer, cleaner and quieter sites, make life easier and quicker for follow on trades, has a lower carbon and overall environmental impact than other construction materials, helps resolve difficult-to-build scenarios and if exposed is proven to improve occupant health and wellbeing.

So why hasn’t it been adopted more broadly? Despite its many virtues, CLT isn’t suitable for all build scenarios. Barriers to its uptake include concerns about the risk of fire when building at height, investor appetite and whether CLT home-owners will be able to secure mortgages or home insurance - although Legal & General Homes has stated on its website that “major mortgage lenders are happy to lend on CLT-manufactured homes”.

Despite these challenges JLL is convinced of the true potential of this highly sustainable construction material to deliver triple bottom line environmental, social and economic benefits. Perhaps it could be the solution to your latest construction challenge?

Elisabeth Filkin is associate diirector, Upstream Sustainability, JLL

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