A new trend in housebuilding and construction using traditional materials could be set to change the industry in the UK as it offers a solution to urban building.

2018 is a year of retrospect with important centenary events like the 1918 British suffrage movement and the end of the Russian Revolution. It seems there is another revolution brewing in the form of ‘mass-timber’ building, according to designers, architects and housebuilders, who are recognising the need to balance the restrictions of our urban spaces with the environment and people’s lifestyle needs.

Architects like Andrew Waugh, director of Waugh Thistleton Architects (WTA) and dRMM’s Alex de Rijke believe that “a great mass timber revival is on track to disrupt the building industry forever”.

Waugh is thrilled that wood is making a comeback. He said: “Mass timber buildings weigh as little as a one-fifth of concrete structures; this means that wooden buildings offer a possible solution for building in densely concentrated urban locations.”

Off-site building

Works by WTA were recently completed in Hackney in East London on a 121-unit CLT mid-rise block of flats located above a Eurostar tunnel in Dalston.

De Rijke, who has been working with timber for more than a decade, is a firm believer in a wood panel product formed from gluing multiple layers of sawn solid timber together to produce cross-laminated timber (CLT).

He commented: “Timber has important benefits compared with steel, concrete or masonry construction in terms of its credentials, environmentally and in terms of structure, weight and speed of construction.”

Developed in the early 1990s, CLT has been growing in popularity throughout the international architecture and construction sectors. Driven by a growing interest in green building and efforts to make houses more energy-efficient. The material is produced off-site in a factory from sustainably sourced timber. It is also much lighter which allows for reduced slabs.

“Plyscrapers” – taller buildings with CLT frames – may well be creating a renaissance landscape across UK cities over the next few decades.