Optimising Timber Frame Construction

  Timber platform frame has evolved as an efficient method of construction for domestic dwellings and
is experiencing continual growth in the UK due to it lending itself to off-site modem methods of
construction (MMC), being environmentally efficient and exhibiting structural robustness. The
challenge faced by the industry in the UK is to continue the evolutionary process such that the future
demands of off-site MMC and regulatory changes are met.
By conducting a study of the development of timber platform frame construction and reviewing the
current and future requirements of the domestic dwelling construction market the challenges for the
industry were highlighted. The business drivers of a timber platform frame manufacturer were
considered and in conjunction with the information from the review an agenda of research
programmes was derived. The objective of the research, although primarily from a structural timber
engineering perspective, was to address the challenges faced by the industry employing a holistic
approach with a view to implementing applied research.
The UK procurement process for domestic dwelling construction is such that building layout is
determined by architectural requirements. Building layout can have an adverse effect on structural
stability and result in an inefficient system. A design review was conducted to determine the
influencing factors which impinge upon system stability as a result of which recommendations for
improvements were made. From the investigation the transfer of shear from a wall diaphragm to the
foundation was deemed critical. Therefore, an experimental study was carried out which has resulted
in an optimised specification. Further to this mathematical modelling techniques were used to
demonstrate the impact that architectural layout has on stability, quantifying the financial penalty of
inefficient layout and making recommendations to improve current designs.
One of major priorities of the UK Government is to reduce climate change by implementing a low
carbon economy with sustainable production and consumption; all with duty of care towards natural
resources. Improvements to the Building Regulations (2006), in conjunction with other requirements,
will result in wall U-values in domestic dwellings to be between 0.27 to 0.30W/m2K. To determine an
efficient method of meeting the new regulations an all encompassing research programme was conducted with the primary function being to develop a sustainable method of achieving thermal
efficiency. Another method of wall construction is Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) and this option
was reviewed. Initial work by Kermani (2005) on the structural performance of SIPs was extended to
examine their racking characterisitcs with comparative studies to European and British structural
codes of practice carried out.
One of the key industry drivers which the review highlighted was the need for the implementation of
lean technologies. The fabrication of flitch beams (timber-steel-timber sandwich configuration), used
in cases of onerous load span conditions and limited depth of section, was improved through the
implementation of a shot fired dowel connection method. To optimise the method of fabrication and
achieve implementation an extensive laboratory study was carried out the results of which are
compared to European structural codes of practice with recommendations made for design.
The implementation of off-site MMC methods results in a change in associated risk during
construction from minor consequence and high risk to major consequence and low risk. The crane
erect method of timber platform frame construction optimises on-site performance in terms of both
time and cost and reduces the requirement of working at height, which on average causes almost one
fatality every week. The biggest health and safety risk associated with the crane erect method is failure
of the roof system when being lifted into position. Using an analytical model, verified by full scale
laboratory testing, a range of lifting conditions were researched and a best practice lifting procedure
was developed which allows the safe lifting of standard roof systems used in domestic dwelling

  • Dates:

    2002 to 2007

  • Qualification:

    Doctorate (PhD)

Project Team



Research Areas