Research Output

A Scottish perspective on timber offsite construction

  This Chapter exemplifies the recent advancements in Scottish offsite construction through the research work carried out at the Centre for Offsite Construction + Innovative Structures (COCIS) at Edinburgh Napier University, Institute for Sustainable Construction (ISC). COCIS has been instrumental in promoting a culture of interdisciplinary collaboration around the creation of novel building solutions especially for low-rise, residential buildings.
The Centre’s holistic approach includes structural safety, thermal performance, environmental impact, acoustic behaviour and fire safety. In order to do so, COCIS has relied upon its numerous industrial partners (designers, consultants, building manufacturers and constructors) and other research bodies within Edinburgh Napier. It can be said that the Centre’s activities are aligned with a research movement at a wider scale which seeks improvement and sustainable development of the sector.
The work conducted on innovative systems aimed at increasing the level of offsite and improving the overall building performance, while minimising economic cost and thus ensuring social accessibility. One of the objectives of this body of work is, indeed, to develop solutions that are easily implementable and affordable for most households and therefore socially inclusive, as opposed to solutions that, due to their elevated costs, are only affordable for higher-end households.
Some pilot projects are here illustrated which were carried out at COCIS and exemplify its applied research, whereby new products were conceptualized, prototyped, tested and employed in full-scale buildings, in order to achieve higher environmental sustainability, enhanced building performance and structural safety.
As far as environmental sustainability is concerned, several aspects have been considered in the research presented: reduction of energy use for space heating, decrease in the global warming potential in terms of carbon-dioxide equivalents emitted into the air, feasibility studies towards a wider use of locally-sourced materials (for instance, timber from Scottish forests), recycling of waste materials from the manufacture of other products (for example, waste textiles from Scottish wool mills) and implementation of new building processes through Scottish facilities (for instance, the monitoring and study of the environmental impact of the timber-kilning process in the Scottish Highlands). Where needed and applicable, the environmental sustainability of the novel products under study has been considered through the application of life-cycle assessment techniques.
Finally, this chapter presents some of the findings of an investigation into the offsite sector in Scotland, which was commissioned by the Scottish Government and conducted by the Institute for Sustainable Construction at Edinburgh Napier University, in 2012. Numerous construction companies were interviewed by the investigators and asked to answer a standardised questionnaire. These companies operated in different areas of offsite delivery and offered steel- and mostly timber-based construction.

  • Type:

    Book Chapter

  • Date:

    08 March 2017

  • Publication Status:


  • Library of Congress:

    TA Engineering (General). Civil engineering (General)

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    624 Civil engineering

  • Funders:

    Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council; Scottish Government


Hairstans, R. & Sanna, F. (2017). A Scottish perspective on timber offsite construction. In Offsite Architecture: Constructing the futureTaylor & Francis (Routledge). ISBN 978-1138821392



Skills; knowledge management; collaboration; closed panel timber frame

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