With the Government’s target for the UK to reach net zero by 2050, the construction industry as a whole must reassess how buildings are designed and constructed to align with this objective. Here, Mike Polack, Structural Engineer at B&K Structures, talks to MMC about the role that engineered timber and hybrid offsite construction play in reducing the carbon footprint of buildings.


Following an update to the Climate Change Act in 2019, the UK has committed to achieving net zero by 2050 and has set an ambitious legally binding target to cut emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels. In the discussion of how the UK achieves this for the built environment, there has been a focus on phasing out natural gas heating and improving the operational energy efficiency of buildings.

However, embodied carbon, the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production of materials and the construction process, is a significant issue. In its ‘Embodied and whole life carbon assessment’ document, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) suggests that for a UK office, warehouse or residential building, embodied emissions represent around 70% of the lifecycle building emissions. Also, embodied carbon may soon enter building regulations through the proposed ‘Part Z’.



There are changes that can be made to design, materials and construction processes to reduce the embodied carbon. One of the clearest is the need to maximise the use of low carbon materials and be efficient with how we use them. UK FIRES, the research organisation run by the universities of Cambridge, Oxford, Nottingham, Bath, Strathclyde and Imperial College London recently released its ‘Minus 45’ report looking at how UK emissions targets could be met. Its findings suggest that the Government’s ‘Net Zero Strategy’ will not be sufficient and further action must be taken. One of the key changes that Minus 45 recommends is to reduce cement production by 45% by 2030 and move to more efficient steel design and production.

Using timber in construction, often in conjunction with steel, is an alternative that can be implemented now. Used in construction for centuries, well designed buildings using timber have much lower embodied carbon. In addition, timber acts as a carbon store because trees absorb a significant amount of carbon as they grow and store it for the life of the material. The longer the timber is in use, the greater the environmental benefit of storing the carbon. Therefore, selecting high quality solutions and designing the building to last is important to maximise the impact.

Engineered timber has changed the way we build with timber. For example, glued laminated timber (glulam) is used for columns, beams and trusses. Cross laminated timber (CLT) is used for roofs, floors and walls, while timber cassettes offer a fast and efficient way of constructing roofs and external walls. The embodied carbon of engineered timber is decreasing rapidly as processing becomes more efficient and switches away from fossil fuels, seen in revised carbon factors being published by the Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE) among others.



Engineered timber gains the benefits of offsite construction as it is built into panels or sections and can be easily transported to site and craned into place. A study on a 10 storey building also found that switching from concrete to hybrid steel-CLT construction reduced lorry deliveries to site from around 700 to 111.

In addition, engineered timber integrates well with steel to form hybrid structures that utilise the benefits of the different materials. This is particularly valuable for longer span floors and allows cost and climate efficient solutions for a variety of building types.

Furthermore, as timber elements are typically lighter than those in other materials, the required size and strength of supporting structural elements can be reduced, minimising the amount of material, cost and carbon needed for elements such as the foundations. Engineered timber is particularly popular for vertical extensions to existing buildings, as more floors can be added using the lighter construction. This is valuable for increasing floor area in dense cities, providing clients and developers with larger lettable space and quicker returns.

While there are challenges to constructing with engineered timber, knowledge, experience, and research has grown on the back of years of successful projects in the UK. Working with specialists to get the right advice early on can ensure a building is optimised for timber or hybrid construction. We can also look to Northern Europe and North America for inspiration, where engineered timber has been embraced.

An excellent example of the real-world benefits of a hybrid engineered timber and steel building is B&K Structures’ 6 Orsman Road. A ground-breaking commercial scheme on the bank of the Regent’s Canal in London, the hybrid timber-steel structural solution maximised space on a rapid delivery schedule, and the six-storey building effortlessly showcases the benefits of engineered timber technology. Designed by Waugh Thistleton, this office building has CLT walls, floors and roofs alongside steel beams and columns, providing outstanding green credentials. The upfront embodied carbon of the steel and CLT superstructure was as low as approximately 120 kgCO2e/m2, with a similar amount of carbon stored in the CLT. For context, the time to grow back the timber used in this project in European forests would be about 3 minutes.

Engineered timber and hybrid structures have the potential to significantly reduce the built environment’s carbon emissions. To make the most of these benefits, seek specialist advice early on in project design.


To find out more about B&K Structures visit www.bkstructures.co.uk.

The market for modular and prefabricated buildings continues to boom, but are we storing up problems for the future that may ultimately cost millions of pounds in repairs and heartache for home owners? According to Global, the country’s fastest growing supplier of insurance backed latent defect warranties, it is a real possibility.

Manufacturers from every part of the globe are now producing and developing more components offsite than ever before with industry estimates suggesting that some 15,000 new modular homes are being built every year in the UK alone – a figure that is rising rapidly.

Every new home requires a latent defects warranty to cover anything unforeseen that might happen between year two and year three. During the first 24 months the builder is responsible for correcting any issues.

It is a system that has traditionally worked well, with more conventional homes seeking a latent defects warranty, being inspected at every stage of the build process. Companies such as Global have a multi stage inspection guide from the moment footings are dug and concrete poured, right up to final delivery, to ensure that each home is fit for purpose.

“The problem is,” said Jim Edwards, commercial Director for Global Home Warranties, “how do you inspect modular components for latent defects? This would require sending our surveyors to every factory currently producing such systems, as far away as China in some cases.”

“This means that while we can inspect the way they are installed, we equally have to accept that offsite components are fit for purpose and have reached the highest possible standard. In most cases this is very much the case, but there is no way of knowing 100% and this is where the real problem lies – without independent inspection at the factories then it is not possible to determine whether we will have to address latent defects issues in the future.”

The market for modular buildings is expected to grow in excess of 6% year on year and there are estimates that the majority of contractors architects and engineers are now designing with or using modules built offsite.

The move to offsite construction has been driven by the need to meet Government targets to build up to 300,000 new homes every year which means that modular and prefabricated components are increasingly being used.

Companies in the UK specialising in offsite construction have an enviable track record in terms of quality and mostly produce components which have been ISO certified or meet all current building regulations and standards.

This means, according to Global, that it will more likely to be imported systems that ultimately fail, possibly because overseas manufacturers are not as familiar with or as aware of building practice within the UK and European construction sector, or simply because standards have been set lower to save money.

“As we know, price is very much a factor within all areas of construction and there is likely to be a temptation to import more and more low-cost building systems,” said Jim Edwards. “They may do exactly what it says on the tin but none of us yet know what is likely to happen two, five or even 10 years down the line and now is the time to ask ourselves – should we be more stringent by having independent inspection processes in every factory that produces such materials.”

There is growing evidence and other industry experts agree that we could be storing up problems. Recent reports suggest that the lack of detailed data on the durability of modular homes in the UK could be a considerable barrier for construction professionals concerned about the long-term viability of offsite components.

Financial service providers, including insurers, mortgage lenders and valuers need to have certainty that modular homes are safe and durable if they are to engage with them, which is why we are now seeing Global and other industry experts calling for the development of a digital database that records the design, processes and materials used in the construction of buildings.

Digital technology would make it possible to create a database that would store and track information about the built environment and would record the materials and processes used. It could also track repairs and alterations in larger housing developments and make sure that this information would be available to relevant stakeholders, including insurers and fire services.

“This will never be as good as a personal inspection process,” said Jim Edwards, “but it would certainly provide more confidence and peace of mind for the entire industry and ultimately for the insurance companies that have to back latent defects warranties – and the time to act is now.”

Global Website

Better, Faster, Greener

Britain’s manufacturers invest more than £500 million to end Britain’s housing crisis – targeting 75,000 sustainable modular homes by end of decade and 50,000 highly skilled jobs across the UK

Six modular homes can be installed each day by a single crane and heating costs are slashed by 20%

  • Upscaling modular housing would provide capacity for 75,000 additional new homes by the end of 2029
  • Up to six houses installed each day by a single crane and a factory produces each house in just two hours
  • Modular homes cost 20% less cost to heat, and use 30% less energy as a whole due to cutting-edge design
  • With a 25% reduction in the workforce between 2016-2025 construction labour will be the new haulage industry unless action is taken now
  • Upscaling modular housing can create 50,000 flexible future economy jobs where they are needed across the UK
  • With up to 96% less embodied carbon modular housing is vastly more sustainable than traditional homes
  • 33% of UK construction businesses are currently based in the South East of England. Modular housing can use the nation’s buoyant housing markets to drive employment in other parts of the country supporting the levelling up agenda
  • Modular homes achieve net zero through the use of solar panels, air source heat pumps, superior building materials and production which delivers almost zero defects for energy efficiency

Make UK has launched a new trade body Make Modular, bringing together Britain’s leading modular housing manufacturers with a plan to solve the country’s housing crisis by delivering 75,000 affordable high-quality homes before the end of the decade. The UK housing market is at a tipping point where it could transform into the most advanced housing manufacturing market in the world in under a decade delivering in excess of 75,000 new homes via modular housing. Make Modular members’ factories can produce a new home every 2 hours. These homes are near defect free with 97% less embodied carbon than traditional builds. Make Modular members have already invested more than £500 million in new factories, cutting edge processes, and state of the art technology.

The UK construction sector will have lost at least 25% of its workforce by between 2016-25. There is a major risk that by the next election construction has become the new haulage with economic competitiveness undermined by an ageing workforce leaving the industry. More than 2,000 new jobs have been created by Make Modular members in the last 3 years. By moving people off-site and into clean, safe, modern working conditions volumetric can rebuild the construction workforce bringing up to 50,000 new younger people into the workforce.

Uniquely in the construction sector, modular housing provides the opportunity to construct offsite and in regions where labour is available. Homes are then transported to the areas where demand for new homes is the highest. Current factories driving the start of the modular revolution are already located in the Midlands and the North of the country, providing highly skilled and sought after careers using the latest digital and automated technologies with innovative design bringing about the highest environmental credentials.

Stephen Phipson, CEO of Make UK said:

“Imaginative and speedy solutions are required to tackle Britain’s housing crisis and modular housing could certainly play a significant part in helping local authorities deliver the challenging home building targets set for them by Government. But to make real significant progress, modular housing needs to have equal access to land for construction with many sites still favouring traditional modes of construction.

“Modular also needs to have the weight of Government procurement behind it using a joined-up approach including education, defence and housing to build much needed scale the UK’s modular industry.”

Modular housing manufacturers are also keen to accelerate the development of building regulations to match a new, more ambitious new normal when it comes to quality and energy across construction as a whole, driving forward the world’s biggest challenge of climate change.

Dave Sheridan, Chair of Make UK Modular said:

‘Modular housing has grown rapidly in the last few years. The establishment of our own trade body is the crucial next step in this process. As a natural partner to Government to solve the housing crisis, deliver the levelling up agenda, and combat climate change Make Modular will accelerate and advance the MMC agenda through one strong voice rather than a series of disparate ones.’




Construction equipment manufacturer Komatsu has been selected by the Japanese government to work on developing autonomous construction equipment that can operate in space.

As part of the aim of producing construction equipment that could operate on the moon, Komatsu is using digital twin technology to recreate site conditions and machines.

Komatsu says that digital twin technology is essential in precisely recreating site conditions and machines and the company is conducting a feasibility study to verify the possibility of developing high-precision digital twin technology.

Komatsu will create and operate a hydraulic excavator in cyberspace, using digital twin technology, and compare its movements with actual equipment on Earth to verify the simulator’s precision.

The ongoing three-year, mid-term management plan, is scheduled to be completed in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2022.

The overall name of the project is ‘Promoting the Development of Innovative Technologies for Outer Space Autonomous Construction’ and it is lead managed by Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism with collaboration by Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

Komatsu’s proposal of the Development of Digital Twin Technology for Lunar Construction Equipment has been selected as an eligible target of Technology related to Autonomous Construction (Automation and Remote Control).

HPS expands its product range by introducing storage systems for businesses and multi-family houses

  • Year-round multi-picea electricity storage system can store up to 15,000 kilowatt hours of solar electricity
  • Cascaded storage units enable flexible performance and storage capacity
  • First commercial property equipped with multi-picea in Meckenheim


Berlin, 7 December 2021 – HPS Home Power Solutions GmbH (HPS), provider of picea, the green hydrogen-based, year-round electricity storage system for buildings, today announced that it has expanded its product portfolio. The newly developed “Förster” control and energy management system now allows up to ten picea units to be interconnected. This “multi-picea” set-up can now supply solar power to buildings with larger power requirements, such as commercial properties or apartment buildings, from their own roof all year round. Multi-piceas have a storage capacity of up to 15,000 kilowatt hours electric.

HPS is constantly working on expanding the performance of its products and opening up new market segments. The cascading approach used by multi-picea allows both performance and storage capacity to be adjusted for different applications. By using the same standard picea unit, additional scale effects in production are achieved resulting in lower manufacturing costs going forward.

“By developing multi-picea we have responded to a strong demand in this sector and created a solution that offers higher storage capacity and performance in larger buildings. This enables consumers in commercial properties and multi-family houses to fully utilize their own solar power even in winter by flexible scaling of our proven year-round electricity storage system,” said Zeyad Abul-Ella, Managing Director and co-founder of HPS. “Our multi-picea solution is yet another contribution to decarbonizing the building sector.”


First multi-picea installed in Meckenheim

Josef Küpper Söhne GmbH from Meckenheim is the first customer to equip a commercial property in Germany with a multi-picea system. Five picea units store the surplus solar power produced by the 98‑kilowatt peak solar system installed on the roof and facade of the company’s new building, thus covering the electricity and heat requirements even in winter. “We are pursuing an independent and clean energy supply both for our customers and for ourselves, because the time is ripe to move toward a carbon-free society. That is why we opted for the multi-picea long-term storage system from HPS when we designed our new site in Meckenheim,” said Peter Küpper, Managing Director of Josef Küpper Söhne GmbH.


About picea

picea is the world’s first hydrogen-based electricity storage system for one and two-family houses. The Förster product extension allows picea units to be cascaded to meet even larger power and storage requirements. The energy surpluses achieved on sunny days from a photovoltaic system are stored as green hydrogen to make electricity and heat available in the dark season. picea provides year-round, carbon-free full power supply and also reduces heating costs.


How multi-picea works

A central control and energy management unit called “Förster” (German for forester) establishes communication between the individual picea units, distributes energy evenly and records the building’s energy flows. Förster enables the individual picea units to work together in one application, the multi-picea solution. picea is the Latin term for spruce. One picea avoids about three tons of carbon dioxide per year. This corresponds to the amount of carbon dioxide bound by 130 spruce trees per year. Förster can manage up to ten picea units. The intelligent energy management provided by Förster distributes the storage of solar energy in summer and the power output in winter to the individual systems as needed, which ensures the longevity of the individual modules.


About HPS Home Power Solutions

HPS develops and produces integrated systems for the storage and use of solar energy for one- and two-family houses. The Förster product extension allows picea units to be cascaded to meet even larger power and storage requirements. HPS offers green hydrogen-based solutions for decarbonizing the building sector. The Berlin-based company was founded in 2014 by Zeyad Abul-Ella and Dr. Henrik Colell and stands for reliability, independence and sustainability in decentralized energy supply. picea, developed by HPS, is the first system worldwide that combines electricity storage, heating support and residential ventilation in one compact product. One picea system avoids approx. three tons of carbon dioxide per year, binding as much carbon dioxide as 130 spruce trees. picea has won several prestigious awards, most recently the Handelsblatt Energy Award 2020, the Smarter E Award 2021 and the Berlin Brandenburg Innovation Award 2021.


For more information, please visit: http://www.homepowersolutions.de/

Costs of MMC set to drop by a third, finds new report

osts associated with modern methods of construction (MMC) could fall by a third as demand in the sector grows, reveals a new report published today by Constructing Excellence at its annual conference.

Part of the BRE Group, Constructing Excellence is a leading not-for-profit membership organisation driving change in the construction sector. Its report, done in collaboration with Building Research Establishment (BRE), Rider Levett Bucknall (RLB) and Bristol City Council, finds that MMC costs are currently around £3,000 per m2, owing to typically small volumes and short pipelines for manufacturers. However, as manufacturers scale up and pipelines lengthen, it concludes that costs could fall to around £2,000 per m2.

While MMC could bring with it an even greater cost benefit in future, it is already resulting in noticeably shorter building phases. The report also found that the average build is 72 weeks for a house built using MMC compared to 112 weeks for one built using traditional methods. This includes all stages of the build process, from pre-construction design to fit out.

Today’s report by Constructing Excellence also looks to define ‘key performance indicators’ (KPIs) for MMC – which have previously been unavailable – and benchmark these against existing housing delivery models, to quantify the benefits of MMC. The KPIs by BRE identified include cost, time, quality, health and safety, labour requirements, environmental impacts, and local disruption.

As a follow-up to this report, Constructing Excellence is now planning to convene an MMC Group which will enable it to take ownership of gathering and measuring this KPI data across manufacturers and builds to drive further development in the sector.

Alison Nicholl, Head of Constructing Excellence, commented: “It is clear that the prominence of MMC is growing, accelerated by the growing need to rethink our approach to construction to meet pressing delivery challenges. However my view is that if we are going to truly advance the adoption of MMC and make it mainstream, we need to develop a much more tangible benefits case based on real data and evidence, not just warm words and positive sentiment.

“What is already clear from this research is that delivery speed and qualitative benefits of MMC use are compelling which in turn leads to wider linked economic and societal benefits.”

Richard Quarry, Partner and Head of Affordable Housing at Rider Levett Bucknall, said: “As we see MMC now becoming embedded within the residential sector, especially for our affordable housing Clients, this report is extremely timely. As well as demonstrating the benefits through time savings and build-quality improvements and addressing site labour shortages, focusing conversations around data capture and a rounded set of KPIs to quantify benefits will help to embed processes and drive futher adoption.”

When used appropriately, MMC has the potential to improve resource efficiency, build quality, environmental performance, and the predictability of delivery timescales. However, traditionally KPIs for MMC have been difficult to measure due to a lack of or limited data available on the impacts of this method of construction.

As a result, only 15,000 homes are currently factory-made each year, compared to the Government’s annual target of 300,000. It is estimated that around 3.9m homes are required to meet current and future levels of demand; however, the consensus is that construction targets cannot be met without the extensive use of MMC.

Last week the Government  announced its “biggest investment in a generation” into Britain’s tidal power. The government will invest £20 million per year in Tidal Stream electricity as part of its renewable energy auction scheme.

“UK government announces biggest investment in a generation into tidal power, kickstarting a new chapter for the UK’s tidal energy industry this will strengthen energy security by adding to our diverse, renewable electricity supply and create jobs across the UK today’s investment in tidal energy further demonstrates the UK’s commitment to build a strong, home-grown renewable energy sector to reduce our reliance on volatile fossil fuels,” the Government said.

Today’s announcement will unlock the potential for a thriving UK tidal power sector, with the cash boost supporting marine technologies which could benefit the whole of the UK, the government said.

“As part of the fourth allocation round of the Contracts for Difference Scheme due to open next month, the UK government will ensure that £20 million per year will be ringfenced for Tidal Stream projects, giving the marine energy sector a chance to develop their technology and lower their costs in a similar way to the UK’s world-leading offshore wind industry. This will bring the total funding for this allocation round to £285 million per year,” the UK Government said.

It added that the £20 million additional ringfenced budget is for Tidal Stream projects, not Tidal Range, which is a different technology. Tidal Range projects are not eligible to enter into the CfD scheme.

“History has illustrated the effectiveness of the scheme’s design in keeping costs down – between the first allocation round in 2015 and the most recent round in 2019, the price per unit (MWh) of offshore wind fell by around 65%,” the Government said.

Over time, the Government said, marine technologies have the potential to significantly contribute to our decarbonization commitments and will support hundreds of green jobs across the country, with projects currently in development in North-West Scotland, North Wales, and the Southern coast of England. Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “As an island nation we are perfectly placed to capitalize on clean marine energy, building on our booming offshore wind sector which is now a British industrial success story.

“We hope to see marine energy follow in the successful footprints of other renewable technologies, where we’ve seen costs fall dramatically in recent years thanks to UK government support.

“The investment provides a major push for tidal power to become a key part of the next generation of renewable electricity projects needed to strengthen energy security as we work to reduce our dependency on volatile fossil fuels.”

Source: Offshore Engineer

Loughborough University joins the Smart Construction Network

Loughborough’s School of Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering has become the latest member of the Smart Construction Network (SCN).

The SCN is formed of academic institutions, R& D organisations, industry centres and trade bodies, and aspires to be the conduit through which expert knowledge, innovative ideas and best practice can be shared.

Its mission is to encourage the uptake of Smart Construction across the whole sector, including housing, and in doing so support the journey of transformation towards a more modern, productive, and sustainable construction sector. The SCN signposts innovative construction businesses towards the expertise and support they need to begin their transformative journey.

Shelagh Grant, chair of the SCN welcomed the announcement. She said: “Loughborough University is well regarded as a leading institution, offering a unique service to the construction industry, with a reputation for innovation in sustainability, high performance buildings, and digital construction. It is one of the largest integrated centres for built environment education in the UK, spanning architecture, building, quantity surveying, urban planning, and civil and architectural engineering.”

Chris Goodier, Professor of Construction Engineering and Materials, who led the submission added: “Loughborough has a great tradition of working closely with industry and government to address the great national and global challenges of today and tomorrow. We look forward to collaborating closely with the SCN and its partners across the spectrum of smart construction activities, including offsite manufacture and modern methods of construction, digital, and high-performance building.”

Source: Loughborough University

Saudi Arabia has announced plans for the establishment of Oxagon, which would be the world’s largest floating city when completed.


Comprising a large area in the southwest corner of Neom (a planned cross-border city in the Tabuk Province of northwestern Saudi Arabia), the urban environment is centered around an integrated port and logistics hub that will house the majority of the city’s anticipated residents.

According to press information, the octagonal design minimises impact on the environment and provides optimal land usage, with the remainder open to preserve 95% of the natural environment. A defining feature of the city is the world’s largest floating structure, which will become a center for Neom’s Blue Economy.

Located on the Red Sea close to the Suez Canal, Oxagon will be a technologically advanced logistics hubs with state-of-the-art integrated port and airport connectivity. The new city will establish the world’s first fully integrated port and supply chain ecosystem.

At Oxagon’s core will be the adoption of advanced technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), AI, and robotics, all of which are coupled to a network of fully automated distribution centers and autonomous last-mile delivery assets to drive a seamless supply chain.

His Royal Highness Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince and Chairman of the Neom Company Board of Directors, said, “Oxagon, will contribute to redefining the world’s approach to industrial development in the future, protecting the environment while creating jobs and growth for Neom.”

The first manufacturing tenants will enter Oxagon at the beginning of 2022.



Source: International Construction

From wind turbine covers to work bags – tackling the textile mountain

Whilst wind energy undoubtedly plays an important part in our fight against climate change – much controversy still surrounds air turbines & their parts being non-recyclable at end of life.

Yorkshire based innovative recyclers MyGroup (www.mygroupltd.com) have developed a solution to upcycle the hardwearing poly-blend bags used to protect and transport Siemens Gamesa wind turbines during the installation process.

The company’s textile team has deconstructed the material and created work & tool bags for staff members at the wind turbine manufacturing plant. The design creates a circular solution for the material. Otherwise, it would take up large amounts of space in landfills or go to incineration (some poly blend materials can take up to 200 years to degrade in a landfill).

The challenge we face with any kind of textile recycling is enormous. But hardwearing textiles designed for industrial projects are increasingly hard-to-repurpose. It’s reported that 95% of textiles have the potential to be recycled, yet currently less than 15% is being recycled effectively.

MyGroup is known mainly for their innovative solutions for plastic recycling, notably for facemask recycling in Wilko stores and cosmetic recycling in Boots stores. But the company is now expanding focus on creating viable upcycling routes for textiles too.

Katie Robinson, Textile Technician at MyGroup, said, “The Siemens Turbine bag is a great example of our solutions – a complex, poly based material built to last, yet when it’s retired from its original purpose, what’s next? We decided this material would be perfect as a tool bag because of its durability. Using in-house processes and craftmanship, we came up with a solution to divert this material away from incineration or landfill. There really is no such thing as non-recyclable for us. Everything has another purpose. It’s our job to find and realise that purpose.”

Plans are in place to continue experimenting with the tricky poly-blend textiles to create more items, such as duffel bags, tipis and shelters. The long-term aim is to create more viable streams to divert complex poly based textiles from landfills.