Walker Timber Case StudyEarlier this year, Walker Timber completed work on the fastest housing project in Europe. Managing director, Nigel Simpson, explains how teamwork and a tight supply chain were crucial to its success…

In summer 2014, Walker Timber Group was contracted by Lovell Partnerships Ltd to design and supply the structural kits for 346 units for MOD Stafford. A housing development was being built at Beacon Barracks in Stafford to accommodate soldiers and their families returning from Germany as part of the British Army’s relocation back to the UK. With families scheduled to move in from September 2015, the large scale project needed to be delivered in just six months, without compromising on quality.

We provided a complete engineered timber solution for the project, designing and supplying not just the timber kits, but also insulated wall panels, floor cassettes and roof trusses. To meet the scale and time limitations, we utilised two of our factories – one in Stafford and one in Cambridgeshire – which gave us good coverage, as well as back up and continuity of supply.

The frames for all 346 units on the super garrison were erected in record time, averaging at 64 plots per month – equivalent to an incredible 15 homes per week. Undoubtedly, the impressive speed of build on this project was possible thanks to early engagement, collaboration and an extremely well organised build programme.

Teamwork between Walker Timber and Lovell was key to this success. We worked seamlessly together to ensure the programme was on schedule and the deadline was met with no compromise on quality. We also handpicked two erector companies based on past experience, and all deliveries were managed in an efficient system. The programme was planned and executed to ensure space was available for each delivery without stockpiling.

For me, this project really highlighted the value of early collaboration and planning with clients. We worked closely with Lovell from day one. Once the order was placed, the teams collaborated on the project design and we procured additional materials from trusted suppliers. The production and manufacture of the components was then coordinated in line with the programme, and all was delivered accordingly.
Why timber?

Many developers look to timber frame to benefit from the combination of speed and the ability to build high performance building envelopes. By choosing to build in timber, Lovell knew they would get speed of build and a more stable and predictable building programme than with other materials. They also knew that the final homes would be of a high quality, thanks to the factory controlled manufacture and the expertise and experience of the Walker Group.

The performance and high quality of the units was managed during manufacture, thanks to the level of offsite prefabrication. It is not only easier to monitor quality in the factory environment, but in addition, the all-critical insulation is positioned to work more effectively – thereby reducing the risk of  environmental conditions, or work from another trade, negatively impacting on it.

The complete structural timber frame resulted in buildings which had low embodied carbon; airtight construction; proven products and details; calculated thermal bridging psi-values; and minimal waste. The houses achieved a u-value of 0 .19 W/m2K, and the Kingspan Therma product TW55 provided a global warming potential (GWP) of 3 and zero ozone depletion potential (ODP). The resulting homes are high quality and energy efficient, with no need for renewable add-ons.

Client, John Leary, project director at Lovell Partnerships Ltd said: ‘The working partnership with Walker Timber Group was incredibly beneficial in helping us complete the super garrison ahead of the soldiers and their families’ arrival.

‘Speed and expertise were key and Walker Timber met with our rigorous and uncompromisingly high standards for such a prestigious project. This project has been frequently cited as the fastest show in town. In my 35 year career I haven’t seen anything that comes near the “15 a week” homes that have been erected here in Stafford.’

The partnership with Lovell was a huge success and it was encouraging to see a project of this scale using timber frame. The hope is that it will give others an opportunity to see the benefits of using timber frame and engineered wood products. No other material would have been able to compete with the build time and resulting quality and energy efficiency of the houses on this development. We managed to complete 346 homes in under six months, and we are incredibly proud to have been able to accomplish this impressive feat.