Investment in sustainable building materials, with a focus on energy-efficiency, is more important than ever. With construction and the daily running of buildings both contributing to pollution, CO2 emissions from buildings and construction hit a new high in a 2022 report revealed by the UN. The construction industry was responsible for more than 34% of energy demand and around 37% of energy and process-related CO2 emissions in 2021.

 Here, Streif UK reveals the most sustainable construction materials your architect should consider, including timber. We’ll also show why the Streif sustainable building system is one of your best bets for a greener future.

What are sustainable building materials?

Sustainable building materials have a low environmental impact when it comes to production, installation and upkeep. They must be:

  • Made of natural materials
  • Made of recycled materials
  • Made of renewable materials
  • Made to be durable

The greenest building materials used in the UK today include:

  • Timber
  • Recycled steel
  • Geo-textiles (and other products made from crops)
  • Straw bales
  • Those responsibly sourced (FSC timber)
  • Cellulose (from discarded paper)
  • Quarry waste (marble and slate)

For a more sustainable build, paints and wood treatments should be natural too. This means using no solvents or other chemicals.

3 benefits of timber as a construction material

1 – Natural material

Timber has a low environmental impact when it comes to production and longevity. It takes little energy to transform a tree to timber ready for building. But it must be certified to make sure it’s responsibly sourced and fully sustainable.

Wood is also a renewable building material as it can be reused or recycled in various ways. What’s more, trees absorb and store CO2 as they grow and wood doesn’t release harmful chemicals into the environment during production.

2 – Energy-efficient

Timber building materials are excellent natural insulators. The wood’s structure contains air pockets that help to limit conduction. This both regulates temperature and reduces energy consumption by minimising heating requirements.

Timber frames also allow more space for added insulation. This means timber builds often provide more energy-efficiency than steel, masonry or concrete builds.

3 – Easy building

The versatility of wood makes it one of the easiest sustainable building materials to work with – from design to manufacture to installation. You can choose a bespoke size, shape and style. Whether you want to treat the wood or change the colour, maintenance is quick and easy too.

Although Streif UK uses solid timber construction, our timber frames are lighter than more traditional steel or concrete frames. Lighter weight timber frames mean fewer team members and less plant machinery are needed for construction. A huge benefit for smaller sites and quick lead times. Strong and enduring timber frame builds can match the service life of more traditional construction methods.

Sustainable building materials we use

In line with our Environment & Sustainability Policy, and dedication to use 100% PEFC-certified timber products, we mainly use Binderholz’s solid wood for construction KVH® to create the Streif UK sustainable building systems.

A kiln dried, strength-sorted solid wood product made of spruce or pine for maximum quality, KVH® is subject to controls beyond the general building requirements. Binderholz’s is all about responsibly using wood as a raw material:

“Binderholz processes timber exclusively from sustainable and controlled forest management.

All Binderholz production sites meet the strict PEFC standards and are certified under these standards. The PEFC seal certifies the sustainability of the Binderholz value creation chain, from the raw material to the finished product”.

And they have a commitment to zero waste:

“The Binderholz value creation chain is based on the principle of ‘zero waste’. This means that 100% of the timber raw material is processed.

After their delivery, Binderholz processes the trunks nearly completely into sawn timber, solid timber panels, glulam and CLT BBS. Waste timber as production by-products such as bark, cut-off pieces, wood chips, sawdust and shavings are processed into biofuels in the form of pellets and briquettes or converted into climate-neutral thermal energy or green electricity in our proprietary biomass combined heat and power station…”

Binderholz’s solid wood for construction KVH®, one of the sustainable building materials used by Streif UK

On the occasion we use small amounts of steel, we keep up our green credentials by choosing XCarb™ steel where possible. This is recycled and renewably produced steel made using 100% renewable electricity in an Electric Arc Furnace and, as ArcelorMittal, says:

“By using high levels of scrap steel and renewable energy, XCarb™ recycled and renewably produced products have an extremely low CO2 footprint that can be as low as approximately 300kg of CO2 per tonne of finished steel when the metallics are 100% scrap”.

As Tom Weller, our project manager, sums up:

“Our closed panel timber frame system manages to harmonise construction efficiency with environmental sustainability through our use of timber as the main structural material for all our panels and cassettes.

“It’s possible to achieve reductions in construction time and therefore costs by utilising the Streif system while constructing energy-efficient, eco-friendly structures that embody the future of sustainable construction.”

A Streif UK sustainable building project success

One of our sustainable building projects was used as a case study to compare the embodied carbon of a Streif closed panel timber frame school with a steel frame solution.

Morgan Sindall was the main contractor on the Westvale Park Primary Academy building project, an SECBE Award finalist. The 2,250m2, two-storey school was built using our timber frame for the main building, two canopies, a large main hall and a double-height sports hall.

When Morgan Sindall carried out an embodied carbon study of the building, using their RICS approved tool, the results showed the Streif UK closed panel timber system has impressive energy-efficiency:

“CarboniCa, Morgan Sindall Construction’s whole-life carbon assessment tool, identified that using the Streif system reduced CO2 emissions by 145.2 tonnes and cut down on transportation by a massive 84,000 miles. The system uses timber from sustainably managed forests and has lower embodied carbon levels than steel or concrete alternatives”.

Are you interested in how sustainable building materials could benefit you and your next construction project? Get in touch with the Streif UK team for more information.