dRMM, Quality of Life Foundation and Edinburgh Napier University collaborate for Built by Nature Accelerator Fund grant

Measuring mass timber: a whole life carbon and quality of life assessment methodology for mass timber construction

AMSTERDAM – June 29 Built by Nature, a network and grant-making organisation with a mission to accelerate the timber building transformation in Europe, is pleased to announce a €131,250 Accelerator Fund grant to dRMM, the Quality of Life Foundation and Edinburgh Napier University to create a replicable methodology to assess whole life carbon and quality of life impacts of timber buildings in the UK.

The assessment methodology will create an open-source set of performance data from five existing timber buildings of varying types in the UK. The data set will comprise whole life carbon assessments, wellbeing indicators such as air quality and overall experiential aspects, and other project data including comparisons with industry benchmarks.

The project aims to help drive the accelerated adoption of timber and mass timber construction among mainstream designers and support policy advocacy. Project summary reports outlining the methodology and the final findings will be disseminated with the aim of fostering broader collaboration within the building sector and advancing the conversation around timber construction in the UK.

dRMM will oversee and guide the study, acting as project lead and unifying the two main research streams – whole-life carbon and post occupancy evaluation – to work seamlessly as an integrated exercise. Edinburgh Napier University will champion the study’s whole-life carbon focus, whilst the Quality of Life Foundation will oversee the data gathering around wellbeing and end-user experience. An Expert Stakeholder Advisory Group will include industry leaders on whole-life carbon, post-occupancy evaluation, design and delivery of mass timber, and policy to ensure the study’s continued alignment to the latest guidance and regulations.  

The work will build on the assessment methodologies already available and circulated within the industry, including the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge targets; the LETI Carbon Alignment ratings; the RICs guidance on whole life carbon; the RIBA Post-Occupancy Evaluation primer; and the TDUK paper on carbon assessment in timber buildings.

About Built by Nature 

Built by Nature’s Accelerator Fund provides grants of between €50,000-€250,000 to teams and solutions that help decarbonise the built environment and scale up building with timber from sustainably managed forests. Since launching in October 2021, the Accelerator Fund has supported five projects totalling (€738,586) in the Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland the UK.   

Built by Nature connects key actors across the built environment and forest communities to spark city-scale projects and amplify stories of ground-breaking timber projects and solutions. In close collaboration with its major partners and frontrunners, Built by Nature aims to change perceptions around timber construction and reshape the built environment system.  

Built by Nature is supported by founding partner Laudes Foundation, which launched in 2020 and is part of the Brenninkmeijer family enterprise. Laudes Foundation supports initiatives that inspire and challenge industry to harness its power for good and has a track record of leveraging philanthropic capital as a catalyst for industry wide change.  

About dRMM

dRMM are radical makers of sustainable, socially useful architecture. We have won numerous awards for our buildings, including the RIBA Stirling Prize in 2017 for our work on Hastings Pier.

For the past 25 years dRMM have been involved in the research and development of engineered timber, pioneering its application across diverse scales and typologies in UK architecture. Kingsdale School Music and Sports Building (2006) was the first public building in the UK to use CLT. Subsequent innovations include the development of Tulipwood cross-laminated-timber (CLT) a world-first hardwood composite used to construct Maggie’s Oldham, the world’s first hardwood CLT building.

Current or recently completed architectural projects include Maggies Oldham; Trafalgar Place housing; Wick Lane mixed use housing and industrial workspace in Hackney Wick; and Wintringham Primary Academy, a new timber primary school in Cambridgeshire.

About Quality of Life Foundation

We are a charity committed to creating greater accountability and encouraging more sustainable models of development by making health and wellbeing central to the way we create and care for our homes and neighbourhoods. We do this through research, community engagement and services, such as Quality of Life Mapping, Strategy Review, Training and Resident Review. 

About Edinburgh Napier University

We are Edinburgh Napier University, the #1 Modern University in Scotland (Sunday Times GUG 2022) and #1 in Edinburgh for Student Satisfaction (NSS 2020 & 2021). We pride ourselves on being the home of difference makers—an enterprising and innovative community, renowned internationally, with an unrivalled student learning experience. With more than 300 undergraduate and postgraduate courses and nearly 20,000 students from over 140 countries studying on campus in Edinburgh, online and at partner universities worldwide, we deliver meaningful, difference-making education and research for a rapidly changing world. For more information, visit www.napier.ac.uk.

Quotes

Amanda Sturgeon, CEO, Built by Nature said: “With strong data and robust information, we can continue bolstering the case for mass timber adoption, especially among investors, insurers and policy makers. This is a high-potential project, given its combined climate and social value implications and its future scalability – a strong match with Accelerator Fund criteria. Availability and amplification of this data set and methodologies will be vital and Built by Nature and its network realise the importance of supporting this work.” 

Jonas Lencer, Director, dRMM Architects, said: “Currently, findings from mass timber analysis come from piecemeal methodologies and assumptions. This makes comparisons between buildings and studies inconsistent and unreliable in yielding whole life carbon (WLC) and post-occupancy evaluations (POE) rigorous or consistent enough to build a blueprint for measuring mass timber at scale Thanks to Built by Nature’s commitment we have the opportunity to  help define what good looks like for timber buildings, providing a scalable method for understanding the carbon and wellbeing benefits of mass timber, and how they can be maximised across national and international development .”

Matthew Morgan, Director, Quality of Life Foundation, said: “Building with timber is a key way to decarbonise the construction sector and therefore achieve net zero goals. By asking residents and users of timber buildings how they feel about and experience the place, we will test whether environmentally sustainable building are also more socially sustainable and beneficial to people’s health and wellbeing. The criteria we develop will draw on existing surveys, including our own Resident Review survey, and will provide an engagement and evaluation methodology that will enable the surveying of other buildings for years to come.”

Professor Robert Hairstans, Head of Edinburgh Napier University’s Centre for Offsite Construction & Innovative Structures, said: “There is a clear tension between the drive for a sustainable future and mainstream construction. No longer can the business model and procurement practices result in lowest cost / lowest quality forms of delivery using carbon intensive materials that don’t take full account of the health and wellbeing of building occupants and the planet. Quality of life and embodied and operational carbon should be central to the decision making process at design phase. This Built by Nature fund will enable the derivation of an alternative approach to defining the true value of specifying mass timber construction challenging the unsustainable construction norm.”

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