A Scottish model for an English market
Timber frame self-build – mature Scottish model finds favour in England
Scottish self-builders have timber frame in their blood, whereas in England, timber frame has been traditionally slower to catch on. But things are changing, and the timber frame quality standards set in Scotland are now paving the way for the rest of the UK to follow. But will the mature Scottish model of timber frame services work in an English market?
It’s fair to say that the timber frame industry has been much stronger in the north of the UK, and has developed over 40 years into the UK powerhouse of timber frame construction. As a result, the Scottish self-build community is well accustomed to timber frame, and the industry is full of excellent timber frame companies who continually refine their services to compete for market share.
Timber frame – England’s tipping point
Meanwhile, the self-build industry in the south is catching up at an impressive rate, with the growing acceptance of timber frame as a superior build method. Timber frame is now the fastest growing method of construction in England, and continues to grow in popularity by the day. The balance is tipping, and the flood gates for timber frame construction are set to burst.
Nonetheless, the self-build market in the south is still distinctly different from that in the north – something Scottish timber framers need to take on board when targeting the southern markets. But for self-builders, there are many advantages to the mature Scottish timber frame model.
Hands-on self-build confidence
Timber frame in Scotland traditionally grew from good old-fashioned DIY attitudes. It was quickly identified as an easy way to build your own home – sometimes literally with your own two hands. For years, the industry relied on self-builders doing a lot of the work, or at least selecting joiners to erect their home. Self-builders played a much more active role in the process, allowing them to gain better understanding of timber frame construction, thanks to real, hands-on experience.
As Scottish self-builders learned more about the benefits of timber frame as a construction method, they were able to make more informed decisions, and maximise the potential of their new-build projects. As confidence in the industry grew, so did new-build projects designed to meet specific lifestyle choices.
The northern cost advantage
This confidence differentiates between attitudes in the north and the south today. South of the border, there’s still an underlying perception that self-build is a risky option, so much so that a new approach is taking hold; the ‘custom build’ route which enables self-build managed through a developer. The downside of this perceived “safer route”, is that the homeowner doesn’t benefit from the supreme flexibility and cost efficiency of a traditional self-build.
As an example, consider the various build routes open to self-builders. Many projects in the south opt for key in the door (turnkey) solutions – considered to be the safest way to build your own home. But at what cost? How much more do you get for your budget, if you unlock the portion assigned to the main contractor’s fees? By comparison, most one-off self-build projects in the north are self-managed. This allows the self-builder to reap the cost benefits of managing the tender process.
Bridging the gap with self-managed self-build
For many in the south, self-managing a project is still a step too far. One of the strengths of the Scottish market is companies like Fleming Homes, who provide services that bridge the gap between the main contractor and self-managed route. These companies provide niche services that pull all parts of the self-build process together, including design, planning applications, engineering, manufacture, and so on. Most provide specification items like plasterboard, insulation, doors and windows, as well. This reduces the number of companies and contractors involved in a project, and streamlines the supply chain, making the process easier and more viable for the self-builder to manage.
But is this viable in England? Absolutely. These niche services grew in Scotland when more and more people understood their advantages. As timber frame continues to grow in the south, people will inevitably learn how to maximise the benefits of self-build. More self-builders will realise the value of companies providing ‘one-stop-shop’ services as a way to make their project more cost effective, and better matched to their bespoke requirements. As it has done in Scotland, the industry will evolve, and more companies will provide a range of in-house niche services to cater better to self-builders’ needs. The self-builder will benefit from increasing options to choose from, and greater confidence to coordinate their own projects.
Towards more confident self-builders
The timber frame model will take a while to filter through as a mainstream practice in the south. For the foreseeable future, it will benefit a minority of self-builders who have the knowledge and courage to go against typical practice. But the popularity of this method will grow, as more and more self-builders realise the true advantages. The Scottish industry has proven that this model is an effective way to get the most from a self-build project, and has paved the way for the rest of the UK to follow.
Fleming Homes has provided bespoke timber frame self-build solutions to the Scottish and English self-build market for over 30 years. Our in-house solutions include full bespoke design, planning & building warrant services, full specification of quality materials, engineering, comprehensive construction design, manufacture, delivery and erection. All our solutions are entirely bespoke, and cater for the unique requirements of your individual project.
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