Wood For Good caught up with Lendlease, the global integrated property and infrastructure group, about their increasing use of timber in their developments and why they even think it forms part of the solution to the housing crisis.
Lendlease developed its name in the UK with the delivery of the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent and is now responsible for two of the largest urban regeneration projects in the UK, Elephant Park in Elephant & Castle and International Quarter London in Stratford.
When it comes to their use of timber however, it is a development in Australia they are best known for. The Forté building in Melbourne is 10 storeys and was built using cross-laminated timber (CLT). It took just 10 weeks to erect, whereas it has been estimated that a similar concrete structure would have taken a further four months.
For Paul King, Lendlease’s MD for sustainability and external affairs, with London needing 50,000 new homes each year just to keep pace with demand, he believes CLT will form part of the solution to the housing crisis: “CLT structures are a fantastic sustainable way to provide high-quality, high-density housing. The off-site manufacturing sees tonnes of timber processed at a phenomenal rate every month.
“Because of these properties, CLT lends itself to difficult and complex projects and opens up new avenues of design and development – perfect for large-scale regeneration schemes.”
This is one of the reasons Lendlease is now bringing its expertise in CLT to several of its London projects, including its £2.3bn Elephant Park regeneration project in Elephant and Castle. The first phase of Elephant Park is the Stirling-Prize shortlisted Trafalgar Place, where 30 of the 235 new homes were built using CLT. And now on the latest phase, South Gardens, Lendlease has launched Futurehome – 15 townhouses built to Passivhaus standard and again constructed using CLT.
It is not just the speed of construction though that Lendlease values when it comes to CLT. The main benefit of CLT, with its low embodied carbon and zero waste production process, is that it is a far more sustainable product than concrete. Plus, the wood’s compact layering provides high levels of air tightness, significantly cutting the amount of energy needed to heat buildings and therefore making it a great material for something like Futurehome.
Lendlease also believes that with the housebuilding industry suffering a chronic skills shortage – which remains one of many factors behind the housing shortage – CLT could also help plug that gap since it saves on labour and takes far less time to construct. So why aren’t more developers using this product?
Lucy Homer, Lendlease’s head of design, explains: “UK architecture is still very much attached to traditional building methods and there are perceptions that you cannot build a CLT building of more than six storeys due to the risk of fire. However, we have found that CLT buildings can be built to meet the same fire performance of conventional buildings and, with the right design solution, you should be able to achieve at least 10 storeys with ease.”
So over time, Lendlease believes the appetite in the industry for CLT will grow. It is clear though that it is product that is central to their plans for growth in the UK.