Building the Future: KLH UK’s Innovations in Cross Laminated Timber Construction

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As a provider of consultation, design, supply and installation services for cross laminated timber (CLT), KLH UK is at the forefront of driving the construction into a new age thanks to its innovative techniques and unique build styles

Operating as a subsidiary of Austrian KLH Massivholz GmbH, KLH UK was founded in 2005 and specialises in offering a full design, supply and installation service for cross-laminated timber (CLT) superstructures. Thanks to its unique position in the market as a CLT provider and manufacturer, the company has been involved in a number of ground breaking and award winning projects, such as the UK’s tallest timber tower, Murray Grove, and the UK’s largest CLT structure, William Perkin C of E High School in Greenford; the latter of which used 23,000 square metres of CLT. On top of this, the company was involved in providing structural consultancy and the formatting of the design and supply for the world’s tallest CLT tower, the Forte Building in Melbourne, Australia. KLH UK has furthermore enjoyed strong success in the education sector, with an impressive portfolio of successfully completed schools and colleges across the UK.
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Tried and tested on in excess of 500 superstructures in the UK , CLT is a truly sustainable modern method of construction that offers an impressive range of benefits to customers: this includes cost and time savings due to the speed of construction, design flexibility thanks to CLT’s structural (bi-axial) performance that allows architectural freedom and precision thanks to panels being manufactured through the utilisation of CAD/CAM technology and state-of-the-art CNC manufacturing techniques. In addition to this, CLT also boasts tough structural capabilities that are similar to concrete in material strength as the cross lamination process results in dimensionally stable panels and stiffness, which thus ensures significant robustness. Furthermore, this light weight form of construction offers savings in foundation design and provides a truly sustainable way to provide a high performing thermal and air tight building envelope.

Since last being featured in Construction & Civil Engineering in April 2015, KLH UK has enjoyed continued growth and demand despite challenges within the economic market and political changes, as Managing Director of KLH UK Nic Clark explains: “From May 2015 onwards we saw significant growth in enquiry levels, which is likely largely due to the election as confidence is coming back to the market and we have seen a real shift to more residential enquiries for mid-rise or high rise multi-family residential buildings. Throughout 2015 we enjoyed a very buoyant year, however we have noticed a slight slow-down within the construction industry over the last six weeks. I think this cooling down, particularly in the London residential market, is again to do with the changes in government policy and possibly the effects of the economies of the Far East. There is also uncertainty triggered by the ‘Brexit’ debate, in particular the effect this is having on the Euro exchange rate; where we have seen fluctuation between 1.40 and 1.26 in a relatively short period of time. This can lead to some tricky conversations with customers on the verge of placing orders about the slippage in the exchange rate: no one wants to hear they may need to find another £5000 for their project! This has led to us developing options to provide the customer with fixed price certainty. Despite these challenges we have a positive outlook for the rest of 2016 and are already getting some interesting enquiries for 2017 and beyond.”KLH Issue 126 c

Although residential enquiries have increased, a remarkable project for the company has been in the educational sector. KLH UK was involved in the construction of two new student accommodation buildings providing 520 new bedrooms for the University of East Anglia (UEA), Norwich. The project came with its own set of peculiar challenges and in particular the lack of walls offering stability. This led to the engineers to develop a significant number of high capacity fixing designs which generated an innovative engineering solution and gave the building its required stability. “This was a great project with a highly professional site team that was well organised and driven with regards to the programme. They created a safe, clean & efficient environment in which to work. The project design team all had prior CLT experience so were 100 per cent in tune and the project was delivered to BIM Level 2.

“The project was quite challenging from a logistical perspective as it was a relatively confined site in terms of the building footprint and layout space for materials. However, we managed to fit & co-ordinate four cranes, installation crews, deliveries and lay down areas into the space provided. Up to four cranes were operating concurrently and were situated on each ‘leg’ of the building. Precise and efficient coordination was required when it came to delivering and erecting all of the materials, not just CLT but also steelwork as well as off-loading and positioning of the bathroom pods,” explains Nic.

Having developed a reputation for excellence in the market, not only for quality but also for its ability to overcome major construction challenges, KLH UK will continue to develop its product so it can expand into different sectors such as retail or the hotel industry with the vision of CLT becoming fully recognised as a mainstream construction material. Indeed, despite the known benefits of using CLT, more conservative industries hold the perception that timber poses a potential risk, which can cause problems when it comes to mortgage providers, insurers and warranty providers; by bringing these stakeholders on board, KLH UK hopes to change perceptions and increase its presence in the construction industry further. Nic explains: “As an active member of the Structural Timber Associations we are actively engaged in a number of forums which will provide clear and positive guidance to the industry and would welcome enquiries from any interested client or stakeholder with regards to collaboration on potential CLT projects.”


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