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Choosing a build system

No construction method scores a perfect 10 on all fronts, but for every scheme there’s an optimum way to build, depending on your priorities. Emily Brooks takes a look at how the decision gets made in the real world
SIPs panels on the move in the factory of Scottish design and build company Makar. The more off-site construction goes into your project, the more straightforward it will be to get the airtightness and thermal efficiency you set out to achieve
A brick-and-block house by Falshaw Homes. Masonry systems are still considered the norm and most properties are built this way in the UK

Abroad range of factors goes into working out the best structural system for your project. The balance could be tipped by a combination of considerations, or it might be a single influence that tilts the scales in favour of a particular technique.

Professional project manager Charlie Laing’s last few builds for clients offer an excellent insight into the thinking that goes into choosing a construction system. For a house in Croydon, the owners went for timber frame that offered them the right combination in terms of budget, aesthetics and performance (better than Building Regs standards).

A scheme in Buckinghamshire was constructed with insulating concrete formwork (ICF) to help achieve some demanding airtightness targets; whereas the architects for an Oxfordshire house specified steel frame to ensure the highly detailed bespoke design would be fully realised.

For another self-build in London, meanwhile, masonry proved to be the best fit: “The house may get rented out at some point, and the clients have a perception that brick and block will be a robust solution for this purpose,” says Charlie, who is operations director at CLPM.

So, what do you need to know when deciding which system will best suit your goals for a new home? And how can you come to the right conclusion?

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About Build It

Find the advice & inspiration you need to build or renovate your dream home, including: - Cover house... a charming vernacular new home in the countryside - Specifying sustainable building materials - Design ideas for listed buildings - Can smart homes be hacked? - Self-building for profit ... and more!