Cygnum Building Offsite are an Irish company who know that the world will be greener when we can reduce construction-related carbon emissions. To measure efficiency in construction, there are two important variables: embodied energy and operational energy. Embodied energy is what it took to build the structure. Operational energy is what’s required to keep things running, like lighting, heating, and appliances. Governments are slowly implementing more rigorous energy regulations for new builds, but these requirements only monitor operational energy consumption. According to the team at Cygnum, the construction industry will usher in a new era of sustainability when it can reduce both operational and embodied energy costs by replacing traditional builds with their off-site timber frame construction methods.
How Cygnum are Creating a Greener Future
An average concrete block-built house will be responsible for emissions of more than 70kg of CO2e per square metre, compared to a timber frame structure, which actually stores up to -14kg per square metre, acting as a carbon sink. In addition to embodied energy savings, Cygnum’s state-of-the-art construction method uses automated systems to build precise, computer-designed structures at an off-site location. This process is much quicker than on-site construction, resulting in further energy and cost savings. Cygnum use preservative treated timber which is further protected from weather with ‘breather membranes’, ensuring longevity while drastically cutting operational energy once the structure is up and running.
Cygnum have been at the forefront of many projects that exemplify the highest standards in green construction. In 2019, they were a key part of the team that received the prestigious Royal Institute of British Architects Stirling Prize for a scheme of 105 ultra-low-energy homes for Norwich City Council. This scheme met ‘passive house’ standards, with energy savings of up to 75% compared with average new builds. Cygnum’s unique timber frame construction process results in impressively low operational energy costs.
Bringing a Green Future into the Present
Cygnum’s innovative timber frame construction methods have an undoubted impact on both the embodied and operational energy of new builds. The company’s approach also serves to address the constant challenge of output targets, particularly in housing. We need more houses and we need them faster. One of the reasons for industry delays is the shortage of trained, skilled site labourers. By taking site processes into the factory and automating them, Cygnum are able to circumvent labour shortages. Not only are they unconstrained by labour issues, but the company also continues to further develop their automation capabilities. They have already doubled the size of their factory in Ireland, but they don’t plan to stop there. Over the next five years, Cygnum hope to refine their process, ultimately offering even greater efficiency, quality, and cost savings to their customers.