Donaldson Timber Systems (DTS) was proud to support a recent visit from members of the House of Lords’ Built Environment Committee as part of its inquiry into the future of modern methods of construction (MMC).

Chair of the Lords Select Committee, Lord Moylan, along with Lord Best, Baroness Eaton, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, Earl Russell, and Baroness Thornhill, first visited West Herts College’s, Hemel Hempstead campus to learn more about the apprenticeship programme offered in partnership with DTS.

As announced earlier this year, the 2.5-year programme, open to students on the College’s Level 2 City and Guilds carpentry course, comprises four days per week working on-site, and one day per week attending the College. The in-class modules include an additional module that will focus on MMC for offsite manufactured timber frame, which was developed in partnership with DTS. This covers an understanding of construction technology; health and safety; an introduction to MMC and offsite timber frame build systems; together with understanding construction information, materials, and the installation process, including site project communications.

The Committee then travelled to Spencer’s Park in Hemel Hempstead, a Countryside Partnerships development, to see first-hand MMC actually taking place on site. The 600-plot development has built its houses using DTS’ Sigma II closed panel timber frame system.

The award-winning, BOPAS+ accredited and BBA Certified build system, is designed to achieve superior levels of external wall performance, suitable for projects seeking to attain the very highest fabric efficiency standards. With excellent thermal properties and air-tightness, the Sigma® II Build System offers reduced on-site material and labour costs, by using conventional materials in a more effective manner.

Simon Horn, Technical Development Manager at DTS, said: “The visit from members of the Lords Select Committee was an extremely valuable opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to the future of MMC and the wider timber frame industry, through our partnership with West Herts College, as well as showcase the benefits of MMC on a live site at Countryside Partnerships, Spencer’s Park, Hemel Hempstead.”

“Although the Committee’s inquiry is investigating some of the recent challenges the industry has faced with MMC and Cat 1 Volumetric build systems, we were proud to show them our success and the importance of investing in established, sustainable technologies, for Cat 2 Panelised build systems and in training the next generation. We thank the members of the Committee for their time.”

Gill Worgan, Principal and CEO at West Herts College said: “We were delighted to welcome members of the House of Lords Built Environment Committee and colleagues from Donaldson Timber Systems to our Construction and Engineering Centre at our Hemel Hempstead campus.

“The visit provided a valuable platform for discussions surrounding the evolution of construction skills and the pivotal role modern methods of construction play in shaping the industry’s future.
At West Herts College we’re working closely with employers such as Donaldson Timber Systems to ensure that our students are equipped with the modern skills required to step into careers in the construction sector.”

Offsite Expo 2022, taking place from 20th-21st September at Coventry Building Society Arena, brings together those who are driving change in the construction sector, and we are delighted to confirm that we will be exhibiting at stand E10 for the duration of the show.

And not only that, but our very own Technical Director, John Smith, will be speaking in the ‘Explore Offsite’ at Offsite Expo Masterclasses on 21st September at 12:10 – 13:30 as part of the Structural Timber session. John will be focussing the discussion on the Journey to the Future Homes Standard, which aims to reduce energy usage and greenhouse emissions of new buildings. A prominent topic in the housebuilding industry at the moment.

The event will play host to the leading UK and international offsite manufacturers and component suppliers over two days showcasing a broad spectrum of panelised, volumetric modular solutions, pod and prefabricated MEP solutions, as well as the latest in Digital and BIM technology.

Throughout the two days, the show will welcome over 4,000 visitors, host over 100 exhibition stands, hear from 100 speakers and facilitate over 300 meetings in the buyers and specifiers lounge.

You can visit us at stand E10 where we will be showcasing our leading timber frame systems, and our expert team will be on hand to answer any questions you may have.

Gemma Darroch, Key Account Manager at Donaldson Timber Systems, chats to George Sell, at Showhouse Magazine to discuss bringing the latest residential MMC techniques to the public sector.

Her career in the construction industry started with a timber-based residential volumetric manufacturer and gave her a solid grounding in the sector. “As it was a start-up in the modular industry, I had the opportunity to oversee the whole process. From laying down the chalk lines on the empty factory floor, to specifying the interior of the very first show house to come off the factory line,” says Darroch.

“I then moved on to a well-established, steel-based cross sector volumetric manufacturer, and after a short time with the company I decided to go freelance until I found the right role that was a good fit for me and matched my values. My goal was to find a socially responsible and sustainable business that truly wanted to make a difference in how we build homes. I joined Donaldson Timber Systems (DTS), formally Stewart Milne Timber Systems, in 2021,” she says.

“DTS is the leading offsite timber systems manufacturer, specialising in the supply and construction of sustainable, state-of-the-art open and closed panel offsite timber frames. I found the company’s approach to people, place and product aligned with my own values on helping to combat the housing crisis we face, through partnerships, knowledge sharing and collaboration – all the while reflecting the government’s construction playbook in involving the supply chain early in the project lifecycle to reduce downstream issues and help deliver clear, outcome-focused designs and specifications.”

“We believe that the three-fold benefits of using offsite timber frame – low energy demand, carbon-neutral raw material, and a proven, reliable, cost-effective mainstream way of building high quality energy efficient homes – are vital to creating sustainable, resilient, and affordable developments for the future,” Darroch adds.

“The company has a long history in the housebuilding sector, delivering more than 150,000 homes since inception, and with a capacity to build 10,000 homes per year across the UK. It works with some of the UK’s largest housebuilders, such as Taylor Wimpey and Barratt Homes.”

Darroch’s focus is on the public sector. She says: “In recent times, we have developed strong collaborative relationships in the affordable housing sector, working with housing associations such as L&Q, Clarion, Orbit and Sanctuary. We recognise the need for the public sector to work collaboratively with the supply chain, ensuring early engagement to ensure value for money every step of the way. Early engagement allows for standardisation and the use of Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) to take full effect and essentially provide value engineering early on.”

“I have been brought in by the company to build on the company’s existing relationships with a particular focus on the north. We launched our Levelling up the North with MMC campaign back in February, which saw us take the northern affordable housing providers on a journey of discovery from concept to completion of our offsite panelised systems offering, kicking off with a webinar and then following up with site and factory visits. This was designed to show – rather than tell – the story of offsite. I feel this gives the ability to make informed choices when exploring offsite solutions through knowledge sharing. This in turn provides an understanding of what is needed to see the full benefits of offsite.”

The sustainability agenda is a high priority for every element of the new homes supply chain, and DTS is no different. Darroch says: “Environmentally speaking, timber is a natural, renewable material with significant thermal efficiency that helps to lower energy bills for social tenants whilst helping to ensure low-carbon compliance for the housing provider. Fundamentally, for UK housing associations and affordable housing developers, we believe that a timber frame, fabric-first approach to homes must now be considered the go-to solution of choice.”

“In recent times, I have seen the shift in modern methods of construction moving towards panelised systems of CAT2 of the MMC definition framework. While there’s not really a ‘one size fits all’ solution, there is a definite move towards a more flexible way of building while still utilising the benefits of offsite manufacturing. The recently launched Building Better DPS from the National Housing Federation is testament to the shift, as affordable housing providers seek to broaden their range of modern methods of construction,” she adds.

Darroch believes Imminent legislative changes have only strengthened DTS’ position: “The government’s recent announcement of the overhaul of The Procurement Bill will look to establish a single digital platform for supplier registration and set out objectives for public procurement. These include delivering value for money, maximising public benefit, treating suppliers equally and acting with integrity. There is also a strong emphasis on delivering social value.”

“The benefits of using our open and closed panelised systems – Alpha, Delta or Sigma ll – mean that works can still be carried out on site, ensuring that social value potential is reached within the communities served. Our network of subcontractor installers are typically employed in their own regions, and around 90 per cent of their work comes from us, meaning we have a national reach of social value impact – coupled with our national network of factories across the country from the merger with the Donaldson Group of companies.”

“With the government’s forthcoming changes in regulation – an uplift to standards of Part L of the Building Regulations and changes to Part F – which are the first step in achieving the Future Homes Standards, there has never been a more important time for affordable providers to make the switch to offsite construction to achieve the standards required. The Future Homes Standard will require new-build homes to be future-proofed with low carbon heating and world-leading levels of energy efficiency. It will be introduced by 2025, and already our Sigma II closed panel system achieves these standards. That being said, we are constantly evolving and improving our offering through research and development,” concludes Darroch.

Leading UK timber frame manufacturer, Donaldson Timber Systems (DTS) has become one of the first manufacturers to achieve Buildoffsite Property Assurance Scheme Plus (BOPAS plus), a durability assessment for advanced, offsite build systems.

Building on the original BOPAS scheme, BOPAS plus has been developed to introduce a greater focus on the preparedness of the offsite sector to drive digitisation and collaboration in the construction industry.

Donaldson Timber Systems is one of only three businesses in the UK to hold the new accreditation. The DTS Sigma® II system, was one of the first offsite build systems originally to be accredited by BOPAS in 2013.

BOPAS is the industry benchmark to demonstrate quality and durability to funders, lenders, valuers and purchasers, giving them the confidence that homes built using offsite construction will have a life of at least 60 years.

The accreditation process involves a rigorous assessment, including a two-stage review; a detailed interview with Lloyds Register and a full day audit, where the business is required to provide tangible evidence on the plans in place to deliver on its five-year plan.

Rod Allan, Managing Director, Donaldson Timber Systems said: “BOPAS plus is a fantastic achievement for the business, and will help to ensure that we have a clear differentiator when promoting our Sigma® II build system to the market.

“An increased use of our Sigma® II system will reduce the energy required by customers to run their homes, as well as very low embodied carbon from the construction of the home. BOPAS plus will help to provide our clients and the industry with the confidence that our system has been thoroughly assessed and is highly durable.”

Andrew Donaldson, CEO of the Donaldson Group added: “We expect to see a much greater uptake in modern methods of construction in the coming years and anticipate the demand for offsite construction will continue to increase to help address the housing crisis and the drive for net zero. This accreditation further demonstrates the integrity of the offsite method and its longevity. It’s not just a positive for Donaldson Timber Systems and the wider Donaldson Group, but for the offsite sector as a whole.”

BOPAS is recognised by the principal mortgage lenders as providing the necessary assurance underpinned by a warranty provision, that the property will be readily mortgageable for at least 60 years.


2022 Outstanding Award

March 31, 2022

We are delighted to announce that Donaldson Timber Systems has achieved the 2022 OUTSTANDING AWARD for customer satisfaction.  This has been awarded to us by In-House Research Ltd, our survey partner, who work with many of the national housebuilders in capturing feedback from customers.

The Outstanding Award is accredited to companies that achieved a Net Promoter Score of 70 or above, based on feedback from customers during 2021.  In-House Research have advised that this award recognises ‘the very best in the industry with world leading customer service and a brand enhancing NPS position’.

Donaldson Timber Systems achieved an NPS of 76.9.

Case Study

Stonewood Projects at Cirencester

November 5, 2021

Stonewood Partnerships, which specialises in building distinctive new homes in beautiful locations, has selected our award-winning Sigma® II build system for their build at  Orchard Field, a sustainable development of 88 new properties in the village of Siddington near Cirencester, Gloucestershire and close to Siddington C of E School.  Orchard Field will comprise a mixture of 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 bedroom homes.

Stonewood Partnerships is undergoing an expansion phase across the south west of England after being chosen as one of five partners in the UK government-backed £300 million homes building fund. The company has set a target of building and selling 300 homes a year by 2026.

Stonewood’s design team has been working closely with us to develop the frames, which are 23.5cm thick – nearly double that of standard timber frames, using our Sigma® II system for the build. Once they are clad, the walls will be a heat-saving 45cm thick to fit the ‘fabric first’ ethos of building homes whose fundamental design is energy efficient, rather than relying on retro-fitting gadgets to produce that efficiency.

  • Each of the homes has been designed to meet Association for Environment Conscious Building standards, which demand excellent construction and low energy consumption.
  • By using a timber frame build system Stonewood have managed to find a high quality, low energy building system to build these homes, using more sustainable products and ensuring energy savings for the occupiers.
  • Other environmentally friendly features include ground-floor underfloor heating fuelled by air source heat pumps, the use of mechanical ventilation heat recovery, small-bore pipes delivering rapid hot water to sinks and showers, solar panels and electric car charging points.

The Siddington housing development will occupy just 11 acres of the site and the rest will be devoted to woodland, landscaping and a new pond.

  • 88 properties
  • First build in timber frame for Stonewood
  • Floor type: Factory finished floor cassette pre-fitted with 22mm Peel clean flooring
  • Roof type: Trusses and where required fully insulated roof system for room in the roof application
  • u-Value: 0.13
  • System: Sigma® II

Case Study

Taylor Wimpey at Hemlington

October 8, 2021

Taylor Wimpey were looking for an efficient and cost-effective solution to fully supply and erect 237 units during Phase 3 and Phase 4 of its Hemlington development in North Yorkshire and chose Stewart Milne Timber Systems to deliver.

Stewart Milne Timber Systems’ planned approach to integrated project management ensured reliable, high-quality production safely and without disruption.

The greenfield site is a stone’s throw from Hemlington in Middlesbrough. It is a mixed development of three- and four-bedroom semi-detached homes, including two-storey and two-and-a-half-storey homes. The community is located in beautiful countryside surroundings close to Hemlington Lake and Bonny Grove Nature Reserve. The area also boasts plenty of open-air amenities including playing fields and parks and is in close proximity to several schools including Hemlington Hall Academy.

The challenges we faced were that this was a new process implementation for timber frame construction for this region for Taylor Wimpey.  We needed to build this development at pace, and subcontractors needed help with pricing information which we delivered.

Our dedicated project scheduling and site management personnel ensured that each unit was erected in a day, on time, with a quality inspection record, allowing for a seamless production plan and a smooth helping hand throughout the construction schedule.

We used our open panel Alpha system with chipboard factory finished cassette flooring, as well as a trussed roof installed in situ, with the 2.5 storey homes fitted with an insulated roof cassette.  We completed the development ahead of schedule over a total timeframe of fourteen months.

The development also maintains our reputation as a sustainable construction company, as the timber frame construction used has a smaller carbon footprint than traditional masonry construction.

Working with them has been effortless, from doing the concept on site to calling them up. Dates were never missed for providing the timber frames. Organisation and working to the programme were both done well.

It was helpful having Stewart Milne Timber Systems as a support network. Andy oversaw technical issues and Ian was always on the other end of the phone if we needed anything. They provide high quality timber frames and perform well. Quality was up to scratch on the site. Problems never arose with the work done by the guys on the development.

I’d definitely recommend Stewart Milne Timber Systems because the experience we’ve had has been so good. There is no reason not to use them.”

Joe Evans, Site Manager, Hemlington Grange, Taylor Wimpey

Case Study

Barratt Lavender Grange, Lower Stondon

September 28, 2021

Lavender Grange is in the village of Lower Stondon in Bedfordshire.

A development of 2, 3 and 4 bedroom homes surrounded by idyllic countryside, it is within easy reach of everyday amenities in the village and only 10 minutes’ drive from Hitchin town centre.

Many of the homes benefit from plenty of flexible space and home offices to ensure that the space can be adapted to suit the homeowners’ needs.

Lavender Grange is close to several Ofsted-rated ‘Good’ and ‘Outstanding’ schools. At the heart of the development there is a fully equipped park and there are more than nine acres of open space for the whole family to enjoy.

Being recognised as a ‘Built For Life’ development means that important design elements such as adequate car parking and safe street design have been included and checked through planning.  There are electric vehicle charging points to 87% of homes on the development and to some of the visitor bays.

Stewart Milne Timber Systems worked with Barratt Homes North Thames to create and deliver adaptable homes as part of our design service.  As requested we used our Alpha open panel system and followed up the design with manufacturing and site build of 144 homes and achieved a U-value of 0.25.

  • Site build ahead of schedule.
  • Fascia and Soffits fitted to enable roofer to access roof sooner to achieve watertight stage faster.
  • Roof erected at ground level for greater safety and speed.
  • Floor cassettes factory built for greater quality, safety and speed of build completion.
  • Speed of build enabled the client to satisfy demand and realise capital return faster.
  • 144 units: 2, 3 and 4 Bedroom houses
  • Creating adaptable homes at a speed to satisfy demand
  • 140mm open panel Alpha system
  • Floor type 235mm Cassettes
  • Trussed roofs
  • U-value 0.25
  • Service: design, manufacture and erect
  • Project start 18th April 2019