Following our acquisition in 2021, Donaldson Timber Systems (DTS) is the new brand of the business formerly known as Stewart Milne Timber Systems (SMTS).

Since its acquisition in December 2021, all staff and operations have moved over to the Donaldson Group, with Managing Director, Rod Allan and the former SMTS Board of Directors continuing to drive the business.

Alex Goodfellow, formerly Stewart Milne Group Managing Director – Strategic Development, has a new role in the Donaldson Group, as CEO of Donaldson Off-site. Comprising Donaldson Timber Engineering, Donaldson Timber Systems, and Rowan Manufacturing, this new division services the UK housebuilding and construction markets with an unparalleled breadth and depth of products and services.

Donaldson Timber Systems prides itself on being highly sustainable, innovative and efficient. With unrivalled experience and knowledge in timber, DTS has an established history of bringing new commercial and operational innovations to the market. One example is the Sigma® II closed panel system offering near-passivhaus standards of insulation and sustainability. The system is being widely used with housing developers, particularly with those interested in whole life costs and fabric performance, contributing positively to fuel poverty challenges.

The Donaldson Group has over 160 years of expertise in timber importing and distribution, as well as decades of experience in timber engineering and merchanting. The acquisition strategically and operationally complements the Donaldson Group portfolio and marks the Group’s entry into the timber frame market.

Rod Allan, Managing Director, Donaldson Timber Systems said:

“The rebrand to Donaldson Timber Systems is a major milestone in our company history. While the business is moving forward with the same people and operations as before, incorporating the Donaldson name highlights the step-change in our approach. We’re very proud to have joined this long-standing family business, with both timber and people at its heart. The quality of our products and service remains unchanged, but we have many exciting plans and we’re confident that this new venture will prove of great benefit for our customers.”

Andrew Donaldson, CEO of the Donaldson Group added:

“It’s been a fantastic few months integrating the new members of the team into the Donaldson Group, and the response from all involved has been hugely positive. This change of name fully aligns the business with the Group and has included a full rebrand including new logo, new branding and new website.

“Now the rebrand exercise is well underway, we’re looking forward to seeing Donaldson Timber Systems develop and grow, building on the excellent foundations that were created in its almost 50 years of operation.”

Currently led by the sixth generation of Donaldson, the Donaldson Group comprises 11 specialist timber and building product businesses, operating throughout the UK from 45 locations employing over 1,500 people.


Our Levelling up the North Discussion

February 10, 2022

On the 27th of January we launched our “Levelling up the North with Modern Methods of Construction (MMC)” campaign.

By launching this campaign and highlighting the projects we have delivered in the North, we have set out to expand on our existing partnerships with Northern affordable housing providers to fire up the economy in this area and partner with additional companies who are striving to ensure that opportunities are afforded more equally in the North.

Kicking off with a webinar, we were joined by guest speakers Stephen Wightman, MMC Lead from Faithful + Gould and Darren Jones, Associate Director from shedkm Architects who discussed the positive implications of levelling up together with Simon Horn, our Technical Manager and Simon Haddy, our Head of Business Development.

We were joined by over 130 attendees from across the Northern affordable housing sector.  As way of introduction, we began the session with an overview of the levelling up agenda, brought sharply into focus as the country now reads the white paper issued by Michael Gove and the Department of Levelling Up, Homes and Communities and learns more around what this might mean for new build affordable homes in the North – with a focus on MMC.

Stephen Wightman then took up the reins and looked at what impact MMC and levelling up has on equality, diversity and inclusion, along with how social value could be implemented across all regions, giving greater benefits to local communities. Next Darren Jones discussed the impact of design, people and place and how modern methods of construction enhance the lives of those that occupy homes built in this way.  He spoke of the fact that greater control of the build in a factory-controlled environment produces far greater quality of product, with quicker build times due to a reduction in the build programme – with place-making at the heart of the design affecting both the properties and the surrounding environment.

We showcased our MMC timber frame benefits and solutions with an overview of our products with Simon Horn drawing specific focus to the sustainable future offered at the forefront of the business, pointing out the environmental benefits of using timber versus concrete, stating “each 1m3 of wood grown by a tree holds 0.9 tonnes of CO₂ ‘sequestered’ from the atmosphere.  Using timber instead of concrete provides an average reduction of 2.1 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per 1 ton of timber product”.   Sustainability is one of our core values, driven by our people, our planet, our product.

Finally, Simon Haddy revealed how we plan to launch a hub and spoke business model across the North of England and called for affordable housing providers in the region to work together using a collaborative approach, moving forward by sharing knowledge within the sector and pushing the levelling up agenda to help ease the housing crisis we face.

As Darren from shedkm commented: “At shedkm we believe that good design has a fundamental role to play in delivering the ambitions of the Levelling Up agenda.  The importance of careful placemaking should not be underestimated in creating desirable and vibrant places to live.  New homes should be high quality, appealing and suitable for modern lifestyles, whilst being resilient to the climate emergency we are facing.  MMC and timber construction can help with all of these requirements.  As many of our projects demonstrate, modern MMC-built homes can reduce embodied and in-use carbon, and it is entirely possible to achieve variety within the standardisation necessary for MMC.

“In our experience MMC has a much to offer in terms of quality, sustainability and speed of construction, but to deliver maximum benefits it needs to be considered at an early stage of a project and early engagement with manufacturers can be hugely beneficial.”

We were delighted to receive some positive feedback from registrants:

“Great to see the North being proactively addressed in this webinar promoting MMC and to see the insightfulness of Donaldson Timber Systems in addressing the full breadth of delivery with the panel they pulled together.  MMC is crucial to the future delivery of homes North and South and the more joined up thinking that is promoted – cradle to grave – the greater the understanding and ultimately the take-up”

Amber Beare, Delivery Manager, Design, Sheffield Council

“As someone relatively new to the world of construction and MMC I found the session really beneficial. It was really insightful to hear about the manufacturing process and DTS’s plans within the North West. I also really benefitted from hearing about how shedkm and Faithful + Gould have successfully implemented different forms of MMC in recent projects”

Patrick Beesley, Assistant Project Officer, One Manchester

Timber expert, the Donaldson Group, has acquired the UK’s leading timber frame manufacturer, Stewart Milne Timber Systems (SMTS), marking the Donaldson Group’s entry into the timber frame market.

Established in 1975 as the timber frame arm of the Stewart Milne Group, Aberdeen-based SMTS is a UK pioneer in timber frame technology and manufacturing, operating throughout the country from three manufacturing plants in Aberdeen, Witney and a new facility in Falkirk.

All staff and operations will continue unchanged.  Alex Goodfellow (Stewart Milne Group Managing Director – Strategic Development) will transfer with the business into the role of CEO, Donaldson Off-site Manufacturing and join Rod Allan (SMTS Managing Director) and the current Board of Directors in continuing to drive the business. The Donaldson Group is committed to the Board’s growth plans and supporting SMTS achieve its ambition.

With 160 years of expertise in timber importing and distribution, as well as decades of experience in timber engineering and merchanting, this acquisition strategically and operationally complements the Donaldson Group portfolio, allowing the Group to offer a stronger timber package for residential and commercial applications to all their current and future customers.

The move further supports Donaldsons growth strategy and follows a run of acquisitions by the Group, following the additions of Kitchens International, Stonecare, Rowan Manufacturing and Smith and Frater since the start of 2020.

Announcing the acquisition, Andrew Donaldson, CEO of the Donaldson Group, said: “We’re delighted and proud to have successfully acquired this terrific timber frame business. This deal secures the future for a leading UK business for national and trade media; enabling the growth plans for it to reach its full potential, while providing reliability and stability for its existing and new customers. SMTS is a natural fit for the Donaldson Group; it offers a similar family-owned ethos, and has a strong reputation and track record for investment and innovation. We’re pleased to welcome all 411 employees to our family business and look forward to working closely with Alex and the full team.

“This is an exciting move for the Donaldson Group, as we venture into the timber frame market at a time when interest in the material has never been higher. The use of timber frame is anticipated to double in the next five years as housebuilders turn to modern methods of construction and renewable sources to achieve crucial net-zero carbon targets. This acquisition supports the Donaldson Group’s commitment to sustainability: building a sustainable business and supporting a sustainable industry.”

Alex Goodfellow, CEO, Donaldson Off-site added, “We have secured the perfect partner who is committed to our growth strategy and who will support us to achieve our vision.  The Donaldson Group has a strong reputation for partnerships, reliability and integrity and we are clearly aligned both strategically and operationally which can only help strengthen our market-leading position.”

Rod Allan, SMTS Managing Director said, “Through our service, our scale and our capabilities we have focussed on how we can differentiate ourselves in the marketplace. There is no doubt that being part of one of the UK’s leading timber-based group of companies will offer huge opportunities that will benefit our people, our customers and our other key stakeholders.”

SMTS joins the Donaldson Group portfolio of leading independent brands: MGM Timber, Donaldson Timber Engineering, James Donaldson Timber, James Donaldson Insulation, Smith & Frater, Rowan Manufacturing, Nu-Style Products, Kitchens International and Stonecare.

The acquisition of SMTS will further strengthen the Donaldson Group portfolio of businesses and its position as the UK’s leading independent in its markets.

Currently led by the sixth generation of Donaldson, the 160-year-old family business comprises 11 specialist timber and building product businesses, operating throughout the UK from 45 locations employing over 1500 people. The businesses that make up the Group trade and operate independently, sharing best practice, innovation, purchasing synergies, and market analysis.

The last week of November saw us host a young student from Didcot Girls’ School, who is interested in Engineering and was keen to learn more about modern methods of construction.

We set up a 3-day work experience placement for her with our maintenance team, where she developed a brief understanding of what it takes to keep the factory running, to understand legislative compliance and learn how we work to keep people safe.

The student, Sapphira, was able to get hands-on with our new 3D printer where she printed out one of our own designs for a guide bracket, which is used to support our handheld printers in Production to mark the panels with their job, plot and panel information.

Following this we let her loose with her own idea, where she printed a mobile phone holder in the shape of Captain America’s shield.

Using her shield as an example we then taught her about Continuous Improvement methodology by looking at how we can take a design and add in additional colours when printing to better match the real shield.  Further improvement ideas included mounting a wireless charger discreetly behind the shield, so that the phone holder becomes a charger. Unfortunately, we ran out of time to implement this as an idea but Sapphira now has a future project if she chooses to come back again next year.

Although the placement was for just 3 days Sapphira’s feedback was that she absolutely loved her time with us and that she’d like to come back again next year for a full two weeks placement – and we look forward to welcoming her back.


Vistry Partnerships have announced their housing schemes in the North East and Midlands, and asked us to provide timber frame for a share of the properties.

The Vistry Partnerships North team have worked on eight new projects that will deliver 1000 homes across the North East.  The initiatives include properties for open market sale, shared ownership, affordable rent, private rent and extra care facilities for the over 55’s.  All of them involve partnerships with government, local councils and or registered housing providers. Having signed a deal with the government’s housing accelerator Homes England, to purchase the land, the housing and regeneration specialist brought in partners Sigma Capital Group plc and Beyond Housing to offer a diverse range of homes and options.

One of these projects is the £62 million, 350 mixed tenure development adjacent to the James Cook University Hospital in the Brackenhoe area of Middlesbrough where Stewart Milne Timber Systems delivered 80 units for site.

We also delivered 80 units on the £55 million Kirkleatham scheme near Redcar in Cleveland.   360 properties are being provided on land to the west of Kirkleatham Lane with a selection available for shared ownership and affordable rent through Beyond Housing, with a further 80 for private rent through Sigma Capital’s Simple Life brand and the remaining 172 sold by Vistry’s housing division, Linden Homes.

We are also working with Vistry to supply and erect 54 timber frame properties for the community in Europa Way, near Leamington Spa in Warwickshire.  Europa Way is a picturesque 54-home development adjacent to their existing ‘Priors’ development, a mix of two- and three-bedroom detached and semi-detached houses and bungalows.

The development benefits from pre-fitted insulation to maximise energy efficiency and ensure homes stay cosy. This enhanced thermal performance was a special requirement for the development as part of the Affordable Homes Programme funding granted by the local authority.

  • The 54-home project includes 235 I-joist flooring fitted in each building and uses the Delta build system.
  • It will complement the adjoining open market mixed tenure development with a similar housing offer for those who require a high-quality affordable tenure option.
  • This development is part of a larger development scheme being delivered by multiple housebuilders over 23.39 acres of agricultural land that will see approximately 4,500 new homes delivered.
  • The site also benefits from the Europa Way Corridor Highways Improvement Programme, in addition to a great selection of public transport links including both Leamington and Warwick rail stations located less than ten minutes away.

Work is also ongoing at the York Road site in Birmingham using the Delta system and meeting the same criteria around enhanced thermal performance.  The build is underway and making very good progress.

We have been delighted to support Vistry’s work nationwide and look forward to our continued partnership delivering insulated houses with affordable options across the developments.


Sponsoring the Witney Vikings

November 25, 2021

SMTS sponsor a local Under 11s football team – the Witney Vikings – who have played their way to victory and won the cup!

The Oxford Youth Football League Autumn Cup Final was held on Sunday 21st November between the Witney Vikings and the Europa Titans.  The Witney Vikings were delighted to win 3-0!

The Witney Vikings are currently unbeaten, playing 9 games, scoring 65 goals and conceding 3. The team have been playing together for 4 years with 16 players training weekly. This has proved to be so popular a second team was created due to an additional 9 new players joining the squad.

We were able to provide kit to 27 boys from the Witney area and wish them every success when the Witney football league starts up again.


Stonewood Partnerships chooses SMTS

November 19, 2021

Stonewood Partnerships, which specialises in building distinctive new homes in beautiful locations, has selected Stewart Milne Timber Systems’ 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.  Orchard Field will comprise a mixture of 1, 2, 3, 4 and 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


Presenting at Be@COP26

November 16, 2021

Stewart Dalgarno, our Director of Product Development, presented ‘Mainstreaming Timber in Construction’ at the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre’s Wood for Good conference on 2nd November, a conference celebrating the history of timber in construction and how it is growing in use as the zero-carbon construction material of the future.  Stewart’s presentation focused on our timber frame manufacturing as a modern method of construction, and how this supports the built environment.

The conference, Be@COP26, tied in with COP26, the UN’s climate change conference held in Glasgow this November.   Timber and forestry have a role to play as part of the solution to fighting climate change.  Trees are a natural carbon capture, storing CO2 as carbon in its wood. Sustainable forestry practices and the wood products produced contribute to a growing carbon store in increased tree planting, whilst displacing emissions from other CO2-intensive materials by replacing them with wood products, and storing carbon captured by trees in wood products for their lifetime.

The conference ran for a day and covered talks from those developing its use and explored zero carbon solutions being developed for our communities and built world.

Some fascinating statistics were shared during Stewart’s talk – for example, on average building a home with timber saves 12 tonnes of CO2 – the equivalent of a car driving around the world 1.7 times. That helps to put into perspective why building in timber frame really is the future of housebuilding in a sustainable way.

Stewart’s talk is available on YouTube


Net Zero Strategy – Our Response

October 26, 2021

Just ahead of COP26 in Glasgow in November the Government have released their much-anticipated Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener, focusing on reducing emissions and supporting the transition across the economy to reach net zero by 2050 – and in some areas by 2035.

Boris Johnson talks of the UK in a leadership role: “By moving first and taking bold action, we will build a defining competitive edge in electric vehicles, offshore wind, carbon capture technology and more, whilst supporting people and businesses along the way.”

This market-led strategy seeks to make smart governmental interventions to stimulate both supply and demand for low carbon technologies and leverage significant private investment in deploying the technologies we need for net zero at-scale and at lower cost for consumers.

The government has vowed to promote the use of timber in low-rise construction – prioritising the material in its own procurement, and funding research into ‘innovative timber products’.

The Policy roadmap to increase the use of timber in construction comes under the Natural Resources, Waste & F-Gases policy.  The construction industry will play a major part in the journey to net zero especially with regards to carbon capture technology, through the materials used in construction, through insulation, and the new methods used to heat homes.  The Government aims to support action in the construction sector by improving reporting on embodied carbon in buildings and infrastructure with a view to exploring a maximum level for new builds in the future as they acknowledged that timber has the lowest embodied carbon of any mainstream building materials – the way to achieve net zero carbon goals is by way of material substitution where appropriate, namely timber usage. The timber frame industry has long been acknowledged across Scotland and now, as demonstrated by our own growth and expansion across the UK, the benefits of building in timber frame are being utilised by major housebuilders nationwide.

The continued investment outlined in the report includes the decarbonisation of homes, heat and buildings, transport and infrastructure, together with the development of ‘innovative timber products’ as the Government commits to moving to a more sustainable and circular economy through funding  research.   We lead the way on innovation and environmentally- aware homes – our Sigma House was the first UK built zero carbon home.  Our work on AIMC4 and the current Innovate UK-funded AIMCH project also demonstrates our advances in construction technology, methodology and materials, and we plan to continue to improve and enhance manufacturing processes and on-site installations to meet both health and safety and environmental targets.

The government also pledged to work with Homes England and its partners to ‘explore ways to increase timber use in delivery of housing programmes’ and ‘increase public demand for sustainably sourced timber through procurement policies’.  We welcomed Homes England to our Witney manufacturing centre in October 2019 to demonstrate how modern methods of construction and timber frame manufacturing represents the sustainable future of construction and delivery of large-scale housing solutions, which will continue to be a key focus for policy makers and key stakeholders across the industry.

The role of timber construction is set to be highlighted during the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow at a number of events.  We are speaking at the Wood for Good conference which takes place on 2nd November at the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre as part of the wider BE@COP26 showcase.  This conference will cover: engineering the future of construction; bringing timber construction into the mainstream; managing sustainable forests; and growing zero carbon communities and we’re looking forward to sharing insights with fellow industry thought leaders.

Overall, our work to building a sustainable future continues.    We pride ourselves on working with our planet’s only renewable building materials – timber, the solution to achieving net zero carbon targets in construction. Our ambition is to work in partnership with our supply chain and installation partners to operate responsibly and resource efficiently to strengthen our supply of energy efficient low carbon building systems and help the UK reach the net zero carbon targets.


We Go Greener

October 22, 2021

Stewart Milne Timber Systems in Witney has entered a partnership agreement with Smiths Trade Waste Services for the collection and disposal of all waste material from the factory, a move which will substantially improve the factory’s green credentials.

The agreement, which sees Smiths appointed as Waste Services Provider Partner, comes following a review of SMTS’s waste management processes. The agreement will not only introduce a more streamlined, efficient approach but it will provide us  with transparent reports so it can accurately track what happens to the waste after it leaves the factory.

“Before going into partnership with Smiths, we worked with several waste management contractors, each one responsible for collecting different types of waste,” said factory manager Frank O’Reilly. “Administering and managing this, having to duplicate processes such as invoicing, arranging collections, separately weighing and monitoring every type of waste generated a lot of extra work for our team, so it was a labour and time intensive process. Storing different types of waste in skips across the facility until it was collected also took up a considerable amount of warehouse and yard space.

“One of our biggest concerns however was the environmental implications. We felt that working with several contractors, who were all coming from different places to collect waste, added considerably to the road miles that we were generating. We were also very concerned that we felt we could not accurately track what happened to the waste when it left us and whether there could be better, more sustainable ways of dealing with it.

“We are committed to doing what we can, to be as green as we can as an organisation, and we continually make improvements that reduce our carbon footprint. We looked at our whole waste management procedure and knew we could do better.”

To make the process as efficient as possible, we are hiring a compacter from Smiths which will be used for all the factory’s general waste. The compactor will reduce the volume of general waste by two-thirds, compressing the equivalent of three skips full of waste into just one – another saving in road miles. Plastic and cardboard, plasterboard, and Fermacell which is segregated separately will also be collected by Smiths.

The waste collected by Smiths is taken directly to the recycling facility where it will be separated and sorted for recycling. Anything which cannot be recycled will be taken to the Energy from Waste facility. The steam created by the incinerator is used to make electricity which is used locally or fed into the national grid.

We will be provided with a full report on how the waste has been diverted, beginning with the weight of waste recorded up to an itemised breakdown of final dispersal. This information is then measured against our factory’s KPIs.

“We’re very pleased to have secured the contract for waste services with SMTS Witney factory,” said Josh Hill, Account Manager at Smiths Trade Waste Services.  “All our trade waste collections run at zero to landfill policy. We knew from our discussions with the team there that it was important to make sure the waste produced on site is collected in both the most efficient and green way as possible.

“To do this we will be locating a compactor on site to significantly reduce the number of pick-ups compared to previous  collections. We have also arranged for roll on/roll off for the Fermacell and plasterboard produced on site to help free up space on site.

“It’s been a pleasure working with the team at SMTS and we look forward to developing the partnership further over the upcoming years.”

The only thing which Smiths does not collect is our factory’s timber waste which is collected by Giffords Recycling. Collected twice weekly as part of a local run, one hundred percent of the wood waste is recycled into products such as animal bedding, children’s soft play areas and pallet manufacture.

We also puts a box of timber offcuts aside for the Guideposts Trust, a local charity where we provide wood on a monthly basis for their gardening and woodwork classes.

“As an ISO 14001 certified organisation, we have a duty of care and an obligation to be a greener company,” said Mr O’Reilly. “Traceability is important, and by partnering with Smiths we are confident that the waste generated at the factory is being dealt with in a responsible, accountable manner.”

Smiths was chosen as the preferred partner for two principal reasons; its location and its track record of achieving a zero to landfill policy which diverts all general waste it collects away from landfill. The recycling facility is just 40 miles from the Witney factory with the Energy from Waste (EfW) facility only four miles from that.