In Britain, quality sells wood construction

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Eurban is a British company specialising in wood construction. Established in London in 2003, it is the most significant enterprise in Great Britain’s limited wood-construction market. The company has realised the majority of about 300 wood-construction projects in Great Britain.

« Construction based on use of solid wood boards, as well as our business operations model, were created to meet a need, as no other company offered wood structures for the construction market. We made a breakthrough when we packaged design, material delivery and installation, » says the company’s Director Liam Dewar.

Dewar says the company specialises in the construction service business, which focuses on customers and their projects. « In construction we look for quality and functionality, which are more pivotal than price. The cost of wood construction is competitive when compared to total construction costs. »

« When we have project architects and designers, we can look at all parts of a construction project comprehensively. With this operating concept we aim to gain customers’ and contractors’ trust in our services. »

Dewar feels it is important to realise projects successfully and provide the highest possible value for the customer. « We want to stand out in the eyes of customers as professionals who focus on customers and their projects. This is a very different earning model from simply delivering construction elements, since we’re expected to take part in every phase of the project. »

Customer perspective grows in construction

Eurban has completed primarily school and residential-building projects. The company’s best known project is the wooden eight-storey residential Bridgeport House, the first in central London. « The customer and architect, and in particular the users, were at first opposed to wood construction, but completely changed their minds after the building was completed. When they got fabulous flats at competitive prices, of course they were delighted, » Dewar adds.

Eurban is currently converting an old airport near Cambridge into a residential area, where offices, schools, day-care centres and stores will be built in addition to blocks of flats. « We aim to continuously become closer to the end customer. The customer’s wishes and desires will be deciding factors in the future. When reluctant primary contractors see this niche in the market for new solution models, the floodgates will open, » Dewar believes.

Dewar feels that other added values offered by wood construction, like quality and risk management, interest consumers. « Wood construction is no longer accepted only as an alternative. Price-conscious customers want wood sites because of the added value they offer. They see buildings constructed of wood as high-quality, risk-free solutions that sell well. These factors weigh more heavily than price. »

Wood brings added value to a building

Dewar feels that a building’s life cycle will become part of the company’s brand, which has an influence. « There is no added value if it cannot be measured by the company’s profits. Even if wood construction were more expensive than a steel frame, our competitive ability is based on the building’s overall costs, » Dewar notes.

« We can safely say that the price of wood construction is comparable, when viewing total construction costs, » Dewar asserts. « In addition to lack of risk, we want to offer customers a comparable price, strength of structures and speed of construction. An added value is that wood buildings are lighter, faster to build and easier to maintain, which saves on costs and the environment. Construction using wood is quiet and dust-free, making it more suitable for urban construction than other options. »

Speed, sustainable development and at some stage economical materials are important in growing urban construction. Dewar points out that environmental friendliness must also be seen as a benefit of wood construction, even though sustainable thinking has never been on builders’ minds.

« When we compare wood construction to other, competing materials, if offers great possibilities to operate in a way that spares nature. There has been a change in business culture towards sustainable-development thinking. In the future, environmental friendliness will be a very powerful factor in construction, » Dewar says.

Specialisation improves risk management

« We are specialised in wood construction, » Dewar emphasises. « At first we tried to be general engineers, but it didn’t work. Now we let others handle general policies while we ourselves do what we are good at and want to represent. When others handle wood the end result is poor, because they are not paid for know-how in wood construction. Often even we handle not only our own work, but also problems caused by errors made by others. »

Dewar believes the trend is reverting to valuing special expertise in construction. « Before, a mason was a mason and bricks weren’t procured from a steel factory. The problem today is that the cheapest supplier gets the work. Price, not skill, is the deciding factor. »

Dewar feels that specialisation means better risk management in construction, which has an even greater effect on customers than price. « When a typical construction engineer, who has no expertise as a wood engineer, builds using wood, the risks and costs rise. »

Dewar’s experience has been that there are not enough construction designers who are well versed in wood construction. « Wood construction requires specialised expertise. From the standpoint of architects all materials are equal, but from the standpoint of an engineer wood requires more calculations. Because there are uncertainty factors related to wood construction, deficient planning is a stumbling block for wood construction because there is no desire to spend money on it in advance. »

« We use wood engineers when designing wood elements, but this does not receive proper recognition in Great Britain. There are only construction engineers, and it’s assumed that they work with wood, as well. We have to go against the mainstream and make it clear to customers that wood construction requires special education. Hopefully construction companies and contractors will start to understand the value of knowledge, experience and risk-management, which is the best insurance. »

Dewar feels that wood construction is the best thing we can do to tackle climate change. « The more we build using wood, the more carbon dioxide emissions we can capture. And when building from solid wood, five times as much carbon dioxide can be captured, » Dewar reiterates.

Article Service Markku Laukkanen
Additional information: Liam Dewar, ld@eurban.co.uk