When constructing a drywall partition so that it can bear the weight of a handrail, sink, or cabinet a dryliner has to decide between using plywood or Oriented Strand Board (OSB). We’ve matched them up to find the winner once and for all.

Let’s kick off, shall we?

Like a good centre back, a solid patress requires strength—unwavering strength. If the patressing can’t support the sink or cabinet being fastened to it then it’s not fit for purpose. So, from a product point of view this requires a panel with good pull out strength, but also solid consistency. SMARTPLY DRYBACKER is manufactured to have a consistent density throughout and is tested to ensure it meets strength requirements set out in BS5234 Part 2. Demonstrating a high pull out strength and a high level of impact resistance, it is suitable for public areas such as corridors and stairwells, as well as hanging heavy fixings.

1-0 OSB.

The best midfielders are all about consistency. Consistency is also key for a patress. Your patress is only as strong as its weakest point, so a panel that’s not the same quality the whole way through will cause you issues. Plywood often has knots or naturally occurring weak areas. Imagine fastening a heavy TV unit to the wall only for one side to hit a knot and become loose post-installation. No one deserves to watch the big game with their heads tilted. SMARTPLY DRYBACKER offers a consistent panel quality every time, with no holes, knots, or voids meaning you can get the job done on time, every time.

2-0 OSB.

Strikers. Speed, movement and the ability to leave defenders eating their dust. Dust, however, isn’t something you want on a building site. Not only does SMARTPLY DRYBACKER leave minimal dust – as there’s no need to cut it – but it also slots straight into partitions due to its continual recess down one side, especially designed to accommodate the ‘C’ shaped studs that hold the panels in place; simply fasten it in place with three screws and you’re on to the next one. It’ll get you home before the final whistle.

3-0 OSB.

Game over. Check out SMARTPLY DRYBACKER in action in our latest video, here: https://bit.ly/2KFk0Vj


By Flat Roofing Fergal, check out his story here: https://bit.ly/2jUjwOT

A product is devised as a solution to a problem.

This fact has driven the invention of countless products over the years that have made our day-to-day lives easier. Some products still serve a purpose, but just like us, products and ideas get old.

Put bluntly, if you don’t innovate then you risk ending up on the scrap heap.

Take Nokia, Blockbuster, or Kodak for example: brands which at one point were on top of their game, but now are a distant memory and are only brought up in nostalgic anecdotes.

This same model applies to the construction industry.

Construction methods and products have evolved just as quickly as technology has; they’ve had to in order to survive. This progression of technology is true of MEDITE SMARTPLY where we’ve continued to work with our customers to solve their problems.

There’s no better example of this than our SMARTPLY FR OSB. A product invented to solve a problem – to make the installation of torch-on flat roofing safer, but in typical MEDITE SMARTPLY fashion we’ve also ticked a few other boxes too. All of our products are sustainable and FSC certified, even our most innovative products.

For decades, what has been needed is a safe, sustainable, easy to maintain, flame retardant panel to use for torch-on flat roofing. What is needed is SMARTPLY FR.

Marc Williams of the Confederation of Roofing Contractors confirmed: “A flame retardant timber panel is an absolute no-brainer for the flat roofing industry. The roofing industry has been in need of a product like this for a long time.”

SMARTPLY FR is the result of years’ of research into flame retardant solutions and how timber reacts to the process of treatment for flame retardance, to try and come up with an innovative product for this flat roofing problem.

It’s important to recognise that timber should not be written off as a material for flat roofing. It’s more environmentally sustainable both to produce and recycle that other materials, and it’s easier to repair, should it be needed, long into the future.

And when it’s treated with Zeroignition® technology during manufacture, it’s also integrally flame retardant.

Significantly, SMARTPLY FR is an OSB panel. This is important for several reasons.

First, it is engineered to meet a certain weight bearing load. Secondly this strength is not affected when it is treated for flame retardance, as has been noted to happen to some plywoods during similar processes.

Thirdly, the fact that it is treated during manufacture means that the individual wood chips that go into each panel get treated with Zeroignition®, in contrast to the post-manufacture treatment of plywood which only coats the surface of the board, running the risk of leaving the centre untreated. This means if a plywood board is cut, or the surface becomes damaged, the integrity of its CE mark, certifying that the product indeed does what it promises, will be called into question.

This doesn’t have to be a worry, when flat roofing with SMARTPLY FR.

To be right at the forefront of technology, the roofing and even the wider construction industry, work smarter, not harder, and choose SMARTPLY FR.

Flat Roofing Fergal’s four reasons why SMARTPLY FR is the perfect flat roofing board

Torching-on felt over a reliable board is the ‘tried and tested’ method for flat roofing that has been around for generations, because it works! The challenge with this method is ensuring the reliability of the board used as the roof deck. To achieve a great flat roof finish, we’ve created a checklist of key characteristics you need to look out for.

1: Flame Retardant

When using torch-on felt, your board should have its flame-retardance ‘built-in’ rather than be post-treated. If it is post-treated, you run the risk that it will not be flame-retardant in the centre, meaning that if it is cut or damaged, its reaction to fire could be different to what the product originally promised.

Individual SMARTPLY FR OSB wood chips are treated with Zeroignition® technology during manufacture. This water-based, non-toxic, environmentally friendly solution ensures fire performance whilst maintaining structural integrity.

2: CE Marked

CE marking proves that your product has been assessed and meets EU safety, health and environmental protection requirements. However, not all CE marks should be taken on face value. Some manufacturers treat their boards for flame-retardance post manufacture, meaning that the board has now been altered and the original CE mark is invalid.

The fact that SMARTPLY FR is treated for flame-retardance during manufacture means that its CE mark as is valid in application as it was at the point of manufacture.

3: Environmentally Responsible

The UK is one of the greatest consumers of timber products in the world. This puts a huge demand on supply chains and means that more than half of the UK’s timber is imported. For this reason, it’s important to ensure you are confident in each link of your chosen board’s supply chain. Ignoring or not questioning your products’ supply chain could leave you vulnerable to the use of illegally sourced timber, or simply a non-sustainable product.

Luckily, SMARTPLY FR’s supply chain is one that we’re very proud of. In fact, MEDITE SMARTPLY manufactures all its timber panel products from fast growing pine, grown in our own sustainable forests in Ireland. SMARTPLY FR, like all our products, is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified, meaning that when you use it, you’re helping to combat the trade of illegal tropical plywood, made from wood sourced from unsustainable forests. Definitely something to be proud of!

4: Compliant

SMARTPLY FR is made in accordance with EN300, which makes it a reliable choice for roofing, flooring and wall sheathing where strength, moisture resistance and flame-retardance are of the utmost importance.

It also maintains the low formaldehyde emission standard for Europe, level E1, which is unchanged by Zeroignition®. This is a key consideration for public spaces, and sensitive environments like schools and hospitals. So, when looking for your perfect board for flat roofing, work smarter, not harder, and choose SMARTPLY FR.

Specify A Flame-Retardant Timber Panel You Can Trust: SMARTPLY FR

There will of course be times when we are faced with specifying products that must meet many different criteria, with absolutely no room for doubt. For example, the need for flame-retardant timber panels whose performance can be relied upon during installation and for the decades ahead.

SMARTPLY FR provides a huge reassurance for projects such as these. It is 100% wood-based, CE certified, and treated with Zero-ignition® technology during production, rather than afterwards. This means that when it is cut to size, the fire-performance and the CE mark is not affected. With SMARTPLY FR, you can be sure that you’re meeting all the legal and safety requirements throughout the build.

This is especially important when specifying for public buildings where fire safety is vital, or when installing a flat roof with torch-on felt. In both cases, nothing can be left to chance. You want to be sure that it will continue to perform reliably, months, years or even decades down the line, especially in buildings destined to be flats, offices, schools or hospitals.

Make sure you always check the validity of your timber’s CE mark so you’re not left with any unwanted surprises - work smarter, not harder!

An extra great point about SMARTPLY FR is its high racking strength, meaning it can be relied on to be structurally sound.

A recent project that demanded all these considerations when specifying was The Edge, an innovative student accommodation building on London Road, Liverpool.

This sleek building was needed to meet the urgent need for student housing in this city which has four universities. It includes 231 en-suite rooms, as well as two penthouse suites, and an on-site gym, amongst other amenities.

Given its use, it is plain to see that this building will be full of people, virtually all the time. For this reason, SMARTPLY FR has been relied upon to provide a flame-retardant flooring solution within the seven-storey, timber frame building, that will protect the safety of hundreds of students.

You can find more about how MEDITE SMARTPLY products are helping this project be the best it can be here.

What’s the best board for your site hoarding?

Site-hoarding is more than just putting up a fence. Firstly, you want your site-hoarding to be strong and durable. Secondly, it makes life a lot easier if it’s quick to install, so you can enjoy the really important things in life. And thirdly, too often the sustainability of site-hoarding boards is almost completely disregarded leading to the use of illegally produced tropical plywood.

Thankfully, there is a product that checks these three all-important boxes: SMARTPLY SITEPROTECT.


Whether your site is a large expensive development with countless stakeholders wanting to see their investment turn out right, or a project with high value to a local community, you can’t run the risk of unauthorised people gaining access to it. It’s not just to stop vandals with spray cans and quick fingers, but unattended building sites are extremely dangerous places for anyone who doesn’t know the lay of the land.

SMARTPLY SITEPROTECT has been manufactured with height and durability in mind. In fact, SMARTPLY SITEPROTECT can be produced up to three metres high and is made from OSB3, meaning it’s structurally sound, won’t bend or break, or allow your site to become easily accessed by unauthorised people.


Specifically, YOUR time.SMARTPLY SITEPROTECT is unique in that it comes pre-primed in a heavy-duty white or grey primer, but it’s also available in a variety of RAL colours on request, saving you hours in time and energy. No more watching paint dry long into the evening; you only need to apply a top coat, seal the edges and you’re done!


To tick the sustainability boxes for your building project it’s important to think about the origins of the materials used for your site-hoarding. In fact, not thinking about it at all so could put you in breach of the legal requirements explained in the Government’s Timber Procurement Policy. Not to mention that illegal plywood harvested from rainforests contributes to deforestation and destroys local communities.

Thankfully, SMARTPLY SITEPROTECT is fully Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified, meaning you don’t have to worry about the credibility of its supply chain, and you can
rest easy knowing you’re doing something good for the environment too.

For more details on SMARTPLY SITEPROTECT click here.

Dryliners! Here’s 3 reasons why reducing power tools on your site will make you safer at work

Around 64,000 construction workers sustained a non-fatal injury at work, each year between 2014 and 2017 in the UK. Over 22% of these resulted in over a week off from work.[1]

One common and simple cause of this is the use of power tools on-site. Of course, for certain tasks they’re necessary, but where you can use less of them, you may just avoid any accident or injury potential.

At MEDITE SMARTPLY we’re innovators, and as innovators we work to create solutions that work in real world situations.

With this in mind, our product development team created SMARTPLY DRYBACKER, the pre-cut, heavy-weight bearing, structural OSB panel for pattressing. It’s been specially
manufactured to accommodate ‘C’ shaped stud frames! Simply pick it up, slot it in, fix it in place and you’re ready to go; no need for circular saws, routers, hoovers or other power tools.

In this way, you can help avoid these top three hazards to dryliners at work…

1. Slips, Trips and Falls on one level

A construction site is chaotic at the best of times: wires and cables trailing from power tools add to the mish-mash of uneven surfaces, broken ground and loose objects constantly present on site.

Limiting or removing these trip hazards should be a key focus not only for contractors, but for manufacturers and material providers alike.

2. Hearing damage from high noise levels

Noise is a major hazard in this industry, with repetitive, excessive noise causing long-term hearing problems as well as being a dangerous distraction, leading to many accidents.[2]

Some ear protection may not be totally effective against hearing damage either. While this should never be foregone, reducing the use of noisy power tools on site as well will perhaps be the only real solution towards ensuring less hearing damage is caused.

3. Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome

Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome is a painful and debilitating condition affecting blood vessels, nerves and joints, caused by prolonged use of vibratory power tools.

This is classed as an industrial disease and is cited frequently in the compensation claims of workers who worked for years with little to no protection with poorly maintained power tool equipment.

It’s difficult to treat, and to us seems an unnecessary hazard…

So, what are you waiting for? Work smarter, not harder, with SMARTPLY DRYBACKER.

[1] http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/industry/construction/construction.pdf

[2] https://www.simpsonmillar.co.uk/news/the-most-common-accidents-in-the-construction-industry-1916

4 reasons SMARTPLY PATTRESS PLUS is a totally ingenious drylining solution

It is often said that the best solutions are the simplest.

It is also said that the simplest solutions are the most ingenious.

With this in mind, we have created a panel for dryliners that simply rises to meet the needs of those working in the industry, in 4 ingenious ways:

  1. Get the job done quicker! SMARTPLY PATTRESS PLUS is designed to provide support for fixtures and fittings in non-structural drywall partitions. To enable it to do this in the quickest, easiest and most effective way, it has been specially engineered to feature a continuous recess along the edge to accommodate ‘C’ shaped stud frames used in the construction of lightweight drywall partition systems. This means less machining for you on site, making your work quicker and the end result sturdier.
  2. It’s the heavyweight champion! SMARTPLY PATTRESS PLUS has been comprehensively tested to the relevant sections of BS5234 Part 2 relating to pull-out strengths and is suitable for use in public access areas including corridors and stairwells, contributing to higher levels of impact resistance, as proven after testing. It’s able to provide a pattress that will hold radiators, shelves, handrails or other fixtures with ease.
  3. Less dust, no power tools! The pre-cut panels also mean that there’s no need to use power tools on site. This eliminates excess dust and improves safety by reducing the unnecessary risk of cutting panels on site. That also means less mess to clean up at the end of the day!
  4. Sustainably produced! It is manufactured from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified timber sourced from our own forests. We think this is pretty important, and we’re proud to say that SMARTPLY has FSC Chain of Custody certification for its manufacturing, processing, sales and distribution process. SMARTPLY PATTRESS PLUS also has absolutely zero added formaldehyde. This is a major plus when it comes to environmentally sensitive interior applications where formaldehyde emissions need to be kept to a minimum, such as hospitals, laboratories, museums and schools.

And that’s as simple as that.

SMARTPLY Timber Panels provide Solutions for Offsite and Fire Safety

With the adoption of offsite construction methods gaining pace and more buildings being designed specifically with this method in mind, construction material manufacturers are having to look at innovative new ways to keep up. Changes in product dimensions, methods of handling, certification and an understanding of new performance criteria are all key to providing the benefits and efficiencies the new construction methods demand.

With the adoption of offsite construction methods gaining pace and more buildings being designed specifically with this method in mind, construction material manufacturers are having to look at innovative new ways to keep up. Changes in product dimensions, methods of handling, certification and an understanding of new performance criteria are all key to providing the benefits and efficiencies the new construction methods demand.

Anticipating the rise in offsite construction, MEDITE SMARTPLY identified the need for a new format of product to add to its catalogue of long panel technologies. With SMARTPLY FR OSB3, the innovative timber panel manufacturer has produced a construction material that is not only helping to drive efficiencies and cut costs within construction, but is also ensuring safety standards are met for finished builds.

A lightweight and structurally sound OSB3 panel with integral flame retardance, SMARTPLY FR can now be manufactured in panels up to 7.5m long by 2.5m wide, making it ideal for offsite construction methods. High strength OSB4 options also allow designers and architects to cover even longer spans, all in one panel. Entire sides of buildings can now be sheathed in a controlled offsite environment before being delivered to site, or craned into place with no additional post-treatment or coating required. Efficiencies like these offer an exciting opportunity for the social housing sector or affordable building projects, such as modular builds.

SMARTPLY FR OSB is made with an environmentally-friendly, water-based flame retardant which is added to the OSB strands during manufacture. Unlike many panels that are treated post-production, which can have a destructive effect on the mechanical or physical properties of a panel, SMARTPLY FR OSB3 maintains its structural integrity and meets CE-marked certified structural performance and safety standards.

Manufactured to meet European reaction to fire class C-s2, d0 and BFL -s1 performance, SMARTPLY OSB3 is designed to not only slow down the rate at which timber burns, but to prevent ignition. This added benefit creates peace of mind and makes it a perfect choice for not only housing applications, but other critical constructions such as schools, hotels, hospitals and offices.

The increased efficiency benefits of building with large, structural panels, teamed with these safety assurances, make SMARTPLY FR OSB3 and the high strength derivative OSB4, specifically designed for large spans, the perfect choice for Offsite and associated modern methods of construction.

For more information on SMARTPLY FR OSB please visit:


Time Saving Board Increases Efficiency at Residential Build

SMARTPLY PATTRESS PLUS, an innovative factory prepared oriented strand board (OSB), has greatly reduced the time spent on the latest big build project for contractor SD Plastering.

SMARTPLY PATTRESS PLUS, an innovative factory prepared oriented strand board (OSB), has greatly reduced the time spent on the latest big build project for contractor SD Plastering.

The project, at Surrey Quays, Canada Water, London has seen 280 commercial and residential units take shape over the past two years with an additional 160 to follow on. Specially designed SMARTPLY PATTRESS PLUS was chosen over traditional board as the material of choice to provide support for heavy fixtures and fittings in the construction of plasterboard partitions throughout. SMARTPLY PATTRESS PLUS features a uniquely designed recess in the rear of the panel, designed to accommodate ‘C’ shaped metal studs meaning the panel will fit snugly to most commercially available drylining systems. The panel significantly reduces install time, without adding any thickness to the final partition.

SMARTPLY Provides Safe, Sustainable and Smart Hoarding for City Building Site

SMARTPLY SITEPROTECT has provided an attractive, sustainable and durable hoarding to protect site workers and the general public during building renovation in Central London. A total of 300 sheets of the highly-engineered board were installed around the construction site in Wilton Road, Victoria, to form a hoarding which not only protects the public during building works, but caused minimal disruption due to its speed of installation.

SMARTPLY SITEPROTECT has provided an attractive, sustainable and durable hoarding to protect site workers and the general public during building renovation in Central London. A total of 300 sheets of the highly-engineered board were installed around the construction site in Wilton Road, Victoria, to form a hoarding which not only protects the public during building works, but caused minimal disruption due to its speed of installation.

SMARTPLY SITEPROTECT is a highly engineered and moisture resistant OSB3 pre-primed panel specifically designed to save both time and money in the most demanding hoarding applications. Sub-contractor, Permanex Hoarding, were appointed by client Kier Construction to install a robust hoarding to surround the construction site which stands opposite Victoria train station, one of the busiest rail terminus’ in Europe, and alongside the Apollo Theatre, a celebrated and long-established show venue.

With the area heavily populated by commuters, tourists and shoppers, time was of the essence to construct a hoarding around the 300-metre site being used for the construction of a mixed-use office block. Due to SMARTPLY SITEPROTECT being primed with a smooth, heavy duty, exterior, cross-linked polymer surface treatment, the sub-contractor, Permanex Hoarding, was able to pre-finish the boards to ensure a quick and easy installation which incorporated a public walk-through. Mike Roberts, Director of Permanex Hoarding, commented: “We chose SMARTPLY SITEPROTECT for the hoarding as we needed a board to withstand the worst of the weather for up to two years.
Having used the product on small scale projects in the past, we thought we would try it on a much bigger site. I’m pleased to say SMARTPLY SITEPROTECT has once again proved itself more than up to the task. Being able to pre-paint the boards ahead of installation was a huge time-saver and ensured we completed the project on time.” In total, 300 2440 x 1220 boards were used to erect the Victoria hoarding during overnight shifts to minimise disruption. Due to its quick and easy installation, SMARTPLY SITEPROTECT ensured work was carried out within the client’s six-week deadline and to their complete satisfaction. The hoarding will stand exposed for up to two years, which is the estimated construction time at the site.
As with all SMARTPLY products, SMARTPLY SITEPROTECT comes with unrivalled quality and environmental certification. It is manufactured from a locally-grown sustainable forest resource in an energy efficient process which ensures it has a lower carbon footprint than many types of plywood. SMARTPLY delivers proven performance and extremely low environmental impact. In addition, the system offers a fully certified alternative to softwood plywood and boasts FSC Chain of Custody certification – a key requirement for low carbon construction.
It is manufactured in accordance with the requirements of EN 300 and CE marked in accordance with the harmonised standard EN 13986.

Dryliners! Want to save time on site?

Saving time on site is always a bonus. Not only can you get away to do something more exciting sooner, you can be more efficient with your time and deliver greater value to your customers.

Saving time on site is always a bonus. Not only can you get away to do something more exciting sooner, you can be more efficient with your time and deliver greater value to your customers.

When it comes to drylining, providing a level surface to decorate onto is key. But, of equal importance is the structural integrity of the partition wall. Making the walls robust enough to allow for the secure anchorage for heavy fixtures and fittings is often the time-consuming part.

If your plasterboard partition makes use of metal stud, then providing a patrice to hold radiators, shelves, handrails or other fixtures doesn’t have to be as tedious a task as it might first appear.
You can give heavy-weight bearing powers to your partition walls in super-fast speed with our clever oriented strand board (OSB) solution – SMARTPLY PATTRESS PLUS. Manufactured to accommodate ‘C’ shaped stud frames, the patrice panels can fit easily in place without the need to cut them down to size, eliminating not only time but also health and safety issues relating to dust, noise, and the operation of power tools.
As an OSB panel, PATTRESS PLUS provides reliable core strength for fixings on all points without the risk of structural weaknesses from knots or voids, as might be the case with plywood.

Dryliners can slot in the ready prepared modular panels in to their drylined walls with ease and speed, while at the same time being assured that they’ve selected a product which meets the highest of environmental standards.

Not only is PATTRESS PLUS manufactured from FSC certified timber, but it also is produced with zero added formaldehyde – making it ideal for public buildings or facilities which are trying to meet sustainability standards.

Putting post-treated OSB panels in the hot seat on CE Marking

Like all other construction products, OSB panels have a legal requirement under the Construction Products Regulation to be CE Marked in order to be sold in Europe.

However some technologies being used to post-treat wood panels to make them flame retardant can have a destructive effect on the panel itself, meaning their finished state may not be in accordance with the performance requirements of the harmonised EN 13986 standard. They should be retested after treatment, and a Declaration of Performance issued confirming their revised attributes to maintain their CE Mark. If this is not happening consistently, what does it mean for product performance?

SmartPly FR OSB3 panels were developed to meet a growing demand for flame retardant OSB within timber constructions. SmartPly FR OSB achieves Euroclass-C performance for wall, ceiling, roofing and free-standing applications, as well as Euroclass-BFL for flooring. Thanks to the advanced manufacturing process the panels have flame retardation built in, with the proven water-based eco-friendly Zeroignition Solution being added to the individual strands which compose the panels during manufacture rather than post treatment of a finished panel. Fully integrating the treatment within the panel in this way means that they retain the same physical performance and strength as all OSB3 manufactured by SmartPly.

Other wood panel products which have gone down the post-treatment route to flame retardance may appear CE Marked for structural performance in the same way as SmartPly FR OSB, however this could be misleading. Some products are CE Marked post-manufacture but before being treated, yet there are widely-known issues with deterioration of mechanical and physical characteristics resulting from pressurised impregnation of fire retardants into wood panels post-manufacture.

In order to give specifiers a true indication of products’ post-treatment performance it is essential they are structurally reassessed and CE Marked following treatment in order to comply with the Construction Products Regulation. There have been instances where panel processors have claimed that the products are CE Marked based upon the original pre-treatment performance assessment, incorrectly reflecting their finished state.

It is the specifier’s responsibility to ensure the products they choose meet all relevant regulations, and SmartPly FR OSB gives them confidence that every panel leaves the factory CE marked, fully certified, validated by third party independent notified bodies and with the relevant fire classification and declaration of performance.

As well as complying with Euroclass performance requirements for Reaction to Fire SmartPly FR OSB3 panels maintain structural integrity to EN 13986 requirements. The products are manufactured from locally grown and legally harvested FSC certified sustainable timber and comply with the EU Timber Regulation.

Posted by Mike Harrison, Marketing Manager - Medite - SmartPly

WikiHouse could fix the housing crisis by making construction accessible to all

The construction industry needs to build high volumes of affordable but energy efficient housing to meet Government targets of 400,000 new homes during the current Parliament.

But with the added elements of a major skills shortage throughout the supply chain and the need to cut carbon emissions to meet Building Regulations and national commitments making this a perfect storm of challenges, how can industry deliver? Part of the solution to this daunting problem might already be here with the invention of the WikiHouse, a democratic as well as affordable approach to housebuilding that enables everyone to build a house.

WikiHouse is an open source building system which means that many design minds have come together to create it, forgoing the normal intellectual property issues to offer a collaborative approach that is refreshingly different in construction. What is now a global WikiHouse movement is centred around building an online database of timber frame building designs, which developers or individuals can download for free. These can then be taken to a CNC precision digital cutting factory, of which there are many across the UK, to be produced.

The prototype UK WikiHouse project, WikiHouse 4.0 was built at the Building Centre in London in 2014 to a design by Arup and Alistair Parvin of Zero Zero Architects, with a frame made of SmartPly OSB3. It not only provided a model of a good quality, affordable house that can be quickly constructed with minimal training, but also showed that OSB was an ideal structural material. The sight of precision-cut OSB walls and floors raised the eyebrows of many in the industry who, despite the use of OSB within traditional timber frame construction methods, still harbour the assumption the material is only for hoardings and other temporary uses.

The Government has pledged to build 400,000 homes over the life of this Parliament and there is currently little sign of that being delivered. There needs to be alternative visionary on how this will happen and WikiHouse is one route that needs to be taken more seriously. As part of an affordable answer to the problem, OSB can provide a cost-effective construction solution which also has a credible sustainability story behind it, in the case of SmartPly OSB3 offering full FSC accreditation.

WikiHouse can reduce build costs by up to two-thirds which is why housing associations have begun to take a keen interest faced with a reduction in rent income as Right to Buy is extended. South Yorkshire Housing Association is one of the first to take it forward with a plan to build a pilot home in the village of Darnall, again to a design by Alastair Parvin. The housing association is looking to construct it for around £50,000.

There is a wider and even more acute global context that could see the WikiHouse to come into its own, as exemplified by a pioneering project by a group of students in Delaware, USA called WikiHouse FirstState. They are working to establish proof of concept for applying the model to create sustainable, locally manufactured permanent shelters for disaster relief, and to help those in poverty such as displaced refugees. This is a particularly important development in the light of ongoing events in the Middle East, and the student group is taking an inspiring lead in showing how WikiHouse could help the 1 in 116 people worldwide that have had to flee their homes.

There are two big challenges in the UK however which remain in terms of widespread adoption of WikiHouse by individual homeowners, and the first is getting the land. If we are looking at people choosing the method due to its affordability this demographic may struggle to find the land to build on in many areas. Secondly there is the issue of convincing planners that a ‘cheap’ house is the right vernacular for a particular location. However, it is to be hoped that the many worthy benefits of WikiHouse, including its ability to provide appropriately styled homes, will begin to change attitudes.

Enlightened users have long recognised the structural performance capabilities of OSB in wall sheathing, flooring and roofing applications, yet wider general perception still regards OSB largely as a material for packaging, hoardings and other temporary functions. However, the WikiHouse initiative has demonstrated the versatility of OSB as one of the main structural material options for creating affordable low energy houses of the future. The more fundamental impact of this important movement is bringing democracy to housebuilding, opening the doors to delivery to everyone.

Posted by Mike Harrison, Marketing Manager - Medite - SmartPly

Avoid hoarding up problems by sourcing all timber on site responsibly

Just because construction site hoarding is temporary doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have to be considered as part of a responsible sourcing strategy.

Despite the fact that many clients and contractors are now insisting on greater levels of sustainability across all aspects of projects, this is one area that is being overlooked when it comes to timber sourcing.

The European Timber Regulation (EUTR) stipulates that all timber used on construction sites needs to be legally sourced. This means ALL timber, from that used in construction of the building to the hoardings used to shield the site from prying eyes. Timber hoardings may also be used to convey an appropriate message to the outside world. This might include a project’s sustainability credentials as part of promotional information about the developers’ and contractors’ CSR efforts, all designed to give the local and wider community a feel good factor about the project.

However trumpeting a project as a leading example of sustainability on hoardings which breach regulations on responsible sourcing, no matter how temporary they are or how good the rest of the site is, is an irony which might lead some to seriously doubt the integrity of the project’s other claims. Cheap Chinese plywood accounts for a large chunk of the problem. A recent report by the National Measurement Office found that only two of the 16 companies investigated which import Chinese timber met the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation for due diligence in the sourcing of legally harvested timber.

The issues around imported plywood extend far beyond variable quality to mislabelling of products as certain species which they subsequently turn out not to be. Greenpeace has campaigned to end the use of illegal and destructive rainforest plywood since 2000. It found evidence that a large quantity of Chinese plywood was faced with veneers from slow growing tropical species sourced from endangered rainforests. By contrast SmartPly, part of Coillte the Irish forestry company, has access to sustainable, well managed fast growing softwood timber. OSB, unlike plywood, uses forest thinnings which are smaller diameter logs unsuited for use by the sawmills, therefore maximising the overall resource.

The concerns over illegal timber extend beyond the actual material itself to the pay, reward and working conditions for those harvesting timber or laying out the plies of material for plywood production. Sustainability is not just about protecting vulnerable resources but also ensuring the preservation of community and individual economic sustainability.

The big problem in the UK construction industry is making sure that timber hoardings are seen as part of the whole construction project when it comes to product specification and timber sourcing. On the whole, focus is concentrated on the building, and protection of the site perimeter during construction is left to the contractor who has a lot of other priorities. With one or two exceptions in the form of more enlightened firms, poorer quality and potentially illegal plywood is the dominant choice for hoarding applications, but one which can undermine a project’s sustainability credentials and wider image.

SmartPly SiteProtect OSB offers the answer to the problem, a high quality hoarding solution with a pre-primed smooth finish ready for painting. Manufactured under factory controlled conditions to European standards, dependable product performance is ensured for long lasting looks with no delamination. With raw material supplied from our own well managed local forests we have not only security of supply but also we know exactly what timber we are using, ensuring a robust chain of custody for FSC Certification. This enables clients to have confidence that their sites are compliant with binding UK and European responsible sourcing regulations, and that they are not contributing to the illegal timber trade or unsustainable practices.

Posted by Mike Harrison, Marketing Manager - Medite - SmartPly