Energy Efficiency in Timber Houses vs Block Houses

How Timber Frame Construction Will Effect the Long-Term Costs of Heating Your Home

Advocates of timber-frame construction have long argued that timber-frame houses are more thermally efficient and therefore more cost effective to heat. However, it has been argued by many pic-2brick and mortar advocates that due to new building regulations the same minimum U-value must be achieved in all new build homes regardless of construction method, and therefore thermal efficiency should not be a determining factor when deciding between the two construction methods. Significantly, studies show that in actual practice block homes continuously fall short when it comes to implementing the thermal efficiency calculated in the design stages.

This is due in part to poor on-site practices and in greater proportion to the nature of the on-site construction system. The factory based system employed in the construction of timber frame homes allows for far greater accuracy & precision and ensures that u-values predicted in the design plans will actually be achieved in practice.

This assertion is backed below by Bill Quigley’s study, “The Comparison of energy use and comfort conditions in Timber Frame and Traditional Block Houses”, conducted in 2003 on behalf of COFORD & Nutech Consultants (See Below).

Timber Frame Homes Vs Block Built Homes – A Case Study

In this study Quigley compared the energy efficiency of 3 newly built Timber Frame houses and three similar newly built traditional block houses. Both house types were designed to meet the minimum energy rating (U-Value) as set out by new Irish building regulations in light of the findings and recommendations of the Kyoto Protocol. He found that once the houses were finished it was difficult to visibly determine which type of construction method had been used. However, after carrying out a series of tests, the difference in thermal efficiency between the two building types was significantly notable and left no doubt as to which building type was which.

The major conclusion was that the 3 timber-frame houses achieved a higher average house temperature using less energy and at a lower cost than the 3 hollow block built houses.

Significant Findings Include:


  • It takes 44% more energy to achieve a 1°C increase over the ambient temperature in hollow block built houses than in timber-frame houses.
  • This means that Timber Frame Houses produce 44% less CO2 emissions than Traditional Block Houses, ensuring a green home for you and your family.
  • It also means high savings in heating bills. In fact, in this study, energy costs were 32% higher in the hollow block built houses than in the timber-frame houses.
  • Furthermore, the amount of energy required to maintain the desired comfort temperature is considerably lower in the timber-frame houses.