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Moisture conditions in external timber cladding: field trials and their design implications

Davies, Ivor



This thesis describes the development of technical guidance on timber facade design. The study involved a state-of-the-art review; an exposure trial of external cladding made from Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) and the production of construction details and associated information. It was undertaken because timber is an increasingly common cladding material in the UK, being used on low-rise residential buildings and for medium-rise and non-domestic buildings. The risks have, therefore, increased but this is not reflected in published guidance. Sitka spruce was used due to its availability in the UK and its similarity to Norway spruce (P. abies) which is widely used for cladding in Scandinavia.
The exposure trial indicated that the moisture content range in timber facades is wider than accepted. The minimum moisture content of around 10% appears to be similar for all types of timber cladding and all species. The maximum appears to vary between species according to their fibre saturation point and is influenced by construction detailing and workmanship. A preliminary model of these interactions is proposed.
From a theoretical standpoint, the moisture conditions observed in the trial mean that the (commonly quoted) mean moisture content is all but irrelevant. The mode is a more representative statistic as in most cases the data are skewed towards the fibre saturation point for the species concerned. Most detailing combinations had a moisture content near to the fibre saturation point throughout the winter. Sitka spruce is, therefore, only suitable as external cladding in the UK if preservative treated.
Around 40 construction details were produced. They integrate, for the first time, all of the performance requirements applicable to low- and medium-rise timber facades in the UK. The work’s key benefit is that the guidance arising from this study rationalises and improves facade design. Further research is, however, needed to validate the moisture content model and extend it to other timber species.

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Nov 1, 2011
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Keywords Timber facades; Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis); timber cladding; moisture; technical guidance;
Public URL
Contract Date Nov 1, 2011
Award Date 2011-06


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