Manufacturer spotlight – Donaldson Timber Systems

We’ve appointed a range of approved manufacturers to our MMC Category 1 framework and MMC Category 2 DPS. In this series we ask our manufacturing partners to introduce themselves.

Donaldson Timber Systems

With three factories across the UK and over 45 years’ experience, Donaldson Timber Systems (DTS) is the UK’s leading offsite timber systems manufacturer, specialising in the supply and construction of sustainable open and closed panel timber frames. Earlier this year, they were accredited with a gold award for customer satisfaction by In-House Research and also became the first timber frame manufacturer to offer a verified Pre-Manufactured Value (PMV) score of 55% or more. 

We asked manufacturing director, Frank O’Reilly to tell us a bit more about Donaldson Timber Systems.

What made you want to work in MMC?

I actually didn’t set out for a career in MMC or timber frame. After working across Ireland and Australia in various construction roles, I joined Donaldson Timber Systems as I saw the opportunity to work for a forward-thinking company, with the chance to implement exciting MMC developments, especially technical developments within our factories.

As a business, we have travelled extensively to learn and observe what current MMC techniques are being used, but nothing suited exactly what we were trying to achieve. This led to us working with Randek, a Swedish company who were a willing partner to help us develop a bespoke solution. The solution we have developed as a result fits nicely into the market. This suits both our needs and our customers’ needs, being focused more on offsite manufacturing rather than on site trades. This ensures a finished product built to a higher level of quality and accuracy within a factory-controlled environment.

The thing I enjoy about MMC and the timber frame industry, especially within DTS, is that there is never a dull day. We are surrounded by exciting innovation and are always trying new things to come up with the best product and solution for our customers.

What MMC housing projects are you currently working on? Where? What size?

It’s hard to nail down one particular project, as on a national level, we work with all the major housebuilders. We also work with regional housebuilders and on a local level we continue to tailor our product and our service to meet the needs of smaller developers.

In terms of the bigger industry solutions we are striving towards, we see ourselves as part of the solution to the UK housing crisis, especially where public sector housing is concerned. We have recently been appointed to several framework agreements, which further demonstrates our expertise on several topics, from the quality of our product and how we operate, to our ethics and sustainability measures across the business.

Currently, one of our most exciting projects is the next evolution of our award winning BOPAS and BBA approved Sigma build system, which meets part L of the new building regulations and the carbon and environmental goals the government has set out.  

Where is your factory based? Why did you choose to locate it there?

We have three factories across the UK, the original being in Westhill, Aberdeen. We also have a factory in Falkirk, Stirlingshire and the largest of our three factories is in Witney, Oxfordshire. With Aberdeen being our original site, the further two expansions we have made allow us to provide national coverage to our customers across the UK.

Offsite manufacturing has a number of benefits for both the environment and the construction industry as a whole. In a nutshell, using offsite manufacturing methods means that less time is spent on site, which speeds up installation time, reduces the dependency on good weather, and makes sites safer as there is less time spent working at height. Offsite manufacturing ensures improved quality and reliability, as well as reducing the need for onsite labour.

As the only naturally renewable building material, timber build systems are undeniably the most sustainable form of construction. We are striving towards the net zero carbon targets set out by the government and believe that timber frame and its embodied carbon properties are key to this. Using a timber frame build system for a new-build home reduces the embodied carbon by around five tonnes, compared to a masonry construction home of the same fabric performance.

The environmental benefits, as well as the reduced build time and cost efficiency mean that timber frame build systems offer solutions not only to the net zero carbon target but the housing crisis as well.

What exciting news is on the horizon for your business?

We are making some really exciting technological advancements right now. As I mentioned before, we are further developing the Sigma build system, which goes beyond the carbon and sustainability regulations set out by the government for housebuilders to achieve before 2025.

We are also in the process of installing a closed panel robotic production line in our Witney factory. The aim of this being to support our operatives, improve our accuracy and work towards a ‘right first time, every time’ approach.

In another effort to support our operatives, we have also been investing in wearable technology and digitisation of processes to make it easier to teach and train our staff, as well as ensuring better accuracy and quality in our products. One day, our factory could operate on a basis where engineers can pull up designs in a mixed reality environment above the project they are working on and operatives can have work instructions and sets of drawings available in a hands-free format, reducing our need for paper entirely. This also allows for greater collaboration with site and design teams regardless of their location within the country.

It’s a really exciting time at Donaldson Timber Systems, we’re pleased to see the adoption of timber frame across the housebuilding industry and are striving to maintain our position as one of the leaders in innovation, quality and service.

Find out more about Donaldson Timber Systems

Frank O’Reilly is manufacturing director at Donaldson Timber Systems

28 June 2023

Membership of Building Better is open to any housing association or local authority housing provider in England and Wales.