Biogenic materials for housing

Biogenic materials for housing

Date Published

6 September 2022

Document Type





Biogenic is a broad term that refers to materials of biological origin. At its most wide ranging, this could include fossil fuels that owe their formation to biological activities from previous geological epochs. However, the term is commonly reserved for materials of relatively recent biological origin within the context of the construction sector, including timber; it also covers lower-profile materials currently used in niche applications.

Key Information

The UK population is expected to grow from 61 million in 2008 to 77 million in 2050, during which time the housing stock is anticipated to grow from 27 million to 37 million. The need for housing growth provides an opportunity to exploit biogenic building materials as a reservoir for carbon sequestration. High levels of sequestration would require high levels of demolition, and the embodied energy in the replacement materials may undermine the carbon benefits of this approach. Any such materials sourced should therefore have low embodied carbon and energy.

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Case studies

Ripon Theological College is an Anglican seminary and its collegiate buildings, built of warm Cotswold stone by G E Street in the 1850s, stand amid rolling fields and ancient trees in rural Oxfordshire.

This private sixth-form college, which provides courses in the International Baccalaureate, has approximately 375 students, most of whom are boarders. In 2015, Hodder and Partners added five mass timber buildings arranged around a new quadrangle, and woven between existing mature trees, with a restored Grade-II listed Arts and Crafts house at the head. In all, providing 36 study bedrooms, rooms for three wardens, two common rooms, and an art studio.