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

The Great Barn at Harmondsworth is the largest timber-framed medieval building in the country and one of the few surviving:
a magnificent and remarkably preserved Grade I-listed building which is nearly a thousand years old.

Shingle House is one of six specially commissioned dwellings for ‘Living Architecture’, a social enterprise launched by writer Alain de Botton which offers holiday homes for rent in some of the most beautiful landscapes of the UK.