When building materials are being considered for a new home, we often talk about the options in isolation, such as timber frame, steel, SIPS, and masonry. However, something that should be factored into the equation is the option of combining the benefits of two different materials to create a hybrid solution.

We’re finding it is becoming more common for people to build ‘hybrid’, and there are many different structural systems that can be built this way. Building hybrid means you choose the best materials for the best situation, rather than over-engineering the design for the build for the sake of it.

A hybrid solution incorporates other materials, such as steel, oak and ICF, to deliver a structural system to help you meet your self-build project objectives or overcome a challenge in your project. While not all materials work well together, some can be perfectly paired to meet your design needs.

Read on to learn how to harness the power of the hybrid…

What are the benefits of a hybrid solution?

Opting for a hybrid solution rather than a singular system has many advantages, including enabling you to get the best material for the design, which is most suited to each individual build, budget and vision.

Using timber frame as one part of the hybrid provides you with all the benefits of timber – such as sustainability, design flexibility, and high thermal performance. You can then combine this with something like steel where more structural support is required, or with oak to create a feature part of the build.

Hybrid solutions are great for providing solutions that have practical values or help you deliver a critical aesthetic feature of your self-build project.


What can timber frame be combined with?

A panelised timber system has the potential to be partnered with almost anything. But, if it’s competing with another building material rather than working in harmony with it, you won’t reap the full benefits. We recommend that you choose a partner material that can help the timber frame shine for the benefit of your project.

  • Timber frame and oak frame

This is a popular hybrid structural system. The two complement each other well, offering an ideal solution for self-builders keen to build with oak where budget doesn’t allow for a full oak build. For those who want the cosmetic look of oak, rather than opting for oak for structural reasons, you could build with a timber frame and then use oak purlins, oak trusses or oak cladding rather than using oak internally.

We find that the most popular combination is timber frame with an oak frame wing, for example one that is 1.5 stories and used for a sunroom or a living room.

  • Timber and steel

This is an ideal solution for homes that require additional structural support. You can either conceal the steel frame or enjoy the aesthetic. Examples of approaches include exposing bolt fixings and joints – this is very in keeping with the on-trend industrial interior design approach.

For Leadon Dale, a class Q Barn project, we integrated the pre-existing steel trusses of the old building into the new timber frame system and the new roof zone. Using TechVantageTM S, we worked around the original steel framework as required by planning permission, relishing every step of this design challenge.

  • ICF and timber

A common combination is an ICF basement with a timber frame on top. This moves away from a complete masonry solution, which is better for the environment.

The ICF method uses stacks of polystyrene blocks filled with steel and concrete. The ICF can be used for below-ground construction, providing solid foundations and maximising floor space thanks to its thin panels.

  • Timber frame and glulam beams

Gulam is glued laminated wood, and its lightweight and flexible nature means it’s an excellent material for creating high dimensional stability. And, as it has a 60% lower carbon footprint than concrete, it’s a great partner to timber frame if your objective is to reduce your home’s overall carbon footprint.

Partnering this material with timber frame means you’ll be able to secure some striking architectural features of your home, including beams and posts.


How do you bring a hybrid solution together?

We always advise that self-builders should try to source from one primary supplier if part of their build uses timber frame; this enables you to have one engineer and one designer at a fixed cost. A single point of contact also ensures a greater level of care and control in delivering your dream home on time and within budget.

If you were using a SIPS roof on an ICF superstructure, things could get a bit more complicated. The teams behind one structural component cannot design the other in this case, and vice versa. The logistics for this would need to be bottomed-out at design stage and so in a situation like this, we would always recommend ensuring both build partners have worked together before.

Early involvement is key – as a timber frame supplier, we prefer to get involved from the early design stages and work with the self-builder all the way to site delivery and build – to ensure a truly personal, end to end service. This can save you money and value engineer your project, so is worth bearing in mind from the start.


Are hybrid systems more expensive?

It is not necessarily more expensive to use a hybrid timber system, as timber frame complements a lot of other structural build systems. In fact, if you are using a timber frame in a hybrid build it can be more cost-effective!

Using timber ensures that the building has an air-tight envelope, which has the twin advantages of helping the environment while also lowering heating bills. This means you save long-term on the lifetime of your home.


How to start on your journey

If you’re considering hybrid for your self-build project, or if you’d like to know whether a hybrid solution can help with a design challenge you’ve come across, we’d love to help. You can email your questions, drawings, or supporting information about your build and plot to enquiries@frametechnologies.co.uk. Our expert team would be delighted to discuss your project with you.