INDUSTRY has been transformed time and again by great Scottish innovation, fuelled by limitless imagination and exceptional creativity. It is this same passion for innovation that drove a timber frame specialist in Foveran, Aberdeenshire to design and build a factory that will be powered exclusively by renewable energy thanks to an ingenious heat capturing design.
The first of its kind in the UK, NorFrame’s factory will manufacture timber kit frames for homes, schools and commercial buildings using power generated from an on-site Anaerobic Digestion plant fuelled by silage from a neighbouring farm – eliminating the need for fossil fuels to heat or power facility and its processes.
Spanning 31,000 sq ft with a completion date of Spring 2023, the £4m factory will initially create 11 new jobs and safeguard a further 14 in a rural area, produce 20 timber kits per week, and have the capability to meet demand from Scotland’s private and public sectors.
Gregor Davidson, of NorFrame said: “Our goal was to solve a carbon footprint problem that would provide 100% assurance that a timber manufacturing process can be clean, green, and cost effective.
“The idea of combining the neighbouring Anaerobic Digestion plant and our own homegrown plant silage from a farm four miles away, with a two-zone heat capturing design came after months of testing and reworking our plans. It was a eureka moment. It means that we take plant silage, ferment it for 6 months and then feed it into the Anaerobic Digestion Plant which will power the factory. During that process, heat is created. Our idea is to capture that heat – which would have otherwise gone to waste – and redirect it to heat the entire factory and office space. And any waste from the digestion process, is then used as fertiliser for next year’s crop. It is a fully organic, closed fuel cycle and we know it will make a significant contribution to Scotland’s net zero ambitions.”
The neighbouring Anaerobic Digestor has been operational since 2014 and relies on feed in tariff (FiT) for viability. Its current FiT agreement ends in 13 years’ time which meant it needed a lifeline to avoid being rendered redundant. NorFrame’s factory will use up to 60% of the plant’s renewable electricity, assuring the plant’s future.
In June 2022, the Scottish Government announced new measures to slash carbon emissions of all new-build homes by a third (32%). The new energy standards also apply to newly built non-domestic buildings and form plans to reduce emissions across Scotland’s building stock by more than two thirds by 2030.
Scottish Enterprise is providing NorFrame with £750,000 of financial support from the Low Carbon Manufacturing Challenge Fund. This is the first grant awarded through the fund.
Philip Edwards of NorFrame added: “Our clients have a variety of different thermal requirements depending on their own projects. Our new facility will allow us to cater for different solutions and showcase the products within our timber frame package.”
In its submission, NorFrame detailed how the design will see many of its products achieve PassivHaus standards in thermal performance, air tightness and detailing, meaning its timber kits will meet rigorous energy efficient standards, therefore reducing the need for space heating in any building.
The Low Carbon Manufacturing Challenge Fund is a competitive mechanism which was created to support innovation in low carbon technology, processes and innovation. It is a key action from Making Scotland’s Future, a partnership between government, public agencies, industry and academia who are taking forward a programme of activity designed to secure a strong, sustainable future for Scotland’s manufacturing sector.
Rhona Allison, Managing Director of Business Growth at Scottish Enterprise, said: “Scotland’s manufacturers have a key role to play in helping the country meet its net zero ambitions. By encouraging the adoption and development of low carbon products, services, technologies and processes, through initiatives such as the Low Carbon Manufacturing Challenge Fund, we can help them on that road.
“Identifying, combining, and harnessing the carbon-reducing technologies at its fingertips will see NorFrame take a truly circular approach to timber kit manufacturing that eliminates any use of fossil fuels. It’s exactly the kind of innovative thinking that the Fund was designed to stimulate and demonstrates to other manufacturers the benefits of placing decarbonisation at the heart of their businesses.”
Enterprise Minister Ivan McKee said: “We are fully committed to reaching net zero by 2045 and developments such as NorFrame will play an important role to reach our goal.
“It’s great to see that new jobs will be created through this development. We are further supporting manufacturers’ innovation ambitions through the Low Carbon Manufacturing Challenge Fund, whilst reducing emissions across Scotland as we tackle the global climate emergency.”
NorFrame’s certified timber comes from forests managed to strict environmental, social and economic standards under the Forrest Stewardship Council UK (FSC) and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).