Innovative Timber Construction in Germany
Wood is a non-toxic, organic building material with good insulating qualities and an excellent weight-strength ratio. In promoting the use of wood as a construction material, this is the starting point of the timber industry and engineers. They are developing new construction methods, but also new wood-based materials, such as Parallam, laminated veneer lumber, Oriented Strand Boards (OSB), and artificially homogenised and heat-shaped solid wood with amazing qualities.
Architect Thomas Herzog and engineer Julius Natterer, for example, who, together with Michael Volz, produce the standard reference book, the Holzbauatlas (i.e. timber construction atlas), advocate sophisticated and modern constructions that make timber an interesting alternative for various construction purposes. Herzog’s famous roof structure at the Hanover world EXPO was a demonstration of its performance, and it is hard to beat for its elegance in building constructions.
Land Representation – Office building - VillaThe unusual structure of a building in Berlin points to the fact that it is an innovating building of this kind. With its almost gothic construction of parabola arches behind a glass skin, the Representation of North-Rhine/Westphalia stands out in marked contrast to Berlin’s run-of-the-mill natural stone buildings. The supporting structure is made of curved glued laminated plywood and uses complex statics to channel wind energy into the foundations, forming a shell for the free-standing house within. Inside, too, architects Petzinka Pink and Partner came up with an unusual solution with hollow wooden ceilings, used in a four-storey public building for the first time.
In Landshut, LSV Versicherung boasts a spectacular foyer hall linking a number of office wings with one another. The supporting structure of the dynamically curved hall is a particularly fine example of wood engineering technology and, something that is always significant in wooden constructions, innovative fire protection measures.
Timber has traditionally been used to construct detached houses, but here, too, there are new trends. An exquisite villa has been built by architects Fink and Jocher near Lake Starnberg (Bavaria), which is anything but cosy. Jutting out above a compact pedestal-like storey, the glass living-room pulpit with a panoramic view uses the pleasant setting on a park-like property to bring nature inside, a construction evidently inspired by Mies van der Rohe (1886 – 1969).
Plus Energy Houses – Residential complex in Regensburg – High-rise buildingOf course, it is ecologically-orientated architects in particular who primarily use wood. The Freiburg solar architect Rolf Disch is well-known for his solar village. He develops construction systems for his Plus Energy Houses, which produce more primary energy than they consume, and where the houses are erected from prefabricated elements consisting of timber boards and above-average heating insulation.
Problems relating to building laws and fire protection regulations are the main problems arising when multi-storey buildings are to be built from wood. A pioneer in this area is the Bavarian Urban Planning and Construction Department, which has reacted to the improved fire protection and the less fire-sensitive construction methods that are meanwhile available by introducing appropriate regulations. Thus, the three-storey residential complex built in Regensburg by Fink and Jocher was possible, for example.
Since 2008, an amazing pilot project has been on view at the heart of “stony Berlin”. Kaden Klingbeil Architekten has built a seven-storey residential building with a wooden supporting structure in a gap between buildings in a Wilhelminian-style area of the Prenzlauer Berg district. Since the regional building law (still) opposes such a building, itemisation and individual authorisation are required for new components and construction methods.
Sports and trade-fair hallsTimber is once again attracting interest for larger buildings, too. These include large sports halls like the one in Erding, an elegant building designed by architects Claus and Forster. Its dimensions cannot be seen from the outside. The halls of the new trade-fair site in Friedrichshafen (Baden-Württemberg) are another example. They were covered in a timber-structure roof 60 metres wide by architects von Gerkan, Marg and Partners. In competition, theirs was the cheapest solution, and their lozenge-shaped structure, reminiscent of the roofs of Friedrich Zollinger (1880 – 1945) is certainly hard to beat in terms of aesthetics.
Timber has meanwhile become competitive for major projects too, since the timber industry can supply industrial half-finished parts which are easily transported and quickly assembled. Although concrete construction is also making progress, engineers assure us that in comparison, wood has a rosy future as a building material in construction and materials technology.
is a construction historian and architecture critic
Translation: Eileen Flügel
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Online-Redaktion
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