European timber tour update

15th September 2023

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Our technical manager, Bjørn Stankowitz, has just returned from Europe after mixing with the leading thinkers in timber engineering and soaking up the latest technical innovations and solutions throughout his travels. He is inspired and armed to keep advancing the future of timber and timber structures here in New Zealand. Here is an update from Bjorn on some snippets of his standouts.

Part 1:

When it comes to mass timber, Europe is one of the obvious choices for gathering and sharing world-leading experiences and lessons that we in New Zealand can learn from. I made the most of the Northern Hemisphere summer by hitting the road and meeting with a wealth of experts. First up, the offices of HASSLACHER NORICA TIMBER and their impressive CLT and glulam factory, where we discussed moisture management and efficiency in design and production. Thank you for having me, Wolfgang N. and Wolfgang Bischof! Then, at the Technical University of Munich, I met with Patrick Aondio and his timber department to discuss recent research and insights on moisture management. In Italy, I was lucky enough to meet with the technical department of Rothoblaas srl to discuss often-reported queries from NZ practitioners related to the new NZS AS 1720.1:2022 and the use of ETA-approved screws. In south Switzerland, I discussed the sustainability and circular economy of mass timber in bespoke architectural buildings with Marius Pabst from XILEMA.

Part 2:  

I met with industry-leading researchers and practitioners at the FORUM HOLZBAU in Stuttgart, Germany. The focus was on circular economy and how mass timber can be used efficiently whilst serving other purposes after the building's lifetime. Circular economy is a production and consumption model involving reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products where possible. For buildings, this could mean a large glulam warehouse beam is reused in a residential building once the warehouse uses or the function changes and the beam becomes obsolete. It was great to see designers thinking about how they could use mass timber more efficiently, taking material out of a product where it is not structurally needed to utilise it elsewhere and, therefore, ensure an even better footprint of the building. Other sessions contributed to establishing better-developed calculation methods for penetrations in timber beams based on more detailed research on the topics and different ways to establish Timber Concrete Composite systems and their connections. Architecturally, the durability of cladding systems and their weathering was presented based on long-term studies, showing the fundamental importance of architectural detailing with timber is at least equally important to the structural design to ensure the material's longevity.

Part 3:  

Thank you to Carmen Sandhass and Philipp Dietsch from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) for spending a whole day with me, sharing and showing the latest research and testing they have been involved with. We also discussed technical queries from NZ practitioners regarding the new timber standard NZS AS 1720.1:2022 and related issues to the new DRAFT of the EC5. We identified potential common topics between the two nations and discussed a possible partnership to research connection and seismicity. Also, thanks to holzprojekt AG and Jochen K. in Basel, Switzerland, for providing insights on various ongoing sites around the area. The black forest's vicinity allowed us to meet with local carpenters experienced in mass timber construction and revisit the ski bridge (Feldberg, black forest – build 2005) after 18 years to observe the durability of exposed timber.

Part 4:

On my return, I visited Vancouver, Canada, to observe the difference in construction and design in mass timber around the city. Thanks to @justin brown Justin Brown and Ben Moerman from StructureCraft for providing office space and various site visits. We also visited the office/lab of Fast + Epp, and Brandon Sullivan provided insights into their everyday office/lab work. Fast + Epp is currently investigating on point loaded CLT and is carrying out testing – some of their latest findings were shared at the INTER2023 meeting in Switzerland in mid-August. I also took the chance to meet with @Grant Newfield from RJC Engineers to discuss dowel connections and hybrid mass timber construction.