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Last Wednesday, 30 September and Thursday, 1 October, four talks were held online in the expectation of the WCTE 2021.

These talks were an enriching experience to get closer to timber construction through recognized experts.

Last Wednesday, 30 September and Thursday, 1 October, four talks were held online, pioneers of what the World Conference on Timber Engineering, WCTE 2020, will bring. Together with delivering an enriching experience about construction from the experts, the new date for the event was also announced, August 2021.

The first talk was “Contemporary Timber Buildings in Vienna, Austria: Focus on Social Housing and Private Flagship Projects”, given by Wolfgang Winter, architect, engineer, and professor emeritus at the Vienna University of Technology, and Richard Woschitz, civil engineer, founder of Woschitz Group, and responsible for the engineering of the HoHo building in Vienna.

This presentation focused on the experience of both experts on areas such as the construction of buildings for public and private entities in Austria, addressing the importance of forests in the construction cycle, as well as the history of timber construction. Also, they talked about the milestones that distanced the industry from this material, and the process of reencountering with it. “You have much more timber growing than it is used”, said Winter.

The use of it and its importance was one of the main points: the potential that timber has of decreasing CO2, could be wasted by not cutting down and renewing forests, in addition to the clear decline of CLT prices, which has reached the limit point of the ratio of the production-value cost.

The market role was also mentioned as a key issue, which was divided into housing for a family and multi-dwelling buildings. This division can be made for both public and private buildings. The latter were used by Woschitz to describe his experience when building the Hoho in Vienna, a 24-storey high construction, located in the 22nd district of the city.

Another point noted by both experts was how the development of timber buildings, since 2009, let to the creation of new regulation norms that would facilitate timber construction in the future. This was the issue approached by Alfred Kammerhofer, Head of Section of the Forest Division of the Federal Office for the Environment in Switzerland, in his talk “Implementation of an Integral Wood Policy Strategy using Switzerland as an Example”.

This country, of 8.6 million inhabitants and where timber construction has increased between a 7% and 10% per year, decided to focus its legislative work in, what he called, “megatrends”: climate change, urbanisation, among others. Also, it concentrated its efforts on “bio-economy”, looking for a more conscious growth.

For this, the Swiss government focused its work on issues such as how to add value to those who work with natural or recycled material, or the promotion of innovation through educational and marketing campaigns, as well as formulating public policies that certify that timber has been harvested, processed, and used sustainably. According to Kammerhofer, the key is to remember to “maintain the common interests and (…) make clear the long-term benefits”.

The second day of talks opened with the only national keynote speaker, the renowned architect Sebastian Irarrazaval, who used the diverse projects he has developed throughout the years as a roadmap of lessons, discoveries, and bets in his presentation “Drawing with wood”.

Inspired by agricultural armours and structures, the sunlight in different fields, and how each structure integrates to its environment, Irarrazaval explained his design process and how to bring it to reality with timber. He also emphasized the significance of not hiding wood, its durability, and the fact that the new professionals are choosing this material for their work.

The Online Talks finished with Peter Moonen, Municipal Affairs and National Sustainability Manager of WoodWorks! Canada. In his presentation, “Building the Future for Heavy and Mass Timber — 2020 and Beyond”, he talked about the difference between embodied carbon and the one caused by the use of the building (operational).

He also talked about the long life of constructions built in wood, and the benefits that industrialization has brought to construction, addressing the trade shortages that industry is facing nowadays, and the urgent need to improve productivity.

Moonen emphasized the fact that timber is the best material to face one and each of these situations, stating at the end of his presentation that “We have to make people think of the other things about wood (…) it has all of these attributes (…) If you are not going to go with wood, what are you going to go with?”.


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