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Holzweg – NOT!

Photograph of the finished Stadthaus

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Holzweg [German]

Literal translation: logging path

Actual translation: to get hold of the wrong end of the stick / to be barking up the wrong tree (to stay within the timber theme)

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Lloyd Alter has written a nice article about the Stadthaus (another German name), a nine storey timber building in London, made from Austrian CLT.

The article also has a few nice picture how the interior looks like in rough state and in finished state plus a nine week time lapse – quite impressive. It should also be noted that this article was actually written in 2010 after the building was constructed in 2008 – 8 years ago and nothing much of such construction has really arrived in New Zealand yet.

The building is a remarkable mix of design and wood technology, all completely invisible to the people inside.

I still remember when the AirNZ building was build around the corner from us a few years ago and if I remember correctly they were building a storey a month in concrete – which back then I thought this was incredible slow and my memories from similar buildings in Germany was rather a storey per fortnight with starting cladding a lower storey a fortnight later and interior another fortnight later. Sometime you can do a storey for week if you use precast concrete.

This issue with concrete is the curing time.

Now comes CLT – cross laminated timber. It comes slabs, similar to precast or posts, columns, beams. You can laminate any size of timber together, limited only by the factory.

Transport is a lot easier as it does not weigh that much.

It can be glued, cut, drilled, all without effort. Working with it is much faster.

It’s all in all an amazing product.

The building is made from prefabricated cross-laminated timber (CLT) panels, made in Austria from sustainably harvested lumber. They are strong; Craig says they can go up to fifteen stories. They are fire resistant; unlike steel, it doesn’t lose its strength when it gets hot. In a fire, the char that forms on it is actually an insulator.

Now comes the big issue: You need to keep it dry. And this is where NZ falls down with their history of leaking buildings.

Our details are too complex, out construction too complex. Simplicity is key. Simple design and simple details. The SMART car one branded themselves with “Reduce to the Max”, and that is actually a really good methodology.

The avoidance of complex junctions is important, repetitive details makes your life as an architect and builder much more easy.

The panels are connected with angles, and proprietary connectors; here you can see a balcony detail, with waterproofing applied on site after the panels are connected.

Personally my biggest issue as an architect is finding good products for exterior cladding and doors/windows. We seem to be having a massive lack of products in this country and building timber only high-rise building with a very small selection of suitable exterior envelope products is scary and expensive.

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The Skyscraper centre


Ingo Ratsdorf:
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