New applications and new ways with wood

Review of the S-WIN (Swiss Wood Innovation Network) Status Seminar in April 2017.

The floor of the “House of Natural Resources” at ETH Zurich under construction. The machine-cut pocket-shaped indentations in the surface of the wood are to ensure it connects with the 16-centimetre thick concrete layer that will go on top.

​The housing unit installed at NEST is being used to test and develop functional timber-based and cellulose-based materials under real-life conditions. The event, which was held in April, was chaired by Tanja Zimmermann and Professor Ingo Burgert. Experts from Switzerland and abroad presented their projects and research programmes on the structural properties and characteristics of beech wood for construction purposes, its possible uses as a composite construction material, its surface properties at a micro level, and the development of ultralight bio-based composite wood board.

New materials for construction and furniture

Given the increasing proportion of beech in Swiss forests, especially in the eastern Jura and Ticino, research into the uses of hardwood in construction is extremely important. Beech has excellent strength properties, specifically high bending, breaking and compressive strength. In certain circumstances, it can replace steel and concrete as a construction material.

Research projects

The “House of natural resources” on the ETH campus in Zurich shows what timber-concrete composite flooring made from beech laminated veneer lumber can achieve. Each of the 400m2 floors is stabilised solely with pre-stressed steel beams and columns and does not require stabilising walls. There are prospects of using this technical development in the near future for residential buildings in Berlin.

Gradual development

Visiting the timber module in EMPA’s experimental NEST building clearly illustrates what applied research actually looks like. Timber research in Switzerland and across Europe is currently well networked, with industry and creators (architects, engineers and designers) being involved as interested partners. Wood is increasingly proving to be a promising material with outstanding potential in terms of technology, design, economics and ecology.