Most contractors see wood as high risk compared to concrete

Thomas Andersen works as Head of Structural Engineering at AI Arkitekter og Ingeniører. At Build in Wood 23-24 May 2023, Thomas Andersen is a part of the transformation track, where he will talk about wood applied for building transformation.  

Timber structures in new buildings are already common, but AI is showcasing that wood is also suitable when transforming old buildings. Two new stories have been added to the preserved building 25 in CPH, using both CLT and old timber, and the HQ of ATP is being revitalised with extensions, based on glulam structures. Thomas will elaborate the practical challenges, but also the many advantages that wood offer when working with existing structures.

In this article, you can read an interview with Thomas Andersen.

What is your background and how do you work with wood?

As civil engineers, we are bound to operate within the many restrictions of Eurocode. We try to apply wood load-bearing structures where it makes sense for the project, working with massive sections, glulam, CLT and traditional old timber structures. Personally, I worked the first 12 years of my career with steel structures, so I am still on the learning curve with wood as a material.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges within wood construction right now?

The market is very slow to change its attitude towards wood as an alternative to concrete elements, and most contractors are still not familiar with the processes and sourcing. They see it as high risk compared to concrete. CO2-heavy materials such as concrete and steel should be “punished” for their environmental impact to a higher degree, so we would stop building residential blocks with way too much concrete in, just because it is easy. For CLT, we have an issue that it is considered an untraditional building product in Denmark, because there is no harmonised norm.

Wood construction has developed a lot over the past few years. In your opinion, what is the potential in the future?

High-rise buildings in wood are in general challenging from a technical point-of-view and impressive progress is being made. However, sometimes it seems that the natural limitations of wood are being stretched too much. I hope that we will see a more industrialised production with modular solutions that can be easily applied to residential and office buildings alike. Also, I think that the fire code needs to be revised to give more realistic opportunities for application of wood for structural and cladding purposes alike.

Which wood projects do you think are interesting and innovative?

On the Danish market, where most buildings are 2-6 storeys high, I see most interesting innovation happening in the area of reuse of building parts or whole elements, as well applying wooden structures and facades on existing buildings, sometimes in combination. These solutions can be truly circular in the terms of material use and waste management, but at the same time they pose a natural integration with the older building materials (wood, masonry) that are moving more organically than concrete, for instance.

What do you talk about at Build in Wood?

AI architects and engineers would like to present our take on transforming existing buildings using timber structures of different kinds, and the outcome should hopefully be inspiration to see light, wooden structures as an excellent option for adding square meters while preserving the old structure and expression both inside and outside.

Du you want to learn more about using timber in transformation projects?

Join the construction industry at Build in Wood 23-24 May 2023 and get new knowledge on wood and wood constructions. If you want to hear more from Thomas Andersen, join TRACK 1 Transformation. Read more and sign up here.

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