Ecological construction – this is the principle behind timber construction company Holzhaus Bonndorf from the Black Forest, Germany. Timber engineer Florian Hegar, who has recently headed the company together with his father Bernhard Hegar, gives an insight into the company and current developments in timber construction.
Mr. Hegar, please give us an insight into your company.
26 years ago my father founded the company in Bonndorf, Germany. From the very beginning, he brought together the joinery and carpentry trades to offer houses from a single source. Today, we employ around 90 people and offer all areas of turnkey construction – planning, interior design and, of course, building.
Everyone is talking about timber construction. How do you see the situation developing in the future?
I see the future development of timber construction as very promising. Especially when it comes to project construction, we are still at the very beginnings of what timber construction can do. There is still a lot of potential here. Prefabrication enables us to detect and solve planning errors at an early stage. 3D modeling reveals problems as early as in the planning phase. This allows the construction site to be optimized and shorter construction times to be realized. This is extremely crucial, particularly with regard to urban redensification. After all, long construction times mean great limitations, especially in regions with a high traffic density. If we can shorten these times by using timber construction, this is a clear advantage. In addition, we have a very high standard of manufacturing thanks to detailed pre-planning and 3D modeling. All factors that have a positive effect on construction times and are particularly decisive factors for developers. It is all the more important to be able to present this in meaningful figures. This means timber construction must be competitive in both price and construction time. And that is timber construction today. As a building material, wood solves many problems that cannot be solved with traditional building materials. And then of course there is the ecological factor.
What proportion of your business does multi-story construction now make up?
Changes to the legal and normative foundations has meant that this area has developed very strongly in the last six years. In the meantime, multi-story construction accounts for 30 to 40% of our sales. The majority of these projects are multi-story buildings for housing. Our wall structure – which is completely free of glue – can be used up to building class 5. Because we also want to meet our requirements regarding ecological building in taller buildings.
What challenges do you see for timber construction in the coming years?
From my point of view, it is quite clear that we need to strengthen the use of hardwood in structural timber construction. At the moment, we are using woods such as fir and spruce. There is still a great deal of untapped potential here. Our ecological commitment also includes the use of regional wood. Therefore, we buy our wood only in the northern and southern Black Forest. This makes it all the more important for us to further expand regional supply, for which the development of hardwoods as building material is even more significant. This is a formidable challenge. But it is already clear today that it is necessary. Let us only look at the current situation the enormous price increases for classic types of wood. This makes it all the more important to produce a high availability of raw materials. There is still a lot of work to be done here. Universities need to be much more interconnected with industrial enterprises. And the sawmill industry, forestry and timber manufacturers also need to work together more closely and develop a long-term overall strategy. This is where we need solutions to ensure the availability of raw materials in the long term.
Spaces for life – the guiding principle of HolzHaus Bonndorf. What does this mean for you?
For me, the special thing about building with wood is the ambience of the space. When I stand in a wooden house, I notice immediately that the ambience inside is completely different. And this is our mission: we want to show as many people as possible how pleasant and healthy living in wood is. And this is exactly what our motto “spaces for life” expresses.
This mission is firmly anchored in our corporate culture. After all, we also offer our employees a space for life. We spend so much time at work, so it’s even more important that employees feel comfortable and enjoy coming to the workplace. It almost goes without saying that, for us, sustainability means building ecologically, using regional timber, ensuring short supply chains and strengthening our regional cycles. But also to offer employees a long-term job until retirement, and a mission and corporate culture that is fun. This is our aspiration, because only in this way can good products be produced – with the commitment and motivation of each individual.
There is still a big change to come in your production this year. Tell us more about it.
We have decided to automate our manual production. We still have a lot of manual processes that require our employees to work many hours a day on their knees or stooped over with poor posture. Here, we want to relieve the strain and automate the processes. This allows us to offer our employees an ergonomic workplace and thus also help older employees reduce their physical workload during the last part of their working life. For us, the work ergonomics was clearly in the foreground in this decision. But we obviously also take advantage of the higher production output. It therefore benefits both sides: we as a company have greater clout and the employee benefits from improved work ergonomics. WEINMANN has supported us in our search for the right technology. Together with us, they looked at our existing production processes, analyzed the potential and designed the plant for us on this basis. WEINMANN has always looked at the entire process and developed the appropriate solution for it. This consultation and development of a solution that is completely tailored to our needs is truly unique and has won us over. The system is precisely tailored to our requirements and our operations. In the future, we will manufacture our complete wall, roof and ceiling elements using a three-table system. In addition to the WALLTEQ M-380 multifunction bridge for element processing, we also have a separate station for insulating the elements with the WALLTEQ M-310 insuFill. We are already looking forward to the machines!