Canada Wood Today | The Canada Wood Group

Bringing the CLT Buzz from Austria to China

Lance Tao

By Lance Tao

September 23, 2016

Six storey CLT apartments in Vienna, Austria

Six storey CLT apartments in Vienna, Austria

In 2012, the delegates at the World Conference for Timber Engineering (WCTE) were asked to cast their vote to determine the 2016 conference venue. Four years later, over 1,200 experts from 46 countries around the world gathered in Vienna, Austria. I think Vienna’s popularity reflected the growing buzz around Cross Laminated Timber (CLT).

As you might be aware, Europe – and especially Austria – has established itself as a hub of innovation for modern wood technologies such as CLT and Glulam. So what would be a better place to learn about these building systems? During the 4-day conference we had an opportunity to visit a number of contemporary wood-based buildings that successfully married technology with beauty, such as bridges, a waste treatment plant, residential buildings, shopping centers as well as research institutes and factories. As the world’s tallest wood building, UBC’s 18-storey CLT demo project was also front and center at the conference.

Resort shopping complex; CLT roof, Vienna, Austria.

Resort shopping complex; CLT roof, Vienna, Austria.

During this trip, my mission was to learn more about modern wood technologies, such as CLT, that can help us push for taller wood structures in China. This is especially relevant as we continue to work on the tall wood building code, which recognizes such technologies. The conference provided valuable insights on connectors, acoustic, moisture and seismic considerations of such structures.

China’s growing interest in tall wood attracted over 40 delegates from the country.  While the majority represented research institutes and universities, such as China Academy of Forestry, Tongji University and Nanjing Tech University, it was interesting to see that some local builders and developers also made the mix. Their presence showed that the local Chinese industry is becoming increasingly interested in latest developments in timber structures as the market here continues to bloom.

Waste treatment plant in Vienna, Austria

Waste treatment plant in Vienna, Austria

While the tall wood building code is scheduled to be published in 2017, it will take several years before the market can catch up with this development and parlay it into a number of commercial projects. However, the tall wood building code is a significant breakthrough for China as it allows wood to go up by multiple storeys, helping remove barriers in the market to build larger and taller buildings with timber solutions. This is especially important in a country like China where rapid urbanization places pressure on land-use.

What is the World Conference on Timber Engineering?

The World Conference on Timber Engineering (WCTE) is the world’s premier forum for presenting and discussing the latest technical and architectural developments and innovations in wood or timber construction. WCTE is the most prestigious international event in timber engineering, engineered wood products and design of timber structures, which is held biennially in different parts of the world and attracts researchers, engineers and architects, code consultants and building officials, contractors and project managers, fabricators and suppliers from all continents.

WCTE 2016 was organized by Vienna University of Technology in Vienna, Austria 22~25, 2016. The conference had 510 oral presentations and 190 post presentations on sessions of wood products & components, computer-based methods, timber engineering, timber architecture and implementation, which covered most of the research and engineering topics of wood.

The next conference will be held in Soul, South Korea in 2018.