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Timber Construction Art

The Timber Quality Community is participating in the CIPRA showcase contest under the title of „Timber Construction Art“. CIPRA is an independent organisation that has been championing for positive development in the Alps for decades. CIPRA developed the Alpine convention together with the local governments of the Alpine regions. With the „Future in the Alps“ contest, exemplary projects are chosen and a cooperation network is developed. Over 570 projects from the 7 Alpine regions participated in the contest.

The project presenter is the Timber Quality Community, an association of the wood processing businesses in Vorarlberg.  By presenting the project, the participants wanted to be judged and have a sportsmanlike competition with other initiatives.  This made the results so much the better:  The Timber Construction Art project was the winner in the category of  Adding Value to the Region.  Consequently, we will go into the individual elements of the project:

The aim of Timber Construction Art:

„Using more timber at a higher level“ is the goal of the initiative.  In order to reach their goal, the Timber Quality Community had to follow a double strategy, namely:

  1. „Timber Construction Art“: With the announcement of the state-wide timber construction prize, innovation in quality and design is stimulated and public interest and demand is aroused.
  2. „The Future of Timber Construction“: Through a targeted and innovative training programme, competence in regional processing is increased and know-how is anchored locally.

To accomplish the general intentions, the double strategy will help to expand and secure the natural resource, timber, and the handicraft culture on a permanent basis.  The improved utilization of the natural raw material, wood, especially the Silver Fir, contributes to regeneration and with that, conservation of the protection and avalanche forests.  The projects create the impetus needed to reach another, and from the point of view of the contest, necessary, level of development in the wood processing branch which can offer thousands of jobs.

The Voarlberg Timber Construction prize is awarded every 2 years (2001, 2003, 2005), and is esteemed by architects, builders, and carpenters both nationally and internationally.  Its tasks are: announcements, contact with builders and architects, the accompanying marketing, judging, and the event itself. Professional competence, personality development and being able to work on a team are the main subjects of the special training concept.

The carpentry shops in Vorarlberg have committed themselves to the planning and implementation of the programme for apprentices, journeymen and master craftsmen.  They create the programme themselves in moderated workshops.  Tutoring begins with the established trade.  The next year teaches engineer-like components and in the 3rd year, being temporarily employed abroad, takes on a whole new meaning.  The journeyman and master craftsman programme has special topics like leadership and management.  The work involves planning and implementing the programme together.

The results of the initiative

„Timber Construction Art“ inspired a number of other initiatives like „Silver Fir“, „Mountain Timber“, „Timber Culture“ and many more.  Four awards with altogether 620 applicants made up of builders, planners, and executors have been implemented. In the meantime, Vorarlberg has become the leading region in the subject of timber construction architecture and design.

The demand for building with wood has doubled since 1997.  About 60 public buildings like community centres, schools, and social services buildings have been built with the dominant material being timber.  8 of those were made entirely out of Silver Fir. An increase in the utilization of the forest of 60,000 solid m³ a year has been noted in the project period.  This means when looking at the 1st and 2nd added value levels - forestry and saw - there has been an increase of €6.6 million.

The results were 35 company expansions, 60% more turnover in the branch, 40% more exports, namely €34 million worth, and 15% more employed. Timber construction has taken the lead in the area of energy efficient construction. 32 companies participated in „The Future of Timber Construction“ programme with a total of 210 people.

At times it took a lot of work and power of persuasion to motivate the businessmen.  Coming to terms with the high costs and the participation of the businesses often led to tensions.  The acquisition of public funding and sponsors proved to be a difficult but very important task. Out of date technical regulations hindered the use of timber in public buildings and had to be overcome.

The effects of the initiative

1. Effects on the environment:

The best way to protect the forest is by permanent utilization.  The initiative stimulated utilization to about 60,000 m³ f/a and not only contributed to the regeneration of the forest, but also made a contribution to the production of energy using bio mass.  Active forestry in the region contributes to the amount of CO² in the atmosphere through bio mass and the prevention of transportation. The initiative also pushed the Passive House technology further.

2. Economic added value:

The annual construction volume in house construction, trade and industry construction and municipal construction is about €1.5 billion.  The proportion of timber was increased from 5% to 9%.  The income and increased employment in the area of forestry and saws was €6.6 million.  The increase of the number employed in the carpentry trade was 15%.  Business expansions, increased turnover in the branch and more exports (which amounted to €34 million), is only a partial economic added value because the construction sector is actually a displacement market.

3. Socio-cultural added value:

Making timber a part of our culture as a regional and natural resource, affects all social areas.  The excitement created by the initiative effected every age group.  The project sharpened the consciousness for the regional circles of life, and strengthened the co-operation between businesses, including their families.  The „Future of Timber“ project improved the social competence of the younger generation.  Even so, the added value cannot be quantified.

Effects in the local press

Over 460 articles were written and published in the daily newspapers and trade magazines during the 4 years of the project.  This is proof that the public has an interest in it.  The Construction Award has become very popular.  The events from the „Future of Timber“ project were continuously being broadcast by the press and 30 articles were published.

Multiplication effect / Networking:

Generally, the „Future of Timber Construction“ project is aimed at the exchange and transfer of know-how.  The training modules are developed with expert support by members in the branch resulting in an exchange of experiences.  Many direct business collaborations and contract co-operations have been developed.  „Timber Construction Art“ has sparked interest on an international level; excursions are made practically every week with new, trans-national contacts being made.

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