CLT construction strengthens its position in Austria

CLT construction strengthens its position in Austria

Short construction time, competitiveness and an ecological image have increased the competitiveness and popularity of wood construction in Austria. The use of prefabricated CLT (cross-laminated timber) boards in particular is on the increase in the construction of apartment blocks, daycare centres, care homes and shopping centres. In the centre of the city of Graz, a 12-storey apartment block containing 143 apartments is being completed. - In the beginning, the buildings were designed for concrete construction but, as an investor, we wanted a new alternative and image. In order to achieve this, we started using wood, says Martin Partoll, Managing Director of the Aktiv Klimahaus company.

- We are not only specialised in wood construction. We also aim for sustainable construction in everything. I began to seek a completely new construction alternative, an ecologically sustainable living concept, says Partoll.

According to Partoll, Austria has plenty of suppliers of wooden construction components, but he considers StoraEnso’s construction concept based on CLT elements to be the best product. - We are specialised not only in wood construction, but also sustainable energy solutions. We prioritise individual, natural, integrated solutions. 

Wood is ecological and competitive

Johanna Kocher, a musician living in the building says that she feels as if she is living in a wooden house. - As a child, I got used to forests and trees, and I love their colours, acoustics and tranquility. 

- Along with consumers, investors and are now also taking into account ecological values, says Germond Weiss, head of StoraEnso’s Austrian plants. ”It feels good” is the most common comment from residents. People experience a feeling of well-being in wooden houses and many know about the tests that compare the differences between wooden and concrete buildings from the perspective of residents. The use of wood is also becoming a matter of image for companies. Supermarkets, for example, are using wood to create an ecological image for themselves.

Weiss thinks that, in addition to ecological reasons, wood is also chosen as a material for cost reasons, because wood construction is now competitive, thanks to industrial prefabrication.

This area of apartment blocks based on passive construction is also targeting an image of green construction through energy solutions based on, for example, solar panels, geothermal heat and on utilising heat generated by the air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment of an adjacent shopping centre.

Wood construction is high-quality construction

- The customers have been amazed at how quickly an apartment block can be built, says Manfred Lemsitzer, a construction contractor from Holzbau Lemsitzer. The frame structure of the three-storey apartment block made of CLT boards was completed in just six days. In practice, we can complete an apartment block made of prefabricated elements in three months, including installing the windows ourselves and putting insulation weathering on the façade. 

Lemsitzer favours prefabricated elements with door and window openings and places all ready to install plumbing and electricity. - We have our own five-man team experienced in installation. Owing to its short construction time, wood construction is very competitive. More developed ’elementisation’ and performing installations in a factory may be the future, but we have developed our own way of working, which suits us.

- Austrians are used to wood, because it looks and feels good. When the frame of a building smells of the forest, you know you are in a wooden building. Wood construction is high-quality construction, and creates a good atmosphere, good internal air and acoustics. CLT board enables plenty of wood to be left visible for the benefit of the residents, says Lemsitzer justifying the introduction of wood into apartment block construction.

Wood construction needs standardisation

Weiss reckons that not much is yet known about CLT technology. - It’s essential that investors have confidence in it. Now each building constructed can be considered a prototype as there are not yet any standards. We now require the same standardisation of elements that the concrete industry already devised decades ago, so that the details of the elements of all suppliers are interchangeable. As far as major constructors are concerned, standards are a ’must’, emphasises Weiss.

Architect Werner Nussmueller reckons that, in practice, the lack of standardisation is made up for by close co-operation with structural engineers. - From an architect’s perspective, it's vitally important to co-operate with wooden structure producers and constructors, says Nussmueller. We particularly use CLT boards in buildings of more than three storeys, where it has proven to be the best material.

Weiss says that the main market for CLT boards is still residential houses, even though the share of apartment block construction is growing rapidly. - From our point of view, it’s good that in Austria there are carpentry companies operating as builders, which are professionally skilled in wood processing, are well trained in the field, have experience of construction work and are proud of their expertise.  

- In the construction of family houses, wood is absolutely the number one choice, especially among young couples who currently consider it the ‘in’ thing, says Nussmueller. A wooden home is thought to be bright and warm and people are also attracted by the quick construction time and prefabricated products.

According to Gernot Weiss, getting skilled wood construction designers is a major challenge. - With the wood construction market growing, we need more design training. Wood is also coming to renovation construction, which is a promising business that is also growing strongly. 

Article service/Markku Laukkanen

Additional information: Gernot Weiss, +43 4350 2301 3219, Fax: +43 4350 2301 3252, Mobil: +43 664 829 1959

Martin Partoll,, +43 676 555 5550

Werner Nussmueller,,  +43-316-381812-34