They are currently sprouting out of the ground like young saplings in the month of May: Every few months, new, spectacular wooden high-rises are designed – and each time the respective builder claims that his or hers is the tallest in the country, or even in the entire world. A publicity stunt with no end in sight.
These buildings are not just located in the Alpine region, where wood has traditionally been used as a popular construction material, but also in urban environments: By 2021, the “Wildspitze” is set to be erected in Hamburg’s HafenCity quarter, allegedly Germany’s tallest wooden building with an 18-story tower measuring roughly 64 meters in height. However, there are also other contenders, including: the “HoHo Wien” in Vienna (total height of 84 meters), the sustainable wooden high-rise “Haut” in Amsterdam (73 meters), a student dormitory in Canadian Vancouver (52 meters), or the “Skaio”, an ecological housing project currently underway in Heilbronn (34 meters).
Division Manager for Wood at Adolf Würth GmbH & Co. KG, Künzelsau, 52. Training in window construction and as an administrative assistant at Adolf Würth GmbH & Co. KG, followed by the position of product manager in the Wood unit. Several years working at Würth Canada as a sales representative. More than 16 years as national Division Manager for Wood, and now for the international division as well.
What sparked this trend, this return to using wood as a building material? For Markus Kuhbach, International Division Manager for Wood at Würth, the reasons are obvious: “Building with wood captures the spirit of the times. It is a renewable, natural and sustainable raw material, which is congruent with our customers’ environmental awareness.” The demand for wood construction is on the rise at Würth, too. Würth’s wood expert names a few of the advantages: Wood is quite resilient when it comes to weight and force. It is a health-conscious building material with a great feel-good factor. “It is ideal for creating visual accents,” says Kuhbach. He adds, the possible applications for wood are diverse – provided it is combined with the right expertise. “A wooden nail can last just as long as a metal one. Think about the many historical buildings from past centuries,” points out Würth’s manager for the Wood division.
Speaking of nails. Würth has an immense product range for construction with wood. First and foremost, Würth offers the ASSY® screw, which has been “the screw for the woodworking and building trade” for more than a quarter century. That is the title of the 145-page Würth catalog, a sort of screw bible for professionals. This reference work includes screws for carpentry, terrace construction, particle boards, and for connecting wood to concrete. In addition, it contains screws for transport anchors, brackets, joist hangers, and piano hinges, just to name a few, in all conceivable sizes and with a wide array of threads and properties. The secret to Würth’s ASSY® screw is its asymmetrical and symmetrical thread, which sinks into wood faster than normal threads. Furthermore, it ensures that the stress exerted on the wood fibers is kept to a minimum.
USING WOOD THE RIGHT WAY: THAT HITS THE NAIL ON THE HEAD
The largest screw produced by Würth is the ASSY® Plus Fit, External TX Timber Screw made of galvanized steel and measuring a whopping 1.5 meters in length, which is a superb solution for mounting purposes due to its quick installation and extremely high load-bearing capacity. Kuhbach points out that, “Without this model, it would not be possible to connect large timber cross sections with one another.” The words “Whatever you are building – we can hold it together” are written on the cover of the catalog.
“Yes, building with wood offers lots of great opportunities, but it also requires professional support,” says Markus Kuhbach. For this reason, Würth offers training seminars as part of its regular woodworking specialist days, which are in high demand. “There, the possible applications of the ASSY® screws are outlined for the participants,” explains Kuhbach. Issues such as the technical properties of reinforced wood are discussed, in addition to information regarding approvals for the screw models or how to handle wood safely.
In some instances, wood can even be more economical than concrete. Markus Kuhbach mentions one example: “In order to construct a bridge out of concrete, you first need to set up a shuttering, i.e. a casting mold, on the construction site into which the fresh concrete can be poured. In contrast, a wooden bridge can be fully assembled at the processing plant before being moved into position on site using a gantry crane. This saves time and money, as the roads do not have to be closed for days or even weeks on end.”
“BUILDING WITH WOOD CAPTURES THE SPIRIT OF THE TIMES.”
Incidentally, handling wood properly also saves money. Markus Kuhbach knows that, “The better you take care of it, the longer it lasts.” This applies both to woods such as ash, oak, cherry, alder, walnut or Swiss pine, which are primarily used in interior spaces, and to conifers such as fir, spruce or Douglas fir, which are suited for the outdoors. The danger here: Wood can rot and it has to be protected against weathering.
Würth offers a unique range of professional wood care products: its “surface repair kits”. These kits consist of a case that can be customized with an individual selection of products, e.g., with a touch-up box containing twelve (wood) color tones that look like watercolors. A touch-up kit and retouching wax in various degrees of hardness and in every shade imaginable help fix scratches or minor damages. Surface repair spray and clear varnish are also included in this range. This is all optimal for kitchen counters, tabletops, parquet flooring or steps.
FOLLOW YOUR NOSE: SLEEP BETTER WITH SWISS PINE
Kuhbach also swoons over another property offered by wood: wood has a wonderfully aromatic smell, each type having its own distinctive scent. That is why woods have always been an important component in the base note of perfumes. The great French perfumer Serge Lutens, for example, was overpowered by the beguiling aroma of wood during his first visit to Morocco in 1968: “I smelled there the sweetness and the richness of the wood, a mix of air, sun, dust and evaporation, spread out across the wood: the cedar wood that was sawed up in tiny carpenter shanties as I passed by.”
The element of smell often plays an important role when it comes to selecting a certain type of wood for construction. The aromatic fragrance of the Swiss pine is the most well known, having a positive effect on sleep and well-being and at the same time deterring clothes moths. Swiss pine has a sweet, fresh and spicy scent. This effect can last for many years. Upscale wellness hotels take advantage of this property and furnish their guest rooms with Swiss pine. Googling “hotel room with Swiss pine” returns an enormous selection of such accommodations.
“Würth’s surface repair kits are ideal for wood care.”
Hotel-Restaurant Anne-Sophie in Künzelsau is a prime example of how wooden furniture can improve one’s state of well-being – (almost) everything here is made of wood. This four-star hotel, initiated by Carmen Würth, suffered severe water damage during the flooding in May 2016. Würth customer Dieter Ertl Einrichtungen & Innenausbau, based in Igersheim, restored the hotel to its former glory: wall paneling in the wellness area, reception, lobby and waiting area along with the bar. The 54-man company had completely furnished and arranged the hotel in the first place. A modern look and stylish design with a rather traditional wooden flair, primarily in knotty oak. And Würth products were always put to good use: wood glue, screws, furniture fittings, and drawer guides. Dieter Ertl, a carpenter of 40 years, swears by this material, which has accompanied him his entire career: “Due to its natural structures and grains, its cracks and knots, wood offers incredibly versatile design possibilities.” The concept is well received by the guests: “A place crafted with a love for heart, body and soul,” is just one of the many comments left on the hotel’s evaluation portal. Wood provides grounding – how lovely!
TYPES OF WOOD IN DETAIL
CHAIRMAN OF THE CENTRAL MANAGING BOARD OF THE WÜRTH GROUP
“You’re barking up the wrong tree!” This idiom is used when someone is on the wrong path. However, this nineteenth century expression is also a prompt to reorient oneself. To face challenges without hesitation and to consciously accept failures: This is often how the best and most innovative solutions are discovered. At Würth, we deliberately foster this culture of learning from our mistakes. It does not testify to weakness or inability, but rather to curiosity and an eagerness to experiment. This is how we have gotten the ball rolling – in the right direction – for many of our most successful product developments. That being said, barking up the wrong tree can actually serve to spur us on: It is the only way for us to learn something new.