Educating the next generation of construction experts in a wooden building

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Published 21 May 2021
Building for the future was the guiding principle in the design and construction of Strabag’s new accommodation facilities for apprentices. The Austrian construction company used prefabricated wooden elements by Stora Enso to build housing for 250 apprentices who start their career at the training center in Ybbs near Vienna. The project brings together the next generation of construction experts and wood, the renewable material of the future.

Photo credit: © Strabag

Every year, Strabag’s training centre in Ybbs welcomes 250 apprentices that get their first hands-on experience of the construction industry. Choosing sustainable materials for the project was a top priority for Strabag and together with Stora Enso, they built the new accommodation facilities in CLT (Cross Laminated Timber).

New opportunities with prefabricated wood

In addition to building modern accommodation for the apprentices, the project was also an opportunity to further enhance the development of timber construction. The partners decided to explore what can be achieved with prefabricated wooden elements and take timber construction to the next level.

Prefabrication is a promising trend in the construction industry that is based on a simple idea. Instead of constructing everything on site where elements are exposed to weather conditions, as much work as possible is done at the mill.

"If we have learned one thing in the past few months, it is that wood gives us at least as many opportunities to produce innovative prefabricated solutions as concrete," says Johannes Kals from Strabag-Holzbau-Austria. "With the addition of the sustainability benefits of wood, there are hardly any limits to the potential of prefabrication in timber construction."

Bernd Troppmann, who played a key role in the project as Area Sales Director of Stora Enso Building Solutions, is just as enthusiastic: “For us, prefabrication is part of the product. Wood has several advantages such as quick construction thanks to prefabricated wall and ceiling elements, less dust and noise pollution, as well as high accuracy on the construction site.” The Strabag project made it possible to utilise an even higher degree of prefabrication as all windows and doors were already installed at the CLT mill.

Building in the home community with locally produced wood elements

Wood is not only a renewable material, but also has a positive effect on health and wellbeing, Bernd Troppman adds. The new apprentice accommodation provides a comfortable environment for the future construction experts, giving them the best possible start to their careers.

“We are happy to see that the project was implemented in one of our 'home communities' Ybbs, where our largest sawmill and CLT production is located, and we’re proud to have been able to contribute to it. With innovative initiatives like this one, where we joined forces with a partner to combine our knowledge, timber construction continues to develop and is sure to have a positive effect on the future of the industry," Troppmann concludes.

Precise planning for a high degree of prefabrication

Prefabricated wooden elements require precise planning and this was a crucial focus area in Strabag and Stora Enso’s joint project. The partners collaborated on an innovative solution that required millimeter precision to ensure successful production and assembly of the prefabricated elements.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the team also had to make further adjustments as all communication was virtual. “The learning curve was extremely steep. Prefabricated CLT elements are normally delivered without any superstructures or fixtures, so what we did here was pioneering work. When a higher level of prefabrication needs to be taken into account, the planning requirements are completely different,” says Strabag’s Johannes Kals.

Collaborative and agile processes

The project specifications also posed new challenges for the teams at Stora Enso’s mill in Ybbs, such as installing windows or attaching facade elements. On top of solving technical challenges, Strabag and Stora Enso also made an effort to simplify processes along the way, which delivered impressive results. “Throughout the course of the project, we worked closely with Strabag in an agile way and our team at the CLT production in Ybbs did a fantastic job,” explains Troppmann.

“Prefabricated wood elements have a lot of potential – not only does it mean that elements are protected from weather conditions and are produced on time. Prefabrication also brings considerably shorter construction times and an extremely high quality of the finished projects. However, one thing is certain; the planning must be precisely coordinated in advance so that we can benefit from the immense potential of prefabrication. And that requires a strong partnership like between Stora Enso and Strabag," he adds.

Constructed in just eleven days

The Strabag apprentice accommodation on the premises of the company’s training center in Ybbs was constructed in just eleven days thanks to the detailed planning. Facade structures, windows, reveal ventilators and even some of the electrical installations were installed at the mill, resulting in significant construction time savings. As with every project, the construction time does not only depend on the degree of prefabrication. It’s the skilled installation teams that bring the project to life in a record time.

For the apprentices, the building conveys a message that will accompany them throughout their apprenticeship. As sustainable materials become a popular choice and there is a growing focus on digitalization, manual skills and experience still play a key role in every project. And that won't change anytime soon.

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