Case study: Hallwang Primary School

Case Study: Hallwang Primary School, Hallwang near Salzburg, Austria

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In the province of Salzburg, Austria, about 80% of newly built schools and kindergartens are now being built with wood. We spoke to one of Austria’s leading architects, Tom Lechner with LP architektur ZT GmbH, leading contractor Eng. Thomas Hartl CEO/Managing Director of Innovaholz GmbH and Eng. Klaus Artinger, with DMH Handels GmbH to find out why.

Photo: Albrecht Imanuel Schnabel

Why are so many schools in your area being built with wood?  

Thomas Hartl: Sustainability, CO₂ reduction, carbon footprints etc. are significant factors. These sound like buzzwords, but the truly "homely" and feel-good factor in wooden buildings with many exposed walls is a great reason for building with wood in schools. In Salzburg, about 80% of newly built schools and kindergartens are currently made of wood. Wood is also unbeatable in terms of the short construction times, even for large-scale building projects.   

Can you tell us more about the school in Hallwang?  

Thomas Hartl: Hallwang is a fast-growing community near the city of Salzburg. The original primary school, built in the 1960s became too small. It was eventually demolished and replaced by a new school building. 

Why was the school in Hallwang built with wood?  

Thomas Hartl: Wood offers incredibly quick construction times (at least 30% faster than building with concrete and steel). A fast build was the request of the building owner (the Municipality of Hallwang) who needed the school built in one year. (The primary school had to move to a container school in the meantime).  

Tom Lechner: In this project, we used prefabricated cross-laminated timber (CLT) walls and roofs from Stora Enso and prefabricated ventilated façades.    

The prefabricated walls and roofs in the classroom area were executed in visible quality and were therefore only clad where it was necessary from a building physics point of view. 

DMH: When the finished wall and roof elements were delivered from the Stora Enso mill to the construction site, Innovaholz was able to assemble the wooden elements directly from the truck to accelerate the construction time. 

STORA ENSO: Leaving the wood exposed had other advantages. There is growing evidence that biophilic design is directly related to improved learning, memory, emotions and social intelligence. Biophilic design simply means incorporating elements from nature into the building.  

Since children and teachers spend 90% of their time indoors, it was a priority to create an environment that contributes to their well-being. The design of a school affects how people learn and develop in it. The right architectural design can encourage more collaboration, creativity, and an environment that makes it easier and more pleasant to concentrate. 

Tom Lechner: Full-surface timber cladding was used in the corridor areas in front, to meet the installation and sound insulation requirements. The outer shell of the entire upper floor was executed with a rear-ventilated timber façade

Hallwang is built with offsite-manufactured building elements. What is it like to work this way? Are there any particular challenges?  

Thomas Hartl: It was unavoidable to work with timber construction elements because the maximum construction time of one year had to be adhered to. We were able to complete the entire wooden shell in just four weeks, and the interior work could be carried out quickly afterwards. The challenges still lie in the execution planning and coordination with the individual trades. In most cases, this lead time is far too short. 

Who decides that wood is the preferred material for such a project?  

Thomas Hartl: In this case, it was an architectural competition won by Tom Lechner of LP architektur ZT GmbH, who specialises in timber construction. On the part of the municipality, however, it was also their request to build with wood and made it a requirement in the architectural competition. 

What is the procedure for ordering custom-made products once you have decided on wood as the material? (digital tools, ordering process, etc.)  

Thomas Hartl: If the lead time is good, basically everything is possible in timber construction. CNC production or joinery robots enable millimetre precision and are available for almost any special solution. 

Can you tell us a little about yourself and Das Massivholzhaus DMH? 

DMH: DMH Handels GmbH, based in Kufstein, Austria has been the exclusive sales partner of Stora Enso for Austria, Germany, and Italy since the CLT market launch in 2008, acting as a link between industry and trade. 

The umbrella brand Das Massivholzhaus is a guarantee for high-quality solid wood construction. Together with our selected and trained timber construction partner carpentry companies, such as INNOVAHOLZ GmbH, we support all project participants from the planning and design phase, through project management, to the construction site. 

We bring together the multi-layered interests of all the parties involved in projects. And confidently take on the ever-growing challenges of modern timber construction together with our solid timber partners. Our concept strengthens regional trade too. 

And what do the people of Hallwang think about their new school?  

Thomas Hartl: With the open forms of learning and the cozy wooden rooms, the school is currently one of the showpiece schools in Salzburgland. Teachers and pupils are overjoyed to be able to learn and teach in such a modern building. 


Facts about Hallwang Primary school

  • The school is located in Salzburg, Austria, in the municipality of Hallwang. 
  • Approximately 190 children aged 6−10 years old will learn here. 
  • Total size: 3 810 m² usable floor space
  • Architect: LP architektur ZT GmbH  
  • Total costs: excl. VAT approx. 11 million Euros  
  • CLT by Stora Enso: approx. 300 m³ Visual quality (VI)
  • Prefabricated components by Stora Enso: walls and roofs 10 cm to 22 cm thick 
  • Number of deliveries to the construction site: 4 deliveries 
  • Assembly time: timber frame four weeks.  
  • Total timber construction incl. facade: 8 months 
  • Total construction time: 04/2015 to 09/2017 17 months  
  • School opened 2017

Special thanks to Eng. Thomas Hartl, CEO/Managing Director, INNOVAHOLZ GmbH, B. Eng. (FH) Klaus Artinger, Engineering Department, DMH Handels GmbH and Tom Lechner, LP architektur ZT GmbH, for the interview.