Wood construction in Canada: Swiss SMEs as providers of energy efficient products

In times of global warming, also the construction industry is developing new environmental friendly ways for the construction of buildings. Bernhard Gafner is an expert in mass timber engineering and will talk about the opportunities for Swiss Cleantech SMEs that could provide their products and services in Canada.
A wooden house with two windows and a tree in the front.
Wood buildings are environmental friendly. Swiss SMEs can provide energy efficient products.

Mr. Gafner, normally midsized and larger buildings are constructed with steel and concrete. However, it is also possible to use wood instead. Why, would you say, is a wood construction favorable?

Building with wood can offer several advantages. Especially the use of prefabrication can provide increased planning and cost certainty and an acceleration construction schedule when compared to traditional construction methods. Also, if ground conditions are difficult, wood construction is advantageous due to its light weight compared to concrete for example. From an environmental perspective, the use of wood as a building material from sustainably managed forests helps to reduce the carbon footprint compared to steel and concrete construction.

What difficulties may arise when using wood as the main material?

Fire resistance and durability are often the first questions that are raised when talking with clients and designers who are just getting started with wood designs. Both can be overcome. The key to well-designed structures is not be bias and to use the materials where they can perform at their highest level. This is true for any material.

Are there any regulatory constraints or government aid that slow down or foster sustainable wood buildings?

From an engineering perspective, Switzerland and Canada have similar philosophies when it comes to building codes and standards. Even if something is not spelled out specifically, engineers can make a judgement call and use alternate systems, produces or methods if they are comfortable doing so. Essentially looking at performance and not the prescriptive nature of the regulation. In other countries, such as the USA, this is a bit more difficult but not impossible.

The Canadian federal and provincial governments are quite supportive of the forest industry and support initiatives to increase the use of wood as a building material on multiple levels. When it comes to building codes related to energy efficiency, we are still quite behind central Europe – but we are catching up!

How can Swiss SMEs bring in their know-how, when it comes to wood construction?

The regulatory framework needs to be navigated, but its really not that complicated. A good understanding of the local market is key – but those markets can be quite different across the country. Solid market research to find the right location and partner is very important. From our perspective, Swiss SME’s that can provide products and services related to energy efficiency and fastening system can be successful. These building codes are changing and the need for new products in the marketplace is created. Windows and thermal insulation products are good examples for that.

S-GE Impulse: Sustainable Buildings

Be part of the S-GE Impulse: Sustainable Buildings on December 01 in Yverdon-les-Bains and get to know more about business opportunities in this specific field in Canada and North America. Our Cleantech expert David Avery will be at your disposal!

About Bernhard Gafner

A leader in mass timber engineering. Bernhard is on the forefront of introducing innovative products to the North American market. Prior to graduating with a degree in timber engineering from the University of Applied Science in Biel, Switzerland, he gained hands-on experience as a licensed carpenter. With over a decade of international experience in Canada, Germany and Switzerland, Bernhard has been involved in a wide range of projects like sports stadiums, schools, university buildings and civic buildings.

About ACC Structural Engineers

ACC Structural Engineers is a is a young, dynamic and full service engineering firm. It provides structural engineering and consulting services. Its strength lies in the design of timber structures. The team members have been involved in numerous mass timber projects throughout North America. The ACC-team prides itself to deeply understand the relationship between designers, suppliers and installers, and being able to understand their respective needs, challenges and opportunities. More recently ACC is successfully helping European companies to supply construction related products to the Canadian market.


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