China looks to Europe as an inspiration for timber high-rise buildings

Timber has been a viable alternative source to steel and concrete for China’s high-rise building since last year. Delegates from China have been visiting Europe to learn from European modern timber construction experts so as to understand established norms and standards to enable the construction of high-rise timber buildings of up to 18 stories by the end of the year.

Chinese delegation at Sodra Wood

Tomas Bengtsson, Director Production Engineering, Södra Wood

The Chinese delegation consisted of representatives from the Ministry of Housing and Urban – Rural Development, MOHURD, as well as leading Chinese scientists and experts. The visit was part of a Chinese initiative aimed at increasing timber construction through the introduction of modern construction techniques. Hosting the visit was European Wood, a joint European venture aimed at promoting modern construction in wood, with Swedish Wood as a prime mover.

“For a long time now the European wood industry has been working closely with Chinese building authorities in order to pass on knowledge of norms and standards for modern timber construction,” says Jan Söderlind, chairman of European Wood.

The intensive week-long programme kicked off with a meeting at the Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation in Stockholm, Sweden and was followed by technical seminars and field visits which explored aspects of both production as well as examples of relevant buildings. 

“During these days, we have had interesting and challenging discussions with regard to the European approach to medium and high rise timber buildings. I am very keen on following the development in China, and it will be of special interest to see to what extent new developments will come,” says Professor Erik Serrano of Lund University, technical expert to European Wood.     

After three days in Sweden the delegation continued its journey to the European mainland with Munich, Germany, being the first destination. There the difficulties relating to the fire protection of high-rise timber structures were discussed. Although there is a joint building code in position the complexity of the issue is highlighted by the great diversity of national applications. The process of creating European standards was discussed in Vienna while the last day of the delegation’s visit was spent at the Technical University of Graz.

“We are very impressed by this Chinese initiative of a new national construction standard for high-rise timber buildings. The development, in coordination with European and worldwide standards, will primarily support the wider use of the only sustainable building material resource we have available – wood,” says Professor Stefan Winter of the Technical University of Munich.