“I remember when in 1995 I was going around the South Tirolean Alps selling threaded rods, nuts, blades for band saws, and nail gun hardware for building traditional mountain constructions. Now – just a few years later – the market has progressed a lot”.
“Back then – he continues – the choice of wood connectors available was really limited and the planners would need to settle for the narrow inventory achievable. Now, however, the intricate demand evolves quickly and expects an equivalent flexible supply”
Let’s face it: today’s market is saturated by simple often low-end products and clearly calls for more sophisticated and innovative systems. What is the added value that makes the difference?
As Mr Lang himself states: “What I care the most is not for our name to be associated to a mere fastener producer: priceless is to be remembered as the ones who actively contribute to the enhancement of the constructions sector. All what we do is fundamentally motivated by the innate desire to evolve the industry with high technology and modernization”.
With this clear determination, Rothoblaas has evolved contextually to the quick development of the market: “technique” is the leitmotiv that has been driving the company’s activities. From the edition of thick manuals with in-house pre-calculated data, to the delivery of the hard-earned expertise through exclusive training (Rothoschool) the aim for accuracy and veracity is clear. Last but not least numerous research projects are carried out in tight collaboration with renowned Universities and Research centres in the engineering field (University of Alberta, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, ETH Zurich, Wiesbaden University, Gratz University, TUM Munich, IVALSA, Baltic MeKA, Vilnius Gediminas Technical University – to cite a few)
“Rothoblaas is not only the link from academia to industry.” – clarifies Peter. “Our engineers are deeply involved in the theory of science as well as the practical application of a given achievement.”. A perfect example to explain this bond is the newly launched Spider timber connector, which allows the placement of CLT flat floors directly on the columns, eliminating the need of beams. “This is a revolution in the way timber buildings are conceived – specifies Lang. “With a Spider installed there is more freedom of design, as the distance between pillars can be increased.” Spider is a project born from the brilliant mind of Science Doctor Roland Maderebner from the University of Innsbruck, tested and perfectioned by Engineer Ernesto Callegari. The product has gained the ETA in late 2019 and is now available to purchase.
“Many other collaboration researches have led to important discoveries and products: The Flanksound Project has thoroughly studied the determination of flanking transmission in CLT buildings and was possible thanks to the University of Bologna”.
“Creating cool futuristic inventions is not enough” – admits Lang. “The hardest part is to bring these complex pioneering systems to the consideration of the building site”. “The good news is that because of the market change, we have good allies in the path to the sector development.” – declares Lang.
When earlier it was the realm of the building site manager (the builder himself), now everything starts from the project planners: the architect is the creative mind and the structural engineer translates the creativity to reality. This is in line with the challenge of the demand: supply must now respond to expectations rather than to satisfy well-defined needs.
Lang continues: “The planners are the real core of the market now, but they are not only our “pass” into the projects, they are also our muse. “We work well with Ergodomus and have a solid partnership with Franco, who is a determined outside-the-box thinker. This kind of ambition he has is an excellent incentive for new ideas. And this is the ideal partner of Rothoblaas: these are the people who inspire us to invest in new ideas”.
On a global level, the market is very lively and increasingly demanding. We can highlight some interesting trends of development in certain areas and overall a tendency to give Mass Timber a go.
“Most Central European markets (DACHS and IT areas) are still traditional builders (especially wooden roofs) and have still little ferment around Mass Timber. As soon as we move North and especially out of the EU, we see a significant increase of pure Mass Timber builders. Particularly potential is the North American area, of which building code updates are embracing taller timber buildings.”
Indeed, Peter Lang’s last major business trip before the epidemic was in Norway to visit the Mjøstårnet and he feels that the next ones will require to cross the ocean.
Another indicator of the market liking the Mass Timber is to be found in the destination of use of these buildings. “We’ve seen in the last year a significant demand for community purposed projects: student housing, nursing homes, kindergartens – explains Lang. “From what I see, people are searching the contact to nature and are willing to live ecologically and efficiently. “I expect to see modular and sustainable constructions having a great future” – continues.
“Equally important is to be supporting the right promoting agents – discloses Lang. “We started out almost 30 years ago with the local South-Tirolean carpenter union and the Italian Wood Confederation. Soon after we became premium partners for the Forum Holzbau activities and now we actively take part to important events and associations worldwide. We are affiliate partner of Wood Works in the USA, we support the North American Passive House Network and we offer our regular contribution to the Forest Network, which is behind the prestigious Mass Timber Conference of Portland. In Canada we are in the network of the WoodWorks! Program, which is a Program by the Wood Canadian Council and are earnest members of Passive House Canada” – concludes Lang.
Lang has a long-term view and thinks the building of the future must be a clever blend of design, efficiency, durability and sustainability. “These important partnerships not only connect us to like-minded professionals but allow us to get exposed and contribute first-hand to the development of the incredible and flourishing timber sector.