Barriers for multi-storey timber construction in urban areas

Survey of actors in non-profit housing projects shows the need of specialist knowlede and public visibility.


Timber construction plays an important role in making the resource intensive construction sector more sustainable and thus can contribute significantly to climate protection. Although Austria is a pioneer in timber construction the market penetration of multi-storey, urban timber construction is limited. Consumer preferences and legislation are considered the most important influencing factors to increase the share of wood in construction.


Potential technical obstacles and the implementation variety of timber buildings are well documented, but there is little information regarding barriers from the perspective of residents, architects, developers and political representatives. Hence, those perspectives were captured with the help of a qualitative and quantitative study.


Barriers from the construction industry’s perspective

The barriers for timber construction described in literature were systematically studied, following the process of construction projects: basics, preliminary planning, approval and implementation planning, production and execution. The subsequent analysis of interviews with 16 actors showed that the lack of specialist knowledge, training opportunities and capacity of timber construction companies are the main reasons for the low number of public timber housing projects in Vienna. The expertise required for timber construction is available from specialists, but there is a lack of trained staff directly responsible for the construction of buildings. In addition, especially in Eastern Austria, there is a strong influence of solid construction and other lobbies.


Barriers from the residents’ perspective

A questionnaire gathered the elements ‘decision for the apartment’, ‘satisfaction with the apartment’ and ‘personal and apartment details’. A total of 80 residents from six different timber buildings in Upper Austria and Styria were questioned. More than three quarters of the residents stated, that they chose the apartment based on the location. Only a third stated that the material ‘wood’ was key when deciding to rent the apartment. This shows that the ‘living in a timber building’ is a subordinated motive next to location and costs.


Constructing with wood – this should be considered

To promote urban timber construction, it is important to increase the expertise of construction companies and achieve a cost structure change. Furthermore statutory timber construction quotas and subsidies are essential. An important way to promote the public awareness of timber housing projects is seen in the creation of ‘lighthouse projects’.