Building blocks for the construction revolution
Anna Moldenhauer: Mr Wörner, how did the idea for the "TRIQBRIQ" timber construction system come about?
Max Wörner: We are actually a classic project developer, but we want to step out of the conventional construction track to develop sustainable residential buildings. Our goal is to offer a mass-produced standard product that can be mass-produced similar to a brick and thus be used in a wide variety of architectural areas with a view to price, deliverability and plannability. For a sustainable building, we do not want to cut down mature trees, but use weak and damaged wood that is recycled as a waste product in the forestry industry, such as for OSB panels. Thanks to the architecture of the building block, it is possible to combine many approaches: The wood is cheap and we can still produce a very stable, load-bearing series product that can also be used in multi-storey residential construction.
Where does the weak and damaged wood for the production come from?
Max Wörner: From local forests – we want to revolutionise timber construction and bring it to the surface. This already starts with production: We are presenting an ecosystem in which we can implement a production line by means of plug and play on existing sawmills, wherever the weak and damaged wood accumulates. This makes it possible to react flexibly if, for example, the occurrence of calamities is suddenly increased by a storm depression or a bark beetle infestation. The elements can be produced and transported directly on site. We are thus creating a new value chain for this type of timber. In addition, the sawmills then have the opportunity to produce an independent product.
There are also voices against the extensive use of the low-cost weak and damaged wood – it is said that this would cause a price collapse in the timber market. What is your position on this discussion?
Max Wörner: I think we should take into account what has happened with the calamity wood so far: A very large proportion is simply burnt. For the most part, forest owners cannot sell the weak and damaged wood because only certain lengths and quantities are in demand. Some of the wood is shredded and processed into OSB boards. The prices paid here are also far too low in my opinion. The added value of the forest must therefore be meaningfully expanded and considered for the industry. It is therefore important that all stakeholders pursue a common goal for the construction turnaround: Promote mixed forests and afforestation, industrialise timber construction, simplify processes. Our building block system can be used by any bricklayer, shell builder or even exhibition stand builder. Moreover, it can be used for almost any form of architecture – from social housing to luxury villas. There are currently so many tasks to manage the building turnaround and we see ourselves as a building block there.
Can you tell us more about the properties of "TRIQBRIQ" such as load-bearing capacity, fire resistance, insulation value and durability? Are there differences between damaged wood and sound wood in this respect?
Max Wörner: I like to give an example from the food sector – if a banana is not beautifully grown, that does not mean that its quality is worse than one that is perfectly within the norm. Weak and damaged wood also have negative connotations due to their names. The difference is more visual: the wood has larger knotholes, is not shaped according to the standard, or it gets a blue discolouration due to pest infestation. With our patented three-axial dowel connection system and the small wooden elements, we can bypass these damaged areas - they cannot harm the series in this way. The result is a very strong system, 30 centimetres wide, 30 centimetres high, variable in length. The individual elements are made of weak and damaged wood, but in combination with the hollow wood dowels, the result is a solid wood system. This also creates a very high storage capacity for Co2. Here, a rethink should take place in building physics and also among architects, especially in the area of surface temperature control and wood core activation. These points are becoming more and more important. With "TRIQBRIQ" you build diffusion-open, the room climate is automatically regulated. With different formwork systems, you can also implement all conceivable shapes, narrow-gauge or as a passive house standard. The system has a very high load-bearing capacity; we can put down almost 30 tonnes per running metre. In addition, it can be dismantled according to type, but the material is also completely recyclable.
You manage without artificial fasteners such as glue. How do you manage that?
Max Wörner: Our advantage is that we build in bond and, thanks to the stud structure, we can easily connect the vertically standing timbers via dowels. That means I put the stone on the first row and move the dowels so that all the smaller standing elements chain together. If we work in this grid, we don't need any other means of connection. It depends a bit on the architecture, of course. If something is built on top of the existing structure, lanyards are sometimes necessary. But the connections in the system itself really only work via the wooden dowel technique – without screws or glues.
What design freedom does the system offer? Are special forms also conceivable?
Max Wörner: Architects can design freely within the grid. We are currently developing software that shows where windows can be placed, for example, without needing special parts. Any type of diffusion-open façade can also be curtained. We want to develop a carcass system that can then be used as a load-bearing element that is important from a building physics point of view and can be easily adapted to the needs. So the result does not have to be a classic timber house, as the structure can also be clad in a modern way.
With the modular system, you also want to address end customers. What should they bear in mind?
Max Wörner: It depends a little on what is to be built and on which plot of land. We can pick up the building owners' sketches relatively easily with our system, taking into account the building law. We also work with service partners who use artificial intelligence to create building simulations based on the initial ideas and then check the possibilities for implementation before moving on to the technical planning. There also has to be a change in thinking - the conventional process is usually too one-dimensional. Specialist planners do not have the possibility to check billions of calculations in a short time, like a machine, in order to find the optimum between building costs, CO2 savings and operating costs. This is where we would like to start and implement our system in various software solutions, so that a certain range of possibilities is already presented to the customer in the planning phase. I think this is the future: to start the planning process in an all-encompassing way and only then enter into the detailed planning and technical planning.
What is currently still missing to take a step forward with "TRIQBRIQ"?
Max Wörner: As the system is further scalable, we are continuously looking for investors and strategic partners. We are also dependent on receiving support from politicians and the authorities for approval by the building authorities. Unfortunately, it is currently still necessary to apply for individual approval for each new building project. So far, we have two buildings in Germany in the approval process.
Would you also consider cooperating with other companies such as "Gelzhäuser Forst" or "Blockhaus Typen", which also process weak and damaged wood for the construction of buildings?
Max Wörner: We see ourselves as a small building block in the construction world and would like to build on different systems, while building sustainably, also in the area of the Tiny House or the self-build house. We have a wide variety of ideas and are open to any cooperation for the time being, as we all have the same goal: We want a building turnaround. To achieve this, it is essential that the large, established companies work together with the small, up-and-coming start-ups.