Interview with Prof. Stephan Birk: The potential of building with wood

In recent years, wood construction has become increasingly relevant in discussions on the responsible use of resources and climate-friendly construction methods. In this interview, Prof. Stephan Birk, Dipl.-Ing. Architekt BDA, explains what the material is all about and what possibilities it offers for the building industry. The goal of imparting this knowledge to professionals on the basis of the latest research results is also the aim of the new certificate program “TUM.wood – Building with Wood”, in the development of which Birk played a leading role.

Prof. Birk, where do you see the greatest potential for wood as a material?

In the context of the climate crisis, the main question is how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, waste, energy and raw material consumption in the building and construction industry. Wood as a material has the potential to provide answers to these questions: Wood is a CO2 reservoir, energy-intensive building materials can be substituted with the material and greenhouse gas emissions can be saved. Since wood can be processed excellently and prefabricated into flat elements as well as room-containing modules, the construction time on-site can be reduced. Wood construction thus makes a significant contribution to avoiding waste and unnecessary energy consumption.

What makes wood construction so exciting from your point of view?

Wood as a material offers enormous design potential for architecture and engineering. It can be used in a wide variety of ways in the construction, finishing and facade of a building. What fascinates me about wood is not only the aesthetic expression of the material, but also the special tectonics and the precision of digital production methods. In addition, there is the aforementioned relevance of building with wood to the task of sustainably changing building.

The TUM.wood network is engaging with the topic of wood on a variety of levels. What are the most important elements that have found their way into the new certificate program “TUM.wood – Building with Wood”?

The basis for a meaningful increase in the rate of wood construction is knowledge of the special features of the material and the removal of existing obstacles to planning and building with wood. This requires a holistic view of the subject, and that is precisely what we have tried to depict in the program: The TUM.wood network shows the technical, architectural and ecological possibilities of the material along the entire value chain – from the tree to its application in construction to recycling strategies. In the part-time certificate program, we will also focus on the regulatory framework as well as on wood construction-specific planning processes and show examples of great wood architecture. The participants will be able understand the various requirements of timber construction and apply the acquired knowledge in their work environment.

Who do you think the certificate program “TUM.wood – Building with Wood” is particularly aimed at?

We want to address everyone who is active in the building and construction industry and wants to enhance their education in wood construction. This includes planners in architecture and engineering offices as well as decision-makers in planning offices, housing associations or (construction) companies.

Further information on the certificate program “TUM.wood – building with wood” can be found here.



Prof. Stephan Birk, Dipl.-Ing. Architekt BDA holds the professorship for Architecture and Timber Construction at the Technical University of Munich (image: Andreas Labes, Berlin).

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