By Iain MacDonald
On the first weekend of December, a group of architects, builders and wood products manufacturers will board flights for Zurich. The participants will spend the next three days traveling through some of the most picturesque parts of Switzerland, Austria, and southern Germany, with their ultimate destination being Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a small city located at the foot of Germany’s highest mountain, Zugspitze. The city hosted the 1936 Winter Olympics and is well-known both as a health spa and a premier winter sports destination. The group’s interest in the town however is somewhat different – every year the venue plays host to the Holzbau Forum, Europe’s largest international conference on wood building and design.
The Holzbau conference alone is sufficient reason to make the trip to Germany. Spanning three days, the event consistently attracts around 1,200 participants for presentations and discussions on emerging building technologies and best practices case studies. Always prominent on the agenda during the event is discussion of green building technologies and energy-efficient structures, driven by the stringent environmental legislation prevalent throughout the EU. The event is an excellent way for North Americans to gain insight into processes and technologies that are influencing building codes and design trends back here in Canada. (An English-language PDF of the conference program can be downloaded by visiting http://www.forum-holzbau.com/ihf/garmisch_index.html and clicking on the British flag icon).
During the three days before their arrival in Garmisch, the group visits innovative production plants and exemplary timber architectural structures. This year’s tour will visit innovative building products companies such as Schilliger Holz, Blumer & Lehmann, Lignatur and Baufritz, as well as landmark timber structures such as Shigeru Ban’s Tamedia Office Building in Zurich and the 8-storey Life Cycle Tower in Dornbirn, Austria.
After the Holzbau conference, the group will travel to Munich, where they will have the option to visit a permanent exhibition of 55 homes that showcase different construction methods. A trip to Munich would not be complete without a visit to one of the city’s famous beer halls. This recreational component will round out the tour on the night prior to the group’s return trip to Canada.
Researchers at UBC initiated the Wood Construction and Design Tour back in 2001, and it has grown in popularity with each successive offering. A maximum participation limit of 20 people will be imposed this year to allow plant tours to be kept to a manageable size. The cost of hotels, transportation and the conference (including meals at the conference) are normally approximately $2,600, depending on the size of the group. Participants make their own flight arrangements and pay for their own meals during the pre-conference tour. If you are interested in taking part in the 2012 event, we recommend that you contact CAWP early at firstname.lastname@example.org