What an eye opener, and a confirmation that my industry is moving fast. I spent three days at the Forum in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in southern Germany last week, where representatives from over 30 countries came to present or learn their findings in the wood construction industry. At the end of the day my head was always spinning, and many of the presentations challenged my own ideas about building with wood and wood materials.
An excellent market economist showed us trends in the housing market, and how single-family detached homes are becoming less popular in German cities, larger apartments are taking up that slack, and the phenomenal low-interest-high-return market will be shutting down soon, turning to a phase where more will be investing in existing constructions (renovation market).
A large emphasis was put on the possibilities of pre-fabrication in the housing industry. Where for me, "pre-fab" still had a bit of a bad connotation- not anymore. Prefabrication in wood construction is the future. More exact tolerances, better working conditions for carpenters and laborers and shorter construction periods- sign me up.
Next topic: "Städtische Nachverdichtung" or squeezing more housing into a city. This particular area has a huge potential, and just our luck- it's an absolute market niche for wood construction. Building new apartments on top of old masonry construction takes advantage of existing infrastructure, can be done at a significantly lower price than new construction, and can prevent or slow the endless expansion of suburbs surrounding larger cities. Look for this to be the topic of the next 5 years.
And then of course, the big stuff- twenty story timer constructions, usually with a reinforced concrete core. Just about every country is starting one of these projects at the moment. Michael Green made an appearance to talk about overarching topics in architecture and construction- he's well known as a pioneer in modern wooden high-rise construction and brought the main lecture hall back down to earth with his ideas about how to make globalization work while supporting a local and national economy and identity. Great stuff.