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Building a New Europe - With Timber


3rd GATE Inter-Regional Seminar

Ljubljana, Slovenia

27th, 28th May 2006

The sawmill at Jelovica
The sawmill at Jelovica

The theme for this event was 'Technical Solutions' and consisted of a day of field visits followed by a one day conference.

Day 1 - Field Visits
Participants were taken to the Jelovica Company in Preddvor. This company has been in existence for 50 years and employs 600 people in 3 locations. As well as wood processing, they produce 80,000 internal and external windows per year and 200 pre-fabricated timber frame family houses. This equates to approximately one per day, with each house containing approximately 25 cubic metres of glue-laminated wood. 60% of these houses are exported, with Germany and Italy being major customers.

Click here to link to their website at: www.jelovica.si

Pre-fabricated timber frame house construction at Jelovica
Pre-fabricated timber frame house construction at Jelovica

The group were then taken to a school in the village of Preddvor where a timber frame attic had been added. It was explained to the group that the reason the extension was built on top of the existing school was because of space limitations and the advantage of using timber frame was to reduce the effect of additional weight on the existing foundations. Speed of construction was also a factor because it allowed for all the work to be completed during the summer vacation, thus reducing the impact to the children.

The school at Preddvor
The school at Preddvor

We then visited two examples of pre-fabricated timber frame houses built by Jelovica in the village of Visoko. These generated much interest and discussion between the participants, particularly the outer claddings which, it was agreed, will vary between the different partner regions within GATE, depending on their respective climates.

First example of Jelovica house in Visoko
First example of Jelovica house in Visoko

Second example of Jelovica house in Visoko
Second example of Jelovica house in Visoko

After lunch the tour took us to the Riko Company in Ribnica where we saw the construction of pre-fabricated solid wood houses. They have been in existence for 7 years and have 60 employees. They produce approximately 50 homes per year, all made to individual designs and incorporating wood fibre insulation.

Click here to link to their website at: www.riko-hise.si

The group at the Riko Company
The group at the Riko Company

Solid wood pre-fabrication at Riko
Solid wood pre-fabrication at Riko

Participants at a traditional hay rack in Skrabek
Participants at a traditional hay rack in Skrabek


Day 2 - Conference

Morning Presentations

The Conference was held in the Department of Wood Science and Technology, Biotechnical Faculty in Ljubljana University. An introduction was given by Marko Petric and delegates were welcomed by Franc Pohleven.

Franc Pohleven welcomes the Conference delegates
Franc Pohleven welcomes the Conference delegates

Milan Sernek chaired the Conference
Milan Sernek chaired the Conference

Mike Over, GATE Project Co-ordinator then gave a presentation explaining the objectives of the project and a brief introduction to each of the partner regions.
To view and download a PDF version of this presentation, click here:
Introduction to GATE - Mike Over - Wales
568 KB

Ulf-Dieter Pitzing, from Thuringia in Germany, gave a presentation on the use of timber as a fully integrated part of building design.
To view and download a PDF version of this presentation, click here:
Timber as a fully integrated part of building design - Ulf-Dieter Pitzing - Thuringia
1,270 KB

Joze Resnik, from Slovenia, gave a technical presentation on the use of engineered wood products and timber technology of tomorrow.
To view and download a PDF version of this presentation, click here:
Engineered wood - Joze Resnik - Slovenia
3,669 KB

Derek Jones, from Wales, gave a presentation on the environmental benefits of using local timber for local construction.
To view and download a PDF version of this presentation, click here:
Local timber for local construction - Derek Jones - Wales
5,691 KB

Derek Jones from Wales
Derek Jones from Wales


Jakub Siewko, from Pomorski in Poland, gave a presentation on affordable housing, keeping the quality, cutting the cost.
To view and download a PDF version of this presentation, click here:
Affordable housing - Jakub Siewko - Pomorskie
2,561 KB

Alar Just, from Estonia, gave a presentation on the use of timber for the construction of bridges in Estonia.
To view and download a PDF version of this presentation, click here:
Timber bridges - Alar Just - Estonia
6,854 KB


Afternoon Workshops

In the afternoon, conference delegates broke out to a series of four workshop sessions. Each session was held twice to give delegates the opportunity of attending two different sessions of their choice.

Wolfgang Horn, from Thuringia, held a session on CE marking in five points.
To view and download PDF versions of the workshop presentation and outputs, click here:
CE marking in 5 points - workshop presentation - Wolfgang Horn - Thuringia
2,231 KB
CE marking in 5 points - workshop outputs
40 KB

Wolfgang Horn from Thuringia at the workshop
Wolfgang Horn from Thuringia at the workshop

Miha Humar, from Slovenia, held a workshop on the durability of timber, comparing construction methods with treatments.
To view and download PDF versions of the workshop presentation and outputs, click here:
Durability, construction v treatment - workshop presentation - Miha Humar - Slovenia
4,267 KB
Durability, construction v treatment - workshop outputs
45 KB

Mart Riistop, from Estonia, held a workshop looking at technical issues and solutions for the construction of smaller timber homes.
To view and download PDF versions of the workshop presentation and outputs, click here:
Smaller timber homes - workshop presentation - Mart Riistop - Estonia
1,164 KB
Smaller timber homes - workshop outputs
44 KB

Mart Riistop from Estonia at the workshop
Mart Riistop from Estonia at the workshop

Steve Coombs, from Wales, held a workshop investigating the advantages and disadvantages of using large and small section timber.
To view and download PDF versions of the workshop presentation and outputs, click here:
Large section v small section timber - workshop presentation - Steve Coombs - Wales
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large section v small section timber - workshop outputs
48 KB

A press conference was held for the Slovenian press and each partner region was given the opportunity to explain the current situation regarding the use of timber for construction in their own regions. Mike Over, the GATE Project Manager, also explained to the press how the European Union, via Interreg, had made this event possible and how welcome our Slovenian partners had made us during the visit.

Press conference at the University
Press conference at the University

Many thanks and congratulations go to our Slovenian GATE partners for organising such a successful event.

Conference delegates gather at the close of the event
Conference delegates gather at the close of the event


Antony Griffiths, Planning Forester from Coed y Mynydd Forest District, Forestry Commission Wales, produced this report, from a forester's perspective, following his participation in the seminar.

I was first asked by my Forest District Manager if I would be interested in a trip to Slovenia to attend the 3rd Inter-Regional GATE Seminar. Naturally I was immediately interested and contacted Mike Over, the Project Manager, to discuss what the project itself was about and what would be discussed at the Conference in Slovenia. GATE stands for 'Gaining Added value for Timber in Europe'. The aim of the project is to increase the use of timber as a building material, by addressing the policies, perceptions, technical and economic barriers that currently limit the use of timber in construction. Increasing the use of timber in construction has many indirect economic, social and environmental benefits, including stimulating the rural economy, providing incentives for woodland management and displacing less sustainable alternatives. The project facilitates exchanging experience and showcasing best practice amongst partner regions to influence policy makers and opinion-formers to view timber as a sustainable modern building material.

GATE is a European Interreg IIIc Network project developed jointly by 5 EU countries - Wales, Germany, Slovenia, Poland and Estonia. The Forestry Commission Wales is the lead partner and it was realised that there was a gap in that none of the Project Members from Forestry Commission Wales held a forester role within a Forest District, thus missing that vital link with forest management in the field. Given that this Conference was looking at the technical usage of timber, the finished product and its usage, it was decided that I would be invited for my forestry knowledge and too for me to gain an insight into what a Project like GATE is aiming to achieve.

The trip started with a drive to Stansted Airport on a very warm and sunny day. Here I met most of the other Wales representatives, some of whom I already knew, but some I hadn't met before. Before long we landed in Slovenia at Ljubljana Airport where it was still very warm and sunny. Marko Petric, one of the Slovenian partner members, had organised a minibus to take us to our very comfortable hotel, greeted us. The time was now late afternoon and so the main agenda for the trip to Slovenia was not starting until the following morning. This meant we had a little time to enjoy Ljubljana and experience some very enjoyable food and the wonderful atmosphere of a Ljubljana evening! This was going to be a very enjoyable few days.

The next day (27th) we were met by a coach with all the other project members from the other European country partners. The day had a busy itinerary arranged for us visiting companies that produced timber framed constructed buildings using a variety of methods. Being a forester this is not something that my job enables me to see very often. However, it is good to appreciate where the end product from growing trees is often being used. The companies that we visited used different methods of timber framed construction and also aimed their products at very different markets. However, all the companies used Gluelam technology to build their wall panels. This was especially interesting for myself as I had very little knowledge about laminated timber and actually being able to see how it is formed was an additional bonus. One company, Jelovica, used a construction technique that required both an inner and outer cladding plus insulation once the building had been erected. Their buildings were aimed towards a more general affordable market and on average cost 750Eur/m². Another company, Riko, produced a construction that required no cladding upon erection and thus the final finish was wood. These buildings were aimed towards the high end of the market and their average cost was 1500Eur/m². However, although the cost per metre was much higher there was less additional cost post erection since the construction methods used meant that both internal and external faces were the finished final surface. These buildings were also much more attractive since they had a more traditional appeal of wooden log cabins, though with a distinctive modern look.

Each company took us to see some actual finished buildings to see for ourselves the finished products that they produced. They were all very impressive, being very different to the more commonly used materials in the UK. Travelling between the companies enabled us to see some of the Slovenian countryside and it was clearly evident that timber constructed buildings were normal practice, though this is not particularly surprising when one appreciates the ratio of timber resources to the population in Slovenia compared to that in the UK. A few years ago I spent several months in Finland and it didn't take long to realise just how sparse timber and woodland resources were in the UK. Visiting Slovenia reminded me of this again and made me feel jealous of all the foresters in countries that have a greater percentage woodland cover and timber resource to manage.

The second day in Ljubljana (28th) was the GATE Conference and workshops held at the Department of Wood Science and Technology, Biotechnical Faculty. The Conference and all workshops were conducted in English, which was obviously a great help! Fortunately most Europeans speak excellent English making the Conference much easier to hold. The Conference was opened by staff of the Faculty - Milan Sernek, Marko Petric, Franc Pohleven and Mike Over, the Project Manager. Then followed a number of very interesting presentations and speakers all covering topics on timber usage in construction and how timber strength can be improved with Glue Laminate technology (Gluelam). The afternoon was dedicated to the workshops which covered discussions on 'CE marking in 5 points', 'Durability, construction versus treatment', 'Smaller timber homes' and 'Bigger timber for better strength and energy efficiency'. These were all very interesting and enabled me to understand better the relationship of growing good quality timber versus poorer quality timber enhanced by wood technology to improve strength and thus its versatility and application.

Just before the Conference closed there was an open discussion between all the Project members on all aspects of the two days of visits, talks and presentations. Everyone agreed that the two-day event was extremely successful and enthusiasm was high for the continuing success of the project.

On the morning of the last day a number of us were given a tour of some other wood using companies. This included a visit to a kitchen cabinet making company and another Gluelam company that allowed us quite intimate access to their laminating process. The morning finished with a visit and meeting with two Foresters from the Slovenia Forest Service - the equivalent of the Forestry Commission in the UK. This gave a very brief insight into Slovenian forestry management, but even with such a short visit it was clear that Slovenian forestry had moved away from a 'clear fell' system and had adopted lower impact management systems such as continuous cover forestry (CCF). Where forests are uneconomic to manage, such as access, environmentally sensitive, etc, then they are left as natural reserves. Slovenia is currently very nearly 60% (approx. 1.2 million ha) covered with forests of which 70% is privately owned. The annual cut is approximately 70% of a possible cut (approx. 4.3 million m³).

I would personally like to thank all of the Slovenian partner members for being such fantastic hosts. Slovenia is a wonderful country with spectacular scenery, landscape and well-managed forests and woodlands. I would also like to thanks those responsible for allowing myself the opportunity to attend the Conference and to get an insight into other aspects of forestry that I don't normally get to see. My final thanks must go to Mike Over for allowing me to join the Project for this very interesting Conference and trip to Slovenia.

Thank you

Antony D. Ll. Griffiths
Forest Officer
Forest Design Plans
Coed y Mynydd Forest District
Forestry Commission Wales