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UBC Theses and Dissertations

New residential wood building systems in Switzerland and their potential to meet the local requirements of place, people and product without compromising the global context Ehrbar, Doris


After a long dominance of brick masonry and concrete, wood, a traditional local building material, has had a remarkable revival in the single-family house market in Switzerland since the mid 1980s. Among the vast variety of new wood building systems, Swiss wood frames (SWF) and Ribbed panel system (RPS) are considered the most promising ones. Despite different construction principles both systems assist in achieving highly thermal-efficient buildings, and both are built in the factory. The panellised wall, floor and roof elements are assembled on-site in only one or two days. In this thesis, I hypothesise that the success of a new wood building system depends on its ability to meet the local requirements of place, people and product (P-P-P concept) without compromising the global context). By conforming to the P-P-P concept, the success of the new wood building systems not only acquires a strong market share, but also conforms to the requirements of a more sustainable local building development. The investigation of the local building context reveals the characteristics of 'Swissness', the basis for the investigation of SWF and RPS. The characteristics of, and differences between, the two wood building systems are discussed according to their production and construction principles, where good thermal efficiency, vapour and air movement, differential movement, thermal and structural redundancy, maintenance work, indoor environment quality and sound protection are important characteristics of the wood building systems that allow them to achieve efficiently constructed, long-lasting and healthy housing. In this thesis, I show that the two wood building systems, SWF and RPS, provide powerful strategies to achieve a more sustainable local building development. However, besides the strong marketing of the Minergie label that limits the use of non-renewable operational energy, political and institutional support as well as technical innovation, construction quality, design, comfort and financial benefits have also been necessary to turn the strategies into accepted buildings with the prospect of high asset values. Combining a broad range of requirements of place, people and product as well as key global needs, SWF and RPS are promising systems for a new and successful local building culture in Switzerland.

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