Can you tell briefly about your background and role at Peikko?
Ertl: “I started in 2002 at Peikko, first as an independent country representative. As Peikko Austria was established in 2006, I became the Managing Director. Since September 2022 I work as a Business Development Manager, mainly responsible for the Hybrid Structures. In Austria, our first project of DELTABEAM® with CLT slabs was dated back already in 2010 when our existing customer contacted us with a new project. The plan was to use CLT slabs, and the customer was uncertain whether it would be a problem for us. I said: “No, why would it be?”, and that’s how it all started. Our experienced structural engineer Ján Gajdošík worked long hours on the project back then, as it was something new for Peikko. We didn’t worry if we were not able to do it, and that is why we succeeded.”
Salonen: “I joined Peikko’s team some 5 years ago, and previously worked as a structural engineer at Sweco. During my career at Peikko, I have worked in the customer engineering and sales teams, being responsible for the designer business. Now since the last one and half years I am a Business Manager at the DELTABEAM® Frame sales team.”
Why, in your opinion, has hybrid construction become so popular?
Ertl: “In Austria, timber has traditionally been used in the construction. Now, combining the materials able us to go for longer spans and more open space. With DELTABEAM®, we can even avoid the load-bearing walls. Hybrid construction is quite a perfect way to reduce the volume of the materials used and reduce the CO2 emissions. Furthermore, hybrid structures have better fire-proofing and sound insulation properties. Now, hybrid construction is becoming more and more cost-efficient, as the production methods are becoming digitalized and automatized and the building processes are developing.”
Salonen: “In Finland, the government and municipalities are starting to think green, which also affects the construction industry. Public buildings have environmental targets, which can be met with hybrid construction. Combining the materials gives benefits, as you can’t use only timber for modern big buildings with open spaces. Furthermore, hybrid construction is less expensive when compared to purely wooden structures and allows for more architectural freedom. What comes to building processes, hybrid construction is becoming more standardized and similar to the precast industry, which makes it a considerable option easier to adapt.”
What are the key enablers and the main challenges for the hybrid construction to become the European main construction method in the future?
Ertl: “Surely in the future the environmental impact of all the materials used must be paid, perhaps in the form of a CO2 tax? Green building certificates will be increasing, which opens path for hybrid construction. What comes to challenges, the timber processing industry is already digitalized but cast-in-situ is far behind. The design processes also present an issue; design software does not yet contain all the materials or connections, which makes the work of a structural engineer very complicated.
I believe that there are still lots of challenges, but hey – Peikko has constructed hybrid with DELTABEAM® composite beams for 30 years now; hybrid construction is already enabled!”
Salonen: “There is lack of cohesion in the design, and lack of skilled structural engineers – the education is more focused on materials than solutions. As there is no standardized way to build hybrid, the architects are not aware of the limitations. Peikko’s PUUCO® Timber Connections answer to this demand by establishing standardized connections easier to design. Furthermore, the construction industry is still divided in timber, steel, and concrete sectors. Unified process between concrete, timber and steel providers and construction site is called for.”
Do you see Peikko as a forerunner in hybrid solutions?
Ertl: “We have been building composite structures for 30 years already, and hybrid frame solutions for 12 years. This is not something that we discuss and dream of – we do it.”
Salonen: “Peikko continuously creates and develops new products and solutions for existing problems, but also finds ways to use the existing products in new ways. We want to focus on solutions more than problems, now and in the future.”
How do you see the future of hybrid construction?
Ertl: “It is critical to reduce the volume of the materials used in construction, and timber is the only renewable one. If we consider for instance high-rise hybrid construction, it already commonly exists in the Central Europe. Technology is not the limitation, mainly regulations are. Furthermore, the higher you go, the more critical it is how the materials are used. Generally speaking, we have the materials, and we have the technology. The same excuses presented today existed 10 years ago already, but since then there has been hundreds of successful projects. Time is over for the discussion; we must act.”
Salonen: “There are several studies on how the emissions are divided in the different life phases of the building. We have already done a lot of work in the energy consumption; in some cases the actual building phase creates more emissions than the usage of the building. Therefore, the industry needs to focus on the construction phase, where the main source of emissions are the materials. By increasing hybrid construction, we can reduce the material usage. Using recycled steel, such as DELTABEAM® Green, is one step further. We need to do everything that is possible to heavily reduce the emissions, and it is still difficult.”