Swiss Builder Wood construction no insulation

Exploring this Swiss Builder’s extraordinary Off-Site Manufactured Panelised wooden home Building System.

Incredibly Sustainable, Healthy, Fire-Resistant, and Energy Efficient!

Foreword by Ian Thompson, Editor

Meet an amazing Swiss off-site manufacturer who utilizes CLT as the primary panelized structure with walls that reach up to 16 inches/400mm in thickness. These buildings are airtight, requiring no additional insulation or wall cavity. Remarkably, they even use wooden nails and Birch dowels for joining parts.

These buildings are extraordinarily sustainable, making them great for the environment. This is my preferred type of house construction because it’s healthy, strong, and simple. This Swiss building method has been around for almost a hundred years now.

Without further ado, enjoy this short video featuring Matt, Peter, and Jordan

Company Link:

Exploring Swiss Builder’s Innovative Wood Construction | Sustainable, Fire-Resistant, Insulated

Video Transcript

The build show today is in Switzerland, and we’re visiting this factory right here. This is a factory-built home like you’ve never seen before. This is so cool, you’re gonna like this. Come on inside!

Old fogey, no, no. Listen, I need for the fear for oppa meet at the cafe, lemma orfull hole Susan house pellets Boni Lee, Donnie McDowell, and when Peter says all would he means all would. These are even wood nails – cool thing ever! Birch wood nails driven by a pneumatic driver, and these are birch dowel pins that hold the whole wall assembly together.

That’s right, Jordan. We got an awesome tour by Peter the Kurtz at lunch, so we’re able to shoot in this quiet time while these guys are eating. But man, what an incredible wall assembly! Literally thick wood walls, so this wall section you see behind us is roughly eight inches thick. You see it’s made out of multiple layers, so about five quarter material, one inch thick, maybe eight layers deep.

What’s the R-value calc on that? We figured out, so for a soft wood, you’ve got about one point four R per inch. So at eight inches, you’re around what? Did we kind of twelve point something?

And for a double wall thickness, you have your 24, which you have to do to hit code here in Switzerland. A cheaper version, instead of stacking more and more of that wood up on top, you can do a wood fiber insulation on the exterior of the house to give you the same insulation but at a cheaper price.

Now stacking up all the wood, yeah, and so this is not chip and Joanna wood on the inside, this is literally a timber house, right? A house that’s wood 16 inches thick. There’s no glues, there’s no off-gassing, there’s no other fasteners except for other pieces of wood that are holding it all together, super structural, super healthy, vapor open it can try to the inside or the outside.

But as we were talking about fire, Jordan, what do you think about fire and Windows? Yeah, so this is something I learned recently. I always thought that wood and fire, I mean, how do you make a fire? You put wood in it. So the gut reaction is, all woods bad for fire, you’re going to burn up a house made out of solid wood. But actually, it’s easier to do the calculations, because wood burns at a constant rate regardless of the heat of the fire.

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Now you can add more oxygen, and it’ll burn faster. But in atmospheric conditions, wood burns at a certain rate. So you can easily calculate, say you want a 90-minute fire wall, you can calculate how much of the wood will be consumed after 90 minutes. I take the existing wall thickness after that 90 minutes, and you know what your loads gonna be. So you design your wall with that thickness in mind, and then you add 90 minutes’ worth of fire burn on the outside of that, and that gives you your fire rating.

And that’s what these walls are, they’re 90-minute rated for fire, which is quite a bit more than our standard 30 or 60 minutes that we think of American houses with fire rated type X 5/8 gypsum, let’s say in the garage. So you’ve actually, even though you’ve got a solid thick wood house, you’ve got a long time for that fire to go before there’s any structural issues, and the house plenty of time to get out. And certainly you could add a sprinkler system, depending on where you are code-wise.

Yeah, but what an interesting wall to think about, literally no insulation, just thick walls. But how do they bring that up to modern standards? What’s missing on these solid wood walls compared to, you know, the little house in the Prairie that we think of, for the Lincoln Log house in America from 200 years ago?

What’s missing or what’s different about these super airtight? You know, Sigue, our hosts that brought us here, they make some incredible construction tapes and airtight layers, and that’s exactly what’s happening on these wood buildings. They’re making them perfectly airtight.

They’re using modern windows indoors, so once you’re inside that wood structure, you’ve got that R24 wall. They make thicker assemblies, including some insulation, it looks like on the roofs, so you may have an R30 or an R40 up on the roof assembly, and you’re super airtight. Everything is taped and sealed together, so there’s no air flow from outside to the inside. So once you heat that air on the inside, it stays there.

And then from a structural standpoint, I looked at some 300-year-old barns up in the Zermatt Valley at the base of the Matterhorn, so these wood structures have been there for 300 years, and they look great. But they’re bowing, right, with the weight of all of the building above it, they’re bowing.

These are actually plaid construction, so you’ve got your wood grain running this way on one and then the next layer, and then horizontal sheathing on there to exactly, we shouldn’t say. So you’ve got leaved up, you’re basically making a 16-inch thick, and it’s super sound and will stay there for you know, for as long as you maintain it.

And then what’s great about it is, it’s natural materials, it’s carbon sequestering. So the trees are growing, and they’re taking in carbon, and then we live in them, and then when we stop living in them, it’s a tree, it just decays like another tree in the forest. It’s normally would if there’s no plastics in the walls, there’s no weird polyurethanes or some kind of chemical that you don’t know where it’s come from.

There’s no drywall in the houses, and on the outside, they’re clad typically with wood, you know, cedar shingles like this building here. They put them on a rain screen, so there’s an air gap there, and that cedar is gonna weather beautifully. And then you could put a metal roof on a house like this, you’ve got a 500-year house at least, and when it’s time to knock it down, it’s gonna go back to the earth.

And for you naysayers out there who say 500 years, like there’s no way you’re going to build a 500-year house, I just saw a 300-year-old barn, a barn that was built here in Switzerland that’s 300 years old with the technology they had. So this is the same wood with newer technology from an engineering standpoint, not from a material standpoint. So 500 years is not out of the question, pretty cool.

And the other interesting thing about this too is, this is literally all Swiss wood. So this is a fir that they get from Switzerland, this is beech that they gets from Switzerland. So everything that goes into these houses is literally all from Switzerland, pretty cool. Now, this factory’s not big, they’re only making 20 houses a year here.

We understand they’ve got maybe three other competitors for this license technology, so they’re not building a ton of these. I’m not sure if they could export one of these to America, but from the technology, from a green building, from an off-gassing, and a healthy house standpoint, pretty interesting.

Now, stay tuned for the next episode, because they’re actually building their own new office building, literally 50 yards from where we are here, and I swear, it’s one of the coolest buildings I’ve ever seen in my entire life, and it’s slightly mind-blowing to think that there’s nothing in these houses except for wood and maybe some concrete for the foundation, and that’s it.

And I know the question is going to come up, how much would something like this cost? Again, they’re only doing 20 houses out of this Factory, so if you can even get one, I don’t know, but relative to the Switzerland market, it’s about 50 percent more expensive per square foot now standard construction we’ve seen a lot of standard construction here in Switzerland, it’s not US style constructions.

Now, I’m already expecting the premium for a Swiss made house to be much higher than what we’re used to spending in the US, and this is going to be even greater than that. So I don’t have a francs per square meter rise for you, but it’s not a cheap way of building, but it’s a great way of building.

Yeah, and that’s what I love, that’s what I’ve loved about this trip to Europe so far, is that the Europeans think long-term, right? You know, that the house that we visited earlier today, it was it was a mom and dad on one level, and they were adding on because their daughter that had a family was moving into the same house.

They think about houses for generations, not just, “I’m gonna live here for five years and sell it, and what’s the resale value of that? Am I gonna get my money back?” They think about it long-term. That’s something that we need to change our mindset in the US. I mean, we’re obviously a pretty young country compared to these European countries that are hundreds or even thousands of years old, but we need to change our mindset to be thinking about things, things much more long-term.

And ultimately, when you do that, based on these houses, you end up with some really beautiful things. And if you’re gonna have something that’s gonna last a long time, you Mazal make it beautiful, right? Absolutely.

Any final thoughts, Jordan? I think we covered it, we’ve covered. I’m a big fan. We’ll put a link to this company in the description below. Huge thanks to Sigue that’s sponsored our trip here to Switzerland, and stay tuned for our next episode, where we’re gonna tour that other building I mentioned. It literally is one of the coolest, if not the coolest building I’ve ever seen in my life, so stay tuned for that episode. Otherwise, from Switzerland, we’ll see you next time on the build show.

Hey, guys, one quick final note. Jordan, I got so excited talking about the houses they’re building, we forgot to talk about the building that we’re in here. This is a beautiful building, this is the coolest factory I have ever been in. So they believe in all wood construction, not only for the houses, but also their factories. So there’s these beautiful all timber trusses above us, their glue lamps, and then the bridge crane, this five-ton bridge crane above us, there’s two tractors, two bridges on it, and they are both supported by glulam Rell. So the whole crane is held up by wood.

Now, here’s an engineering fact about wood: what is one of the strongest materials per weight that you can find? So for this whole expanse, it’s actually a very light building. Now, it’s not a very good material for size, so as you start getting strong and stronger, you have to start getting them bigger and bigger. So you see for this five-ton bridge crane, these glue lambs are really big. Now, they’re light, they’re lighter then still would be, but they’re bigger. So if you have the space, you can go with wood. Doesn’t work so good for like airplanes, airplanes doesn’t work so great for bridges, yeah.

Anyway, but check out these trusses, too, you guys. I mean, these trusses are incredible. I don’t know what the spacing on this on those trusses are, 20 feet maybe, and then the roof above that, I don’t know. I’m not sure how the structure of the sandwich is that sits on that, and this was 43 meters across there, spanning 43, 40, 30 meters. This bridge crane is spanning 43 meters, and then all of the trucks like a hundred volts every 120 feet, maybe 120-foot span with wood trusses, incredible, that’s beautiful.

And one last note that I thought was really cool is they have your panels, right? You have to put a sheer panel everyone swallow for when I love how they use this really pretty and very delicate in architectural steel design with some cables and some cool rings to kind of hold it all together. And then such a cool factory, very, very well done. Alright, guys, we’ll see you next time.

What is Mass Timber’s SWEET SPOT?

Siga Cross Laminated Timber