The Acceptability of Timber Housing in Germany

In Germany, in contrast to many other countries, timber housing is associated with barrack-like structures, cheapness, vulnerability to fire and impermanence, although in terms of habitable quality, constructional physics and other aspects, wood possesses many unique advantages. Recent examples of timber housing construction for rented accommodation demonstrate the ability to create dwelling space of high quality at a lower cost and without any reduction of comfort. Unfortunately, the majority of the tenants have been immigrants or people living near subsistence level, so that the average citizen has not been confronted with the habitable quality of such housing. In addition, the fact that all timber system structures are clad internally with plasterboard, so that wood as a material is not evident, is a source of amazement to any tenant. Differences in living styles are, of course, implicit to timber construction. The presence of sprinkler systems and smoke detectors in living areas is unfamiliar, and there is the recurrent problem of wall fixings, with the need for special studs and the danger of damaging the vapour barrier in external walls, bathrooms and kitchens. Furthermore, although warm-air heating systems would seem ideally suited to timber construction, few experiments have been ventured in this direction. A wider acceptance of timber structures would, therefore, seem to presuppose a process of education and a new attitude towards the advantages they offer.
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