Building products

19 November 2014

Modern wood products from Germany continue to be in high demand in the UK and around the globe for construction, interior finishing and furniture production. Dr Thorsten Mrosek of international marketing platform Wood Germany explains.

In the UK and around the globe, great demands are placed on modern building structures and materials, for example in the context of sustainable or 'green' building.

High standards also apply to products for interior finishing, furniture production and exterior applications. Architects, building planners, decision-makers in the real estate sector and project development, as well as furniture designers, are particularly appreciative of the fact that contemporary wood construction and high-quality timber products are able to meet the highest demands for technical performance, profitability, energy efficiency, aesthetics and sustainability.

As the German wood industry is among the world's technology and innovation leaders, its wood construction and timber products continue to be in high demand around the world. German design solutions that are particularly sought after include sophisticated and energy-efficient residential buildings, modern industrial and commercial buildings, and commercial and public buildings with aesthetically attractive roof structures.

In addition to kiln-dried sawn timber and planed products, sought-after modern solid timber products also include solid construction timber (KVH), balcony glulam (DUO/TRIO beams), glulam and cross-laminated timber, in particular.

Wood-based panels from Germany are also in high demand in the UK and, thanks to recent industry investments, beech LVL will play a larger role in the future.

While the German wood industry continually improves the technical performance and design of solid softwood products and wood-based panel products, major product innovation has taken place in hardwood and hybrid products for construction. For example, beech and hybrid glulam (spruce/beech) have been developed and used successfully in construction projects. Other innovative hardwood products include LVL for construction; thermally modified beech for exterior applications such as cladding, decking and garden furniture; laminated plywood shapes for furniture production; as well as laminated compressed wood for special applications such as components for car and airplane interiors.

Germany is home to Europe's largest wood resource (2014: 3.7 billion m³), a globally competitive wood industry (2011: about 127,000 companies, annual turnover of €180bn and 1.1 million jobs) and Europe's largest production of sawn timber (2013: 21.5 million m³, softwood and hardwood timber, including planed products). With a population of 81 million, the domestic market for wood products and wood construction is of major importance. However, exports also play an important role, for the sawmill, the wood-based panel and furniture sectors, in particular.

From January to May this year, Germany exported 2.6 million m³ of sawn softwood (including planed products) and 190,000m³ of sawn beech timber. The most important export markets for sawn softwood, excluding planed products, were Europe, China, the Gulf region and Japan. The biggest export markets for planed softwood were Europe, the US, South Korea, China and Australia. The most important export markets for sawn beech timber were China, the US, Poland, India, Mexico, Europe and the Gulf region.

During this period the UK imported about 99,000m³ of sawn softwood (+46%), about 45,000m³ of planed softwood, about 4,000m³ of sawn beech timber and about 85,000m³ of wood-based panels (+14%).

The UK is among the top export markets for German softwood products (top 8 for sawn softwood and top 5 for planed softwood), beech products (top 11) and wood-based panels (top 3). Germany has become one of the major wood suppliers of the US (top 5 for sawn softwood timber, top 4 for sawn hardwood and top 3 for wood-based panels).

Based on forecasts for the global wood products market, it can be assumed that demand for all major wood products will continue to rise over the next few years.

However, it can be expected to vary among world regions. For example, the European market will depend on positive developments in the general construction sector and, as a basis, of a strengthening of the financial sector. The German wood industry will continue to promote building and engineering with modern wood products.

The D1-Tower in Dubai features a glulam “petal” manufactured by Hess Timber PHOTO: HESS TIMBER GMBH & CO KG
Thorsten Mrosek