• HBE is glulam panels with a T&G profile.
• Hüttemann produces 15,000m³ of HBE a year.
• Boards are supplied in two standard sizes.
• Ceiling and floor elements are made to order.

Solid timber construction has grown in popularity in recent years and cross-laminated timber has probably become the most well-known.

However, German glulam manufacturer Hüttemann has come up with another solid timber solution aimed particularly at domestic housebuilding – glulam panels with a tongue and groove profile.

Hüttemann has been manufacturing the system – HBE – for about eight years and it has quickly gained a following in Europe for whole house construction.

“We’re now producing about 15,000m³ a year,” said Hüttemann’s export manager, Uwe Herring. “Its roots are in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, but the system is being used everywhere in Europe.”

UK market

Now Hüttemann is targeting the UK, through agent VIDA, and has already hosted visits by UK distributors and housebuilders.

Mr Herring believes the market has great potential for HBE. The solid nature will appeal to a market used to brick and block and glulam’s design values are a known quantity.

“Everyone is able to do the structural design; it’s much easier than cross-laminated timber which is not standardised,” said Mr Herring.

And because HBE is produced as stock items and the route to market is through importers and distributors, there is business to be had along the supply chain.

“With cross-laminated timber the profit stays with the producer; with our system the profit goes to the importer, distributor, designer and housebuilder, so profit is made in the UK,” said Mr Herring.

Standard sizes

All HBE boards are 10cm thick and, for wall elements, it is supplied in two standard sizes – a 36cm-wide one-man panel (so called because one person can lift it); and a 56cm-wide two-man panel. Each is produced in 13.5m lengths, about five times the height of a single storey, which can be cut to size and at set intervals there are cable channels for wiring.

Ceiling and floor elements are made to order, generally on a lead time of around two weeks.

The panels, which are slotted together along the T&G profile and fixed with screws, can be put up on site or pre-assembled in a factory.

Either way, an HBE building can be erected quickly, said Mr Herring, adding that the price is similar to that of more traditional timber frame.

Two-storey structures can be built easily and taller buildings are possible but require “more effort in structural designing”, said Mr Herring.

Housing market

While housing is a target market for HBE, Hüttemann also supplied the product for a sports hall in the Netherlands.

Mr Herring lives in a two-storey HBE house which, for him, is the perfect illustration of HBE’s advantages. He and his family moved in just 2.5 months after production of the house started in the factory and the construction provides an ambient living environment.

“The indoor climate is perfect,” said Mr Herring. “Humidity is 50%, which is perfect for living, and it remains stable throughout the day and the different seasons.”

The house does have underfloor heating for the cold northern Germany winter but Mr Herring said HBE’s good thermal properties mean energy consumption is low.

“Many HBE houses have been built and I’ve not met anyone who isn’t satisfied,” he said.