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For a company using “We’re building the future” as its tagline, innovation and performance are central concepts. Consequently, a few years ago, Steffen Holzbau joined Luxinnovation’s Fit 4 Innovation programme in order to analyse how to further improve its organisation and work methods. The input provided by the programme’s expert consultants helped the company increase its margins, boost its financial results and expand its staff by another 20 people. It also launched a continuous innovation process, the latest outcome of which is the “Holz-Beton-Verbundträger” project.

An innovative construction element

The aim of this project is to develop a ceiling construction element that provides a new configuration for the passage of ducts. This innovative concept allows for modification of the ducts at a later stage without this having an impact on the bearing system of the ceiling. By combining the advantages of wood and concrete, the beams can be longer and carry more weight compared to pure wood structures. “Our beams also meet all the criteria for fire protection, acoustic insulation and deflexion without losing any of their flexibility,” adds Managing Director Matthias Hettinger.

It is thanks to Luxinnovation that we found out about this co-funding opportunity.

Steffen Holzbau developed the beams in close collaboration with engineering bureau PHIP. “We often work together, and the combination of our know-how in wood construction and the engineering idea of PHIP gave birth to the project,” explains Stephan Hostert, who manages the company together with Mr Hettinger. When discussing the project idea with Luxinnovation, the agency brought up the possibility to apply for an R&D subsidy from the Ministry of the Economy. “It is thanks to Luxinnovation that we found out about this co-funding opportunity,” he says. “They advised us on how to design the project, helped us to prepare the subsidy request and supported us in our contacts with the Ministry.” Luxinnovation also provided input on how to establish a solid partnership agreement with PHIP that would be beneficial for both partners.

The wood-concrete beams are used for the first time in Steffen Holzbau’s new administrative building that is currently under construction. “We are still in the test phase,” underlines Mr Hettinger. “We have successfully tested the beams’ ability to carry weight together with RWTH Aachen University. Once all tests have been finalised and we are completely convinced that our requirements are met, we will put the beams on the market.”

Wood: the most sustainable building material

The “Holz-Beton-Verbundträger” project has already been presented to the members of the Luxembourg Wood Cluster, who visited the building site in November 2018 as part of a tour to four innovative Luxembourg projects based on wood. Mr Hettinger is part of the Wood Cluster board and plays an active role in its efforts to promote the use of wood in all possible applications. “The cluster brings together a very interesting group of stakeholders: forest owners, sawmills, construction firms and architects as well as representatives from relevant ministries and administrations”, he says. “We work together to overcome the prejudices that still exist concerning the use of wood as a material and to do away with the obstacles for its more extensive use.”

For Mr Hettinger, it is a pleasure to be part of these efforts: “At Steffen Holzbau, we consider wood as the building material of the future, because it is the most sustainable material. This is of course a long process, but we are on the right track.”

This article was originally published in Luxinnovation’s Annual Report 2018.

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