Institute for Timber Construction, Structures and Architecture IHTA

Buildings – from design and planning to production to remodeling. We are your partner for innovative, applied solutions in construction.

From integrating new technologies and information systems to surveying historical buildings: our research projects call for an integrated approach to every stage of a building’s life. Our client- and sector-specific market research supports companies and institutions in the construction, real estate, and other parties involved in the industry value chain. Through our research, we contribute to innovative, sustainable, energy-efficient, and quality construction methods.

Our partners
We work together with our partners in construction and real estate and their partners to research low variability, energy efficient, and integrated construction techniques.

Our collaborators
In the search for solutions for our clients and partners, we combine our team’s well-rounded knowledge into individual, interdisciplinary teams. Together, we find the best solutions for your problems. This includes, among other things, optimising and developing construction methods, support structures and individual construction elements of the building envelope. Also, our combination of civil and timber engineering capabilities with economic insights and expertise in architecture in a single institute is unique for Switzerland.

Our infrastructure
Our collaborators have a well equipped infrastructure at their disposal including modern laboratories and testing facilities and in the fields of load-bearing structures, buildings physics, windows, doors and façade technology as well as two manufacturing cells.  

Area of competence Structural and Earthquake Engineering
Challenging load-bearing structures and load scenarios require the appropriate research methods. The multitude of construction materials – steel, concrete, wood or bricks – as well as the various construction methods, such as hybrid, composite, or lightweight construction, create an interesting and dynamic environment. The seismic safety of buildings is also a must. We face this challenge and work on solutions for designing, developing, analytically and numerically verifying, as well as experimenting with loadbearing structures.
Area of competence Structural and Earthquake Engineering

Fire Safety and Building Physics 
Our team is competent in the areas of thermal and moisture protection, building and room acoustics, as well as fire safety. This scientific know-how is available for dealing with questions in the field of building physics and fire protection technology. Our focus is on applied research. Together with industry partners and using public funding sources, we address practical issues. The aim is to create improved products and innovations to help enterprises enhance their competitiveness and to contribute to solving problems in the construction industry.
Area of competence Fire Safety and Building Physics 

Windows, Doors and Façade technology
We address issues relating to construction, statics, construction physics, and production technology in regards to building envelopes and adjacent construction elements. Together with our partners, we develop and optimise products and systems in the areas of transparent curtain walls, windows, and doors. Important topics also include measuring and calculating heat transfer, anti-burglary measures, climate assessment, and testing vehicle components for use in public transportation. We are EN ISO 17025 accredited and are a notified testing center for windows and doors.
Area of competence Windows, Doors and Façade technology

Renovating Existing Structures and Historic Conservation
We take an interdisciplinary approach to historic buildings. Our core activities include the surveying and assessment of historic buildings and maintaining them according to the rules for the preservation of historic buildings. Interdisciplinary solutions from building physics, cultural history, and structural questions are our strength when it comes to remodeling and sustainable construction. We unite tradition and innovation in the areas of remodeling and densification.
Area of competence Renovating Existing Structures and Historic Conservation 

Integrated Planning and Production
We consider all aspects of production techniques in the wood and construction industries in an interdisciplinary and cross-institutional manner, focusing in particular on integrated planning and control. Issues include the efficient design and the planning and management of production and logistics, including the processing of wooden surfaces. We use result-oriented technologies, such as robotics, RFID, 3D scanning, rapid prototyping, and coating.
Area of competence Integrated Planning and Production

Market Research and Management
We analyse construction and wood product markets as well as the industry structure and define target markets for the construction industry’s value chain. Our focus is on client and sector-specific market studies, the continuous monitoring of construction activities, and decisions on material choices. Furthermore, we research the market potential and customer satisfaction for products and thereby support companies with the innovative implementation of their projects.
Area of competence Market Research and Management

Timber Construction
Growing heights, long spans, safety and efficiency are attributes ascribed to modern timber buildings. Together with engineers and timber construction companies, we work on questions relating to energy-efficient and multi-story timber buildings, high-performance timber support structures, and long-lasting wooden bridges. We study individual products, individual construction elements, and entire buildings, analysing their characteristics in the laboratory and running numerical simulations, and, if needed, we also can be found at construction sites. 
Area of competence Timber Construction

In the framework of service contracts we provide product testing, planning services, experts’ reports and consultations for industry and society. Our experts are equally at your disposal for further services such as feasibility studies as well as product and manufacturing optimization. At the Institute for Timber Construction, Structures and Architecture IHTA, we provide services in the following areas:

Load bearing structures
We adopt an interdisciplinary approach in our research and in our work. We examine components and supporting structures of wood and composite construction, and address issues of statics as well as building physics.
Area of competence "Load-bearing Structures"

Status detection and condition monitoring
A large proportion of today’s building projects takes place in the built stock. A status analysis reduces the risk of cost increases. It details the structural relations within a building, assesses both the bearing capacity and usability, reveals damages to the structural components and prepares for reinforcement, restructuring and monitoring measures.
Area of competence "Renovating Existing Structures and Historic Conservation"

Windows and doors
In the doors and windows sector, our services range from known tests for serviceability and break-in resistance to design optimization and also include the development of products, whilst taking into consideration technological possibilities and concepts.

Anti-burglary measures
Security is a key issue where doors and windows are concerned. For several years, the requirements for anti-burglar proofing have been clearly set out on a European level. We are an accredited and certified test centre for anti-burglary elements and, as the only Swiss testing institute, we test doors up to resistance class RC4 and windows up to resistance class RC3.

Building physics
We advise you on questions relating to acoustics and building physics, carry out studies and calculations and offer further education for architects, engineers and craftspeople. In addition, we examine the quality of the building and of the building envelope using various measurements and tests and provide experts’ reports.
Area of competence "Building Physics and Energy"

Integrated planning and production
We offer services within the entire process chain from data gathering, construction, generating and processing of production data up to surface finishing. We seek solutions for interface problems to ensure data flow and consistency. In our state-of-the-art production cells with integrated robots, we can test your site-specific automation projects in terms of their feasibility. We support you in your use of RFID technology, conduct operational analyses, compile material flow analyses and assist you with the optimisation of production processes.
Area of competence "Integrated Planning and Production"

Market research and management
We provide customised solutions for companies, organisations and federal agencies. Among others, we carry out market and customer analyses, surveys and interviews with property owners, planners and investors, as well as customer and employee surveys; we also organise topic-specific training seminars and conferences. Thanks to our infrastructure and our know-how from the Swiss building database, our versatile online and conventional survey tools, written and oral direct polls, as well as the visualisation of results, we can support companies with implementation-oriented consultations and workshops.
Area of competence "Market Research and Management"

Resource Wood National Research Program NRP 66

Dimensioning adhesively bonded timber joints
The project addresses adhesively bonded joints in the timber industry. The aim is to develop a reliable dimensioning concept that covers all relevant load scenarios in construction work. The information chain in connection with the dimensioning of timber joints needs to be questioned and re-evaluated; the insights will eventually culminate in a design tool for use in wood construction.
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Robot-assisted assembly of complex timber structures 
With the help of robots, complex timber structures can be precisely assembled from basic elements in a resource-conserving manner. For a three-year period, a research group working with several 1:1 prototypes will explore the effects of digital design and fabrication processes on structural timberwork for the future.
Fact Sheet (in German)
More information

 

Selection of further projects

Asphalt surfaces on road bridges with timber structures
When constructing durable pedestrian and cyclist bridges, extensive expertise is available to both planners and contracted specialist companies. This is not the case with the structural realisation of road bridges made from timber; there are still gaps in terms of detailed experience in certain areas. The research project " Asphalt surfaces on road bridges with timber structures" of the Bern University of Applied Sciences, Architecture, Wood and Civil Engineering addresses this issue.
Fact Sheet (in German)
More information

Clear Coat

 

Development of a method for colourless powder coating of engineered wood, taking into account the properties of the substrate and powder.
Fact Sheet (in German)

Eggo timber construction system– Flexibility in value creation and integrated system quality

In addition to developing an integrated timber construction system, the project provides the organisational and economic definition of a new business model. The results will offer small timber companies access to the residential building market.
Fact Sheet (in German)

Development of specific coatings for window tools
When producing timber window scantlings, it is an important goal to achieve a high level of milling quality so that the need for any grinding processes of the scantlings prior to varnishing is eliminated or that these can at least be kept to a minimum.
Fact Sheet (in German)

 

Timber end-use in Switzerland: construction industry, wood in outdoor areas, furniture and interior work, packaging as well as timber goods for 2009
The Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) and the Bern University of Applied Sciences (BUAS) assessed the timber end-use in Switzerland in six sectors. The compact results of the study provide facts and figures regarding the use of wood in the construction industry, in furniture and interior work, in packaging, timber goods in general and in the area of do-it-yourself. The wide-ranging, comprehensive database has been established on the basis of numerous surveys relating to the use of wood, construction statistics and planning permissions, business census, customs statistics as well as questionnaires.
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Market potential for glued hardwood products
The percentage of beech wood in Swiss forests has been continuously rising. Against this background, there is reason to develop and promote suitable products that can showcase the positive characteristics of beech wood. The Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) has instructed the Bern University of Applied Sciences (BFH), to conduct a market study for beach wood glued laminated timber (glulam), with prospects for beach wood cross-laminated timber in Switzerland.
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Rear ventilation of wooden façades
The research project investigates the boundary conditions in which wooden façades work without or with only very limited rear ventilation.
Fact Sheet (in German)

Hybrid buildings
In this study, the market volume as well as the amount of wood used are quantified for the increasingly important sector of multi-storey hybrid designs that are used in housing, commercial and public buildings.
Fact Sheet (in German)
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Experience gained from large projects in timber construction
The market for large projects in timber construction offers interesting and - for the past few years - growing sales potentials in housing, commercial as well as public building construction. The Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) has appointed the Bern University of Applied Sciences, Architecture, Wood and Civil Engineering to investigate, in the framework of a research project, the current developments and the decision processes in large projects in Switzerland.
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Reinforced insulating glass (VIR)
Contemporary architecture draws its powers of expression from sober and light volumes. This expression is achieved by means of transparency and in particular the impressive dimensions of the windows. On a technical level, this leads to an increase in the window surface planes with consequences for the weight of the elements, the structural strength of materials and the handling.
Fact Sheet (in German)

 

Lignofast

Development of a new technology to produce glued laminated timber for interior use, using fast acting 2K adhesives and new continuous press systems (Lignofast).
Fact Sheet (in German)

Market survey certification Swiss Sustainable Construction Standard SSCS
Despite the existing range of labels, there is as yet no uniform construction standard for sustainability that is specifically adapted to Swiss circumstances. The Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) is thus considering the introduction of a label based on the “Swiss Sustainable Construction Standard“ (SSCS). A survey conducted by the Bern University of Applied Sciences on behalf of FOEN indicates how experts asses the advantages and disadvantages of this additional label.
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Sustainable restoration of historically valuable buildings
When energy remediation in the historic building stock dating from before 1920 is undertaken, the use of current insulation systems for wall constructions often incurs loss of historic surfaces and substance. The research project “Sustainable restoration of historically valuable buildings” was launched in order to reduce energy consumption in existing buildings on the one hand and also to treat historically valuable building with due care on the other. 
Fact Sheet (in German)

New composite materials for façade engineering
The manufacturers of construction products are faced with new challenges like the ever-increasing requirements in terms building physics for the building envelope. Opaque façade elements of low overall depth, in particular balustrade panels or claddings behind blind casings, increasingly fail to meet the desired performance characteristics.
Fact Sheet (in German)

RFID in woodworking
RFID (Radio Frequency Identification Devices) Inquiry into the use of transponder technology in furniture manufacturing and determination of any development requirements.
Fact Sheet (in German)

Comfortable controlled climate in summer
Several measures might be taken order to ensure a pleasant indoor climate during the summer months. In addition to the two important factors «darkening windows» and «ventilation», the internal heat loads (among others: electronic appliances, cooking, people) and the room capacity are to be taken into consideration.
Fact Sheet (in German)

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Contact

Bern University of Applied Sciences
Architecture, Wood and Civil Engineering
Institute for Timber Construction, Structures and Architecture IHTA
Solothurnstrasse 102
Postfach 6069
CH-2500 Biel 6
T +41 32 344 03 41
fe.ahb(at)bfh.ch

Head of Institute
Prof. Andreas Müller
T +41 32 344 03 19
andreas.mueller(at)bfh.ch