Digital Planning in timber construction

Timber construction and digital planning processes have a dream team for years. In timber construction, 3D planning has been the standard for decades. The perfection of the components and processes is impressive.

Wooden buildings can be prefabricated and are ready after a short construction time. This is one of the great advantages of timber construction. To make this possible, construction projects are planned down to the last detail before construction begins. A so-called digital twin, including all information on the construction project, is produced.

In the 3D model of the "timeout" staff restaurant at the Aarau Cantonal Hospital, all the information from various specialist planners come together.

The timber construction planning as a principle

In conventional solid construction with a low prefabrication level, planning often continues into the execution phase. Adjustment work on the construction site and slotting work for electrical and plumbing installations are part of the process. This is different with timber construction projects: It needs a clear cut between planning and execution. The cable routing and all installations are planned in advance. For the the building owner, this means that by the end of SIA phase 51, they have to make the definitive decisions about the placement of installations such as ceiling spots, junction boxes and wall boxes. They are already installed in the wooden elements in the manufacturing plant.

Planning process suitable for timber construction

A wood construction-suitable planning is completed prior to the start of construction. Between planning and execution there is a design freeze.

Research projects for planning in timber construction

For the further development of timber construction planning, we are involved in research and development projects with universities and associations.

LeanWood research project with the Lucerne University

The leanWOOD research project at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts developed new cooperation and process models for prefabricated construction with wood. Timbatec contributed project data and accompanied the project as an expert.

The leanWOOD research project aimed to better exploit the potential of industrialized timber construction. To make this possible a new, timber construction-oriented planning culture must be established. This includes new structuring of the process sequence from planning to execution as well as time- and phase-appropriate integration of relevant know-how. And new cooperation models for increasingly larger and more complex timber structures.


In cooperation with international research and business partners, a number of construction projects were analyzed in terms of process and cooperation. These will help in future construction projects to determine the suitability for the company's own operations, as well as to provide clues for the composition of the planning and execution teams. In addition, various contract award models were analyzed.

The findings from the research project can be summarized in an ideal planning process, which is as follows:

1. perform a complexity analysis before starting the project
2. involve the contractors at an early stage, as early as the design phase
3. enable adaptation of contract award models
4. single source of truth, a single 3D model on which all planners and planning contractors work simultaneously

Detailed information about the project can be found on the website of the of the HSLU.

Research project DeepWood with the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts and the Bern University of Applied Sciences

The research project DeepWood took up the challenge of how to realize the cooperation of several disciplines simultaneously in a common model. The model used was Cadmaker's timber construction model in Vancouver and Dessault System's 3DEXPERIENCE platform.

Based on the idea that in this approach the «noise» of the interface problems of current BIM - projects can be eliminated, new structures for a future real-time, cross-company and collaborative planning in timber construction have been exploratively and tested in Living Labs. In parallel, a performance matrix was developed that provides guidance on how architects and specialist planners can manage progress of a project in prefabricated timber construction in a concerted manner that is appropriate for timber construction.

Despite the success in Living Lab 2, the transfer of the Cadmakers service model to Switzerland is still difficult to realize. On the one hand, there is still a need for research on the technical side. On the other hand, the entry barrier for specialist planners is very high, the lock-in effect has also challenged the research team and building qualified professionals for modeling is another challenge. In developing of a disruptive DeepWood business model, solutions to these hurdles need to be developed.

Project team and further information
Lead research partner:
-Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts T&A, Competence Center Typology & Planning in Architecture

Research partner:
- Bern University of Applied Sciences AHB, Institute for Digital Construction - and Timber Industry

Main implementation partner:
- Timbatec Holzbauingenieure Schweiz AG

Other implementation partners:
- Dassault Systèmes (Suisse) AG
- Helbling PLM Solutions
- Stuberholz AG

Network project "TGA-Timber" of the Wood Research Austria

Technical building equipment (TGA) has increased in scope and relevance for energy-saving reasons. However, when it comes to planning the construction method is not taken into sufficient consideration. There is a lack know-how in wood construction and concepts and solutions adapted to the construction method.

Timbatec is therefore involved in the network project «TGA-Timber» of «Holzforschung Austria». In the course of the project, an optimized interface concept was developed in an iterative exchange of knowledge between research institutes, specialist planners and contractors. With new processes, planning and and execution can be made more fluid and thus more cost-effective. This allows timber construction to fully exploit its advantages in terms of prefabrication and construction speed. Timbatec is already incorporating the findings into current projects.

TGA Timber research project

Project image: Technical building equipment in multi-storey timber construction, «Holzforschung Austria».

Here you can find the research report TGA-Timber - Technical building equipment in multi-storey timber construction.

The performance matrix provides guidance on what timber construction-ready planning looks like. All stakeholders provide the right information at the right time. This is the only way to complete planning before construction starts. This is necessary for the prefabrication of the timber components.

The planning suitable for timber construction

You can find more information on digital planning in timber construction in our magazine «Timber Construction and Digitalization».

Timber contruction and digitalization - Hand in hand towards the future

Timber contruction and digitalization - Hand in hand towards the future

Timbatec Magazin 2/2020

For timber construction planning, we usually use the Cadwork software. The example with the prefabricated wall element and the facade elements shows that all information is included in the plan.


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