Wood construction is traditional in the Alps

Wood construction fosters a strong sense of regional identity in the Alpine region – but delivers plenty of innovative edge, too.
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  • 2023, Sawn timber, Markets and trends

Wood has been a traditional – even iconic – construction material in the Alps for centuries. Its various advantages have never been more important than now.

As a sustainable resource, wood is the truly climate-friendly alternative for all builders. Helping cut building costs and time, wood construction features excellent energy efficiency with a low carbon footprint. What is more, wood-built homes make for extremely enjoyable living environments.

Nadja Riedweg, Head of Marketing and Sales of Swiss Balteschwiler AG, reports that wood construction is steadily gaining market share throughout Switzerland, especially in multi-family houses. Balteschwiler specialises in timber products for inhouse building and facades, terrace- and garden building.

The department of Architecture, Wood and Civil Engineering at Bern University of Applied Sciences calculates that timber construction currently accounts for 15.6 per cent of all construction categories.
“The use of timber is noticeably on the increase, especially in our company, which uses large format panels such as Kerto® LVL,” says Riedweg.

Sustainable building on tradition

Riedweg points out that wood building is a centuries-old tradition in the Alps.

“In the canton of Valais, for example, there are wooden buildings that were erected in the 14th century and still exist today. They are a wonderful example of how durable wood is when it is used the right way.”

Riedweg points out that two main types of timber construction are used in Switzerland today: timber frame construction and solid wood construction.

“Wooden post-and-beam construction is still currently more common, but solid wood construction is steadily gaining in importance.”

Riedweg says that general awareness of sustainability has certainly grown throughout Switzerland in recent years.

“Especially in the Alpine region, people are increasingly turning their attention to the traditional and sustainable timber construction method.”

Sustainability is a central factor for Balteschwiler’s operations: the company seeks to make its entire business as responsible as possible.

“Our product range already meets high standards, thanks to the clear focus on wood that we have always had.”

Wood has always been used as a building material in the Alpine region.

Craftmanship that endures

Gerhard Dengg, Purchasing Manager for Austrian Rema Massivholzplattenwerk GmbH, agrees that sustainability is a top issue in business today. The company produces solid wood panels, door frames, door blanks and timber under the brand REMA.

“There is widespread consensus in the Alpine region about the sensible, sustainable use of wood. Starting with a functioning forest, which is vital because it protects everyday life,” he says.

In Austria, people have always liked to build with wood and this will continue to be the case, Dengg believes.

“New products such as CLT have brought a breath of fresh air into the industry and ensure that wood will continue to gain in popularity. The growing prefabricated house sector is also trending more and more towards the use of modern wood products.”

The rich wood construction heritage of the Alpine region is clearly alive and well. Wood has always been used as a building material in the region due to its good availability and ease of use.

“In part, this ancient art still lives in traditional log buildings. Many developments and standards of today’s timber construction are based on and derived from these traditions.”

“The craftsmanship has certainly remained. Without it, there would be no modern wooden buildings today,” Dengg says.

Sustainable alternatives abound

Balteschwiler and Rema are both long-time Metsä customers. Moritz Burk, Sales Manager, Kerto Offsite, for Metsä Wood in Bremen, says that wood is very prominent in new construction, such as beams and visible timber connections.

The current sustainability drive is a force to be reckoned with – and it is only getting stronger, Burk reports. For Metsä Wood products, this bodes well.

“We can be a good partner for customers because we provide the right products for their systems. Our products are suitable for massive timber frames, especially for multi-storey buildings and timber frame production.”

Wood construction appeals to architects and investors

Burk says that wood construction is a topical subject for architects, too. Moreover, as low-carbon policies and regulations are increasingly emphasising wood, investors are asking for it.

“Some traditional building companies are being asked by investors if they can offer something ‘greener’,” Burk says.

From Metsä’s perspective, the prospects for Alpine wood construction look appealing:

“The future is great. Wood products themselves, along with wood-driven building methods and systems, are presently going very strong, and trends such as the circular economy are contributing to their popularity.”

This article was originally published in Timber Magazine issue 2022–2023.

In this article


Nadja Riedweg
Head of Marketing and Sales for Balteschwiler AG. The company has been buying sawn timber from Metsä Fibre’s Vilppula sawmill for almost 50 years.



Gerhard Dengg
Purchasing Manager for Rema Massivholzplattenwerk GmbH. The company’s partnership with Metsä Group has existed for more than 20 years.



Moritz Burk
Kerto Offsite Sales Manager for Metsä Wood in Bremen. Knows that sustainability trends and architects’ preferences are both contributing to the popularity of wood in the Alpine Region.