A number of Charleroi Métropole residents dream of building their own house. To do this, wood has today become a material with high added value and responds to a number of current problems, in particular environmental ones.
The nursery ‘La maison de Casimir’ in Baileux or the Résidence des Forsythias in Couvin were entirely built out of wood, by the company Stabilame, based in Mariembourg. The two services buildings were designed optimally with wood. Reason: wood engineering provides solutions for the future.
Local wood, high-tech engineering
For Stabilame, family company, wooden buildings are the future. This company is not the only one to think this, its growing success confirms it. Today, 75 people work for Stabilame, with a turnover of 11 million euros. However, let us clarify that we’re not just talking about wood as a simple material, but as a total reflection of what is around it.
Firstly, the wood is local: 60% of it comes from Belgium, from the provinces of Luxembourg, Namur and Liège. ‘Unimaginable 10 years ago when 100% of wood came from Scandinavia’, explains Nathalie Lebrun, communication manager at Stabilame. The wood is high-quality (softwood, larch, oak, etc.) and organically sourced. ‘The regrowth cycle is evaluated at 20-30 years for softwood’. And in particular, the carbon footprint of the manufacturing process: sawn in the forest, it will go directly to the sawmill, to production, and then to the site.
Stabilame offers an overall reflection on construction with wood
Secondly, wooden architecture is considered according to high-tech engineering. The building is designed from the start according to the flexibility and strength of the materials. ‘The whole structure is planned. We combine different wood techniques according to the realities on the ground’. Beams, timber, laminated wood skeletons, cross laminated timber assemblies (CLT), etc. The association of different techniques reinforces the building and reduces costs. ‘A 10-storey building can be built in CLT or by combining different wood building systems.’
What’s more, from the start, Stabilame focuses on planning sites to be as efficient as they can be: every detail is thought of. ‘If the wall requires an opening for a socket, the placement of that will have been designed on the plans and drilled in the workshop, before going to the site’. The company makes all of the materials in its workshops. It loads the lorry according to the construction of the building, the last parts to be loaded will be the first to be unloaded. On-site, the work will primarily consist of slotting the structures together. ‘In 10 days, the wooden shell is complete’.
A wooden house resistant to time and to fire
Although considered as an ancestral art, buildings made out of wood suffer from some clichés which persist.
‘When the first people who order wooden houses from the company are firefighters, it’s a challenge’. In fact, wood, in contrast to concrete or metal, retains its material properties faced with high temperatures. In the event of fire, the firefighters can estimate evacuation time, unlike steel or concrete buildings which can collapse at any time, made extremely fragile by heat.
What’s more, we also say that wood ages badly. ‘Yet another cliché! If you’re interested in buildings in Northern Europe or in Germany, we notice that high-quality wood lasts for centuries. Well-structured and arranged, it’s designed for sustainability’.
A future choice but not only…
Although wood with a high added value is more and more attractive, clients also come to Stabilame to resolve architectural problems. The company guarantees custom-made manufacturing. ‘A young couple ordered a structure from us. It was less than 100,000 euros. This budget primarily includes the residential structure. For the rest, the couple pitched in with building the base and the interior. A number of people also come to us with renovation or extension projects that are a bit more complex than the traditional house.’
Adapting to lifestyles is also a challenge: the evolution of families throughout the house’s life demands a good degree of scalability. A wooden house, in particular with the beam system, can easily evolve because the internal walls can be easily modified, as much the internal layout (making volumes bigger or smaller) as in easily extending the house.
The choice of wooden houses is a real option to think about for all of the Charleroi Métropole residents who want to build their own house, and a future sector for all investment or skills to develop.
Current architecture, clean lines, cantilevers, the technique of integrating, etc.: wood provides interesting and easy responses for architects
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