Mass Timber Construction Podcast

Mass Timber Construction Podcast Special Guest - Gianluigi Traetta - Rubner Holzbau

April 02, 2023 Paul Kremer Season 3 Episode 149
Mass Timber Construction Podcast
Mass Timber Construction Podcast Special Guest - Gianluigi Traetta - Rubner Holzbau
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Show Notes Transcript

In this special guest episode it is my pleasure to host Gianluigi Traetta who is the Specialist Sales Advisor - Technical - Commercial at Rubner Holzbau GmbH ‑ Srl based in Italy.  We discuss the nature of the supply chain and talk about the logistics of transporting large section Glulam via break bulk shipping, and the 'ecosystem' of technology required to support the development of project that Rubner complete around the world. Giangi tells us about several projects that he has completed with partners around the world and invites you to deliver projects with Rubner. 

Rubner Holzbau provides a complete Turn-Key Service, from Production of its own Glulam and CLT to the complete Project Engineering of your Design, to the On-site Delivery anywhere in the world. As an added value, Rubner Holzbau can also provide the complete On-site Assembly of its timber structures, thanks to its crews of expert, long-time installers. Rubner Holzbau produce Glulam and CLT to the complete Project Engineering of your Design, to the On-site Delivery anywhere in the world. As an added value, Rubner Holzbau can also provide the complete On-site Assembly of its timber structures, thanks to its crews of expert, long-time installers.

For more information, visit:

Josef Rubner Sr. laid the foundations for the Rubner Group when building the first water-powered saw mill in Chienes, South Tyrol, back in 1926. Now, 95 years on, Peter and Stefan Rubner, the third generation in the family, manage the company, which now has approx. 1,300 employees across 19 locations in four countries. The Rubner Group is now one of Europe’s leading timber construction companies, but the Rubner family has always stayed true to its roots.

Their passion for wood still is the beating heart of the South Tyrol family business: A passion for a versatile, natural, and sustainable raw material.

Enjoy the episode.

Production by Deeelicious Beats
Music "Game Play" by Quality Quest
Podcast is a Mass Timber Construction Journal Production

Sponsors of the Podcast:

International Association for Mass Timber Construction (IAMTC)
The International Association for Mass Timber Construction aims to promote and deliver value to its members and associated stakeholders through an all-encompassing approach to advocacy, thought-leadership, development for the architecture, engineering, construction, manufacturing sectors, provide education, training/teaching and research in establishing a global mass timber construction sector across the five contents of the world.

Delivering value through an all-encompassing approach to advocacy and thought-leadership.

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Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

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Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening wherever you're on the world today.

Welcome to the Mass Timber Construction podcast.

This is Paul Kremer signing on for another special guest episode and we have been trying to organize this podcast episode for a long time, including during COVID.

So it's my great pleasure to have Giangi on.

Would you like to introduce yourself and tell the viewers where you're working right now and a bit of your back history, please.

Yeah, thank you Paul for the invitation first to join this podcast.

You're right, we spent a couple of months trying to find the right time to record this podcast, but here we are.

So, to my person, my name is Gianluigi Traetta

I'm a structural engineering who started dealing with mass timber construction almost 20 years ago, so back to the end of 2003, working as a research and development engineer in Graz, Austria, under the lead of Professor Schickhofer.

After almost four years, I moved to Italy, to South of Italy, I come from South of Italy, and work as a structural engineer for a former Rudner subsidiary company.

Then after two years, I decided to come back to Austria, this time on the west side of the country, so in Vorarlberg, working again as a structural engineer in an engineering firm,.

Next to land in Germany, where I started a new phase of my working life, I started to deal as a technical sales engineer and working for the Merc Timber, currently named Söbling Timber.

And since 2016, so almost more than six years ago, I started to be part of the sales team at Rubner Company in the facility in the factory of Bressanone in Italy.

So that's my story.

Well, you have a long history in Mass Timber and for many people listening to this podcast, they're likely to hear that they've had, you know, five or six or seven or 10.

You know, I'm at 13 years in this particular game, but you're 10 years on me.

So you're 20 years in this industry, roughly versus me being half that, maybe a little bit more and others being a lot less.

But it just goes to show that the progression of mass timber over time has really grown.

And the other thing that I think is really incredible about where you've come from is, I don't know if it was Stefan Rubner or Wolfgang or even Peter Lang who said to me that the area you are located in is like the Silicon Valley of Timber and you know Graz University being part of this innovative, Innisbrook being part of this innovative location to really try and drive you know mass timber moving forward but we really do appreciate you and your expertise and you're at Rubner now tell me about what you're doing at Rubner, what's Rubner up to these days.

Yes, at Rubner now, as I said before, I'm dealing and working as a consultant engineer in sales.

I am the area manager of your country, so as you know, Australia and New Zealand, dedicated to this very, very, very promising and interesting market together with our local representative, take Australia, who are based basically a couple of kilometres from you.

So that's my current occupation in Rubner.

And you didn't get out to Australia recently.

You got struck down with sickness and things that were interfering with you coming out.

But I'm sorry we missed each other back in, I think it would have been June or July.

When you were meant to come to Australia and being a manager for Australia, when do you think you head back down here again.

Yeah, we planned to be at latest in June again.

So unfortunately last June I was really heated by this sickness.

I was expecting this moment since three years.

So my last A visit to Australia was also June 2019, so three and a half years ago.

It's too much, too much time.

And so it's latest, as I said before, next summer, next Italian summer or your winter.

So in June, but maybe let's let's let's surprise you a couple of months earlier.

Since my presence in Australia is compensated by the presence of our representative.

So basically with our three men's staff team, we bridge all the time differences, cultural differences, everything in languages.

It's quite working quite good, this cooperation.

Please, that you've got support around your Janji.

I think it's very, very important to have a global perspective.

Let's get to the hard stuff now.

So what have you been working on recently in.

Let's start in Europe and see where you go from there.

But any impressive projects you'd like to tell us about.

Yeah, I would start maybe from a job that was completed a couple of years ago.

And it's very close to our company in north of Italy, in South Tirol.

I like this project because it can really showcase our production capabilities and deal with so many cubic meters of mass timber in so a short time, with obviously an important client, an important architect behind this job.

I was speaking about the big factory.

Roberto is located one and a half hour drive from our facility in Bressanone.

For this reason, it's really a very, very important job for us.

Every time people coming from abroad to visit us, to understand what we do, how we do, for me it's the best practice, the best example I can show all the OC client and interested in timber coming from your country are really expired from this construction.

So a couple of words on it was designed by Kengo Kuma, so it was an international project.

It is basically a place where new companies take your own offices.

It's a redevelopment of an existing area dedicated till 2007 to the manufacturing of tobacco.

The area itself is 50,000 square meters and the redevelopment, so with this new eight buildings, timber buildings is approximately 24,000 square meters.

So we are basically speaking about 4000 cubic glulam timber and 3000 cubic meters CLT.

All these mass timber elements and products being processed, manufactured, processed, designed in Brestanone.

Here the challenge was not just the production, obviously 7000 square meter in total, it's a huge amount, but also the very, very, very tight program.

So we got awarded in 2018 and we had to deliver the first elements on site, basically the day after tomorrow, so at the beginning of July.

In between, we had to transform a design, an LOD 250 or 300, So basically not an execution design, a preliminary design, into shop drawings, into production drawings, and so on.

In the shortest time.

And then the second step we had to deliver to complete the timber structure within the year, the 2019 year.

So basically from contract awards to completion of the timber So we had just one here.

And that obviously was possible.

Also thanks to our approach and thanks also to have all the department in one factory.

So we start from the technical department.

We have sales department, obviously.

We have the production of both materials, CLT in small volumes, but it's a very, very flexible production, GLT.

We have all the possibility to pre-assemble and we have the installation department in the company.

For this reason, when we started to design, to basically bring the preliminary design into the construction drawings, we are thinking also on the manufacturing to speed up the manufacturing, to speed up the installation on site.

And that's, I think, the DfMA approach that in our high prefabricated industry have to be followed from scratch from the beginning.

So that allows us to be on time in this very, very tight program.

Just to give you a couple of other figures, we could install in five months the structure with a maximum presence on site of three teams, paralleling, not always, just in the moment where we could, because obviously the area is very, very, very large.

So with 12, 14 people maximum occupants on site of our installers.

A couple of records of this structure is that it's the largest surface covered by a green roof extensive green roof in Europe, 24,000 square meters.

That's also another important topic, the green roof, because it helps obviously in case of a flood and so on, and obviously also for the insulation of the space of the volumes underneath it.

And when it comes to your specialty products that you produce in timber, you're about 90,000 cubic meters for specialty GLT, is that correct.


And then when you do your other mass timber products, what sort of volumes do you produce on an annual basis for your, say, your CLT products, for example.

So, as a group, as a rubner, a large timber structure, and under this name, I would include, I include obviously the other companies dealing with the same kind of structures.

So we have basically six locations in four different countries, in Germany, in Austria, in Italy and in France, with two large facilities, manufacturing glulam and/or CLT.

So we have basically an overall capacity of 85,000 cubic meters in the Rubner large infrastructure segment and 10,000 cubic meter CLT.

The periodicity is this one is a vacuum, we had a vacuum press so we could achieve larger elements up to 4x17 meters.

For example, in the rover 8 job in the B factory, the longest CLT element was 16.

6, that is obviously time saving because you work with larger elements.

And obviously this vacuum press celloase also to make some special form like a carpet, carpet panels.

We used this one, for example, as a supplier in one job in Naples where we supplied carpet CLT elements.

Yeah, look, the vacuum press is very versatile.

We had two in New Zealand and X-Lam and you could create nine ply deep CLT and then you could effectively cut what we call Toblerone triangles out of it for stair treads and you would still have 100 mil throat to be able to put a stair system in place and it works quite well and then anything that's architecturally inspired, including you know, billets, then a plastic urethane separation, then another billet on top of it And you can use the vacuum press to be able to get that compressed appropriately for the billet layup or the specialty item layup.

And I think it's quite a beautiful combination.

I think if I was designing a plant myself, I'd have an automated press and I'd have a vacuum press as well to be able to do those architectural inspired things.

That's very, very interesting.

And I know that you were also very much involved in, you know, sponsors of the show, Rothoblast had an automatic warehouse and Rubner was involved in that.

Could you tell us a little bit about what you did to support their automatic warehouse.

Yes, we have obviously half an hour, three quarter of hours far from from Rothoblast.

Rothoblast is one of the most active company and group in in Italy.

is worldwide spread.

So it's a really very good guy.

What we did in this project is to supply, so to bring in the execution drawings into construction drawings, so the shop drawings, and produce, so manufacture the timber elements and pre-assemble as much as possible.

So it was a similar exercise.

We had for example very very big columns due to the very very large grid 20 by 20 with you know snow load of the mountain region and so on.

Portal frame with rigid joints basically the columns are not just one piece it's a combination of or four-six section mechanically connected to achieve the necessary assistance.

So the same was done also for these trees sticking out from the foundation of the Rotoblasts Automated Warehouse where we were, say, before the supplier of the timber, of the glulam structure.

Yeah, and the constructor on that particular project was from Austria or Germany as well, right.

Was it Kaufmann, Bau Systems.

Yes, and the Structure Engineer, Merzkele, where I worked 15 years ago.

John, you know, everybody.

Yeah, they are really specialized in this automatic warehouse.

As I was in the Ormbeam, so 2009, I had the luck to, the fortune to have the chance to visit another automated warehouse, 35 meters height, that from the bus is also more than 20.

So it's our impressive structure.

So it's something, you know, it's an initiative, but it's important also to bring some this kind of structure to be again, something that can help our CO2 reduction or storage in the construction industry.

And you've got representation in Australia and New Zealand, and you've got a bit of work here that you've done in the past.

Do you want to tell us about some of the work that you might have done in this region.

Yes, we had actually some interesting job.

We have in total, I think now we have about 10 jobs we've supplied in these six years that we are working.

So, continually in Australia.

And all of these jobs are some peculiarities.

So the library, for example, in Merrickville, was a particular and also awarded with the timber design, awards for the circularity of the columns.

Then we have a strong load, so very, very interesting.

So swimming pool roof with the entire beams having a length of approximately 47 meters, obviously not in one piece, joint but when we lifted or when we not because we have not in our scope of work the installation just the supervision or the assistance on site when the installer installed this shoe base was really impressive so 20 I think something like 20 tons was the lift over shoe base.

Then another interesting project was a chat-sync link it's a smaller one but very particular it It looks from an architectural point of view really amazing.

So the combination also of large, of Siberian large, which we could use at that time.

Now it's a little bit more difficult with a transparent white, give really a very, very good outcome from this connection part between the largest shopping center in the South Amesphere and the hotel.

Then we had a couple of other jobs like Norcot now that is in construction as a swimming pool.

The Eric Twiddler Stadium also awarded, so got the Team by Design awards.

And nowadays we are delivering, so I would say 10 containers are already in the sea and in a couple of weeks other contents will be shipped forward to universities.

So one in Melbourne, Xavier College, and the second one is in Sydney, the McFlyer University.

Thank you very much for that.

I'm really pleased with the number of those projects, the Chadstone project.

Actually, Chadstone is one of my favorite shopping centers to go to, not just because of the Rubner materials that are in the building, but it's a fabulous place to go and the variety of shopping is great and the food is great, location is great.

And I actually had meetings in the main hotel and walked across the connection system that exists between the shopping centre and the motel.

It's a very, very inviting place and the timber is a stunning addition to that particular building.

And the design for it, are you designing that in like a Revit type platform or are you using CAD work or are you using something else to be able to design the elements.

What's the sort of program you use to work with.

Yeah, you know, it's the software we use in this large project.

Obviously, it's not just one because every production facility has their own software which I've obviously to speak with the other one so it's actually a combination of software so we can deal with almost all the program on the market and obviously the interface is an IFC that we can be shared and can be then coordinated because obviously the most important thing when using a beam approach to the project is that F2B must be a beam coordinator that can really get all the information and place into one model to avoid clashes, to avoid all this kind of stuff that can actually work as a worst thing, actually the final outcome instead of getting better.

So it is something that we have all been aware of.

Yeah, and look, I have seen such a portable device.

I think that in my experience, we've found that BIM is great at the architectural level, but it's not very good for the construction level.

And so when you go down the levels of design to get something that's quite high in detail for say construction, it often takes on the form that manufacturers like yourselves get involved in that.

In fact, Nathan Benbow, who was the engineer on the 55 Southbank Building, which is the vertical extension in Melbourne, he modelled that entire building.

Yes, the vertical extension.


Well, Nathan modelled that in solid works or something like that down to the screw to get the angle of the screw right for the contractors to really understand how the plates actually come together and the angles required to be able to make sure that the connections hold firm for the actual build for the engineering of the building.

And I think it's very much incumbent on the manufacturers, people like yourself, Giangi, who have to get it right.

And you're right, there's interoperability between the programs.

You'll do engineering assessments, you know, RFM on the models, and then you'll bring that back into a construction system that might be for the CNC.

It's quite a complex ecosystem.

Do you think one day, Giangi there'll be one software that'll do it all.

I think the future or companies are trying to work, maybe not to one software but one family of software which at least ensure the compatibility between all the systems.

So I can maybe draw the structural model and then I can import somewhere or the opposite.

I start from the architecture and then I can import directly.

Because you know, different actors which are playing this game, a structural engineer, architects, a fabricator, installer, plays at a different level of accuracy.

So in the structural model, I can allow 5 cm more or less.

When I cut CNC, plus/minus less than 1 mm, is my position, my tolerance.

So let's see what the future will bring to us.

And do you reckon that there is one company that's going to create the family of software or do you think it will always be a blended family.

So a little bit from Revit for the architects, a little bit Techla or Dluble for the engineers, a little bit Cambium for the manufacturers or do you think someone's going to create a family and buy all the companies and say, you know what, I can make this one ecosystem.

But much like Adobe did with all of its creative design software, it brings it all into one system called Adobe Systems.

We haven't seen that generation happen yet, but do you think one day maybe that could happen.

You know, the expertise you need programming such different work, the program which works in really different ways, Dlubal, Tekla to do RFEM, and so on, are specialized, obviously, in the structural design, bringing it really to the boundary of the of consideration of everything with all the kind of different load cases you can put on it, different second order theory for compression elements and so on.

So it's really complicated, complex from this kind of needs.

So from the construction point of view, from the manufacturing point of view, obviously we have to have the possibility to really model everything in the easiest way as easy as possible.

So I think in the programming, the knowledge you have to have is too bright that can be just get from one company too much from the programming.

So we'll be maybe with some compromising between so agreement between different leaders in their own speciality.

Yeah, it makes sense what you say and I think you're right.

It takes a considerable amount of time in university to learn engineering similarly with architects unless you're doing an archeneering course bringing the two together, which is what's actually starting to happen.

You know, engineering used to be done by architects and vice versa.

And they split away and now they're coming together again, because there's efficiencies in doing that.

Likewise, in building, modelling, and then using CAM machinery, you know, that position's coming together as well.

So there's almost this amalgamation of intelligence that's coming together through a morphing of these positions.

So maybe we'll see something come up in the next 10 years, but nothing right now that's going to be a family, I guess, the way that we've ideally described it in the podcast.

What are the biggest challenges for you as a company now.

Is it do you still have feedstock issues.

Are you finding that logistics and transport are an issue.

Because I know Ruben has been at the forefront of transporting products on break bulk, very large sections in the hull of ships.

How is the transport aspects of feedstock in and materials outgoing for you guys.

Yeah, for sure.

Also from a cost perspective, the transportation logistics has put out in a really bad position, I would say in the last one year, but obviously we we had to deal with it and now things are getting better.

But we had time when all the container costs exploded and breakbacks, so we had a couple of examples of breakbacks, logistic.

For example, so we had in the past, one large job in the Philippines.

Fortunately, it was completed well before this COVID time, but in that case, due to the particularity of the structures.

So we speak about 65,000 square meters covered surface with a barrel roof.

So it's basically made by a system, a three-inges system, Span 30 meters, height is 15 meters.

So 23 meters long part are composing this entire arch, and they have to be shipped per sea.

We had a very good experience.

So I was not directly involved.

This job was successfully followed and performed by our company in, near Vienna in Austria, followed by, from Anton Banas, which, as I really explained to me, was this break-balk transportation logistic at that time.

So starting from the company, then 45 kilometers to the first port on the river, then going with a, So a barge, a river barge from that port that screams for 1,100 kilometers in 14 days to untwarp in Belgium.

So starting from Austria, heading to Belgium, throw this canal, the new main and rain rivers, put on the brake on the on the sea going vessel as a brake bulk 60 days to the port of Macton-Sable and then the last 10 kilometers by track.

So that's it something that in that case and also another project is for sure the most effective solution.

Nowadays it's a little bit more complicated in terms of prices.

The situation is getting better, I said before.

At that time, obviously the challenge was that he had to organise these three shipments well before you were going into production, so some months before, so they had to really shipping date.

So in In this case, when you have a break by logistic, obviously the organization of the transportation of the logistic is more complicated.

When you were describing the journey of the timber along the river system, including the Rhine, all I was thinking was about European river cruises for people, not European river cruises for timber elements.

This is quite an amazing journey that the material goes on just to hit the open sea and go to places like the Philippines, etc.

It's quite an impressive journey that you've described there.

And what's going to happen next, do you think globally with, you know, Rubna, you have got, you know, a fingerprint that's starting to expand across, you know, the globe, you know, doing work here in Australia and you're picking up some major projects like the fish market and Xavier College and Chadstone.

And it's quite an interesting thing to see that.

Then you're also based in Europe.

What's the next thing, Giangi.

Where's Rubner headed.

So Rubner is headed actually to the project which are familiar with our business model, wherever they are, so that's our way of thinking.

For example, now we are in the construction phase of the tallest multi-story building in Germany, 16 stories out of 20, total amount of floors of levels.

And as I said before, the distance is not an issue.

We are global players, more than supply our knowledge to Australia.

So every other land is closer to us.

So it's just the right project which is really familiar with our business model, which are multi-storey buildings.

So commercial industrial buildings, large scale buildings, I mean, obviously.

And so buildings like individual buildings, so like like fish market and so on.

We have just completed so a couple of months ago, obviously for pavilions at the expo of Dubai, challenging, obviously for many aspects.

And yeah.

That's excellent.

And listen, how do we get in contact with you, Jhansi, if we want to connect with you and understand more about the Rubner model.

I think it's an interesting way of doing business.

The model effectively says, you investigate us, we'll investigate you.

And if we can come together in a meeting of the minds, then the projects can be successful.

Is that about right.

Yes, you are really 100% right and I'm with you.

The earlier we got involved in the project, the better outcome we can expect and achieve.

So it's something that you call in Australia early contractor involvement.

I would call it early supplier or subcontractor because at the end of the day, we are the timber specialist.

And as early as you can get on the same table, all the actors, I mean the timber specialist, the construction company, or the individual, so designer, structural engineer, architect, the A/M/AP specialist, because it's obviously getting also these topics into one project installation, the better outcome will be achieved.

So please do not hesitate anybody to contact us also in very, very, very early stage of the project.

We can be reached out through our website, basically.

You have the chance if you belong to one of these four countries, so France, Germany, Austria or Italy, you have also the possibility to choose the right company and to find the right person at one glimpse in a couple of clicks.

If obviously the inquire comes from other countries or the job is in another country of the world, it will be just redirected to the right people in a couple of days.

So basically use our website also to see what we have done in terms of references all over the world.

And I'll put the website address in the show notes for this particular episode too.

And I'll give people your your home telephone number.

Is that OK.

Yeah, OK.

I'm only joking.

I wouldn't do that to you.

Giangi it's been awesome to have you on the podcast.

And I'm looking forward to catching up the next time.

And I just thank you for your time today on the podcast.

Thank you so much.

Paul, thank you again for the invitation to give me the chance to explain a little bit what we do as a Rubner large timber structure, so manufacturer and installer.

And I hope we can meet very, very soon in person.


Thanks, Giangi

Thanks how it thinks.