Is it possible to transition from traditional forms of construction to mass timber? In this episode with Rens Hayes from H + O Structural Engineering we found out how its done. Rens talks about his amazing project in downtown Boston. With a consortium behind the project consisting of Haycon, Monte French Design Studio, and Nordic Structures it was always going to be a success.
A few key details:
- Glulam beams and columns support 5ply CLT panels
- 7 stories under 70 ft with 8'-8" ceilings.
- Double-beam design permits allows columns to be pulled in from the façade with seamless cantilever sections.
- 7-stories, no podium!
Production by Deeelicious Beats
Music "Game Play" by Quality Quest
Podcast is a Mass Timber Construction Journal Production
Ladies and gentlemen, we are live. This is the moment you all have been waiting for. It's time for the Global Sensation, the one, the only, the undisputed heavyweight podcast in the world. The past Timber Construction Podcast, and now here's Paul Traver, your host.Paul:
As specialists in the field of timber engineering, hes Timber offers a unique range of services for architects, planners, construction companies and project developers. HESS Timber is a member of the Haslacher Group and is based in Germany, and they have specialized in the development and execution of architecturally challenged projects and can refer you to outstanding projects worldwide, such as the Museum Foundation, louis Vuitton in Paris and the free-formed Foyer and Bungil Place in the Casey City Council, near my hometown in Australia. In this episode, i speak Rensteph Thompson about HESS and how HESS is transforming the way that we build with timber specifically to inspire architectural brilliance and deliver something that's outstanding with a quality and a finish that's second to none. Please enjoy my conversation with Ren Steff. Ren Steff, thank you very much for joining me. It is a great pleasure to have you on the podcast. I've marvelled at what HESS has done for many years And, in fact, five kilometres from my house is a very large eagle which sits in Bungeau Place, which is a council house in my local city, and it is a fantastic building And that was a development through HESS. So please tell the audience who you are, what you do and just introduce yourself please.Rensteph:
Yeah, thanks, Paul. First of all, my name Rensteph Thompson. I'm working for HESS Timber since 2006. So since a long time already, I started with Matthias Loefmann, actually the founder of the company, a joiner that pretty soon started to have his vision that we would fabricate timber structures with a very high quality, similar to a wooden furniture product So sanded surfaces, special species and that kind of stuff And that was basically dictating our focus all the time, all the years, and I was lucky that I could start really early after he started with the company, just one year later. So it was like being some sort of a pioneer, just experimenting with different timber species, that kind of stuff. And the outcome that you just mentioned is, for example, Bungil Place, one of the good examples where you don't need any words. You just show this image of this nice free-form structure and people just don't need anything else. You don't need to explain anything, you just look at the image and then you know what's going on. That's our experience when we talk to architects or something. Just no comments. It's clear. This is just similar to, of course, other timber structures in the world, But this is one example.Paul:
And Buungil Place was actually. The design was formed from a competition that the council held, and Bungil was actually an Aboriginal term, probably related to the word place, and the eagle is a local animal to us in our community, where I actually live, and so the design came from the ethos of the eagle And it was an amazing project because the free-forming, very much a parametric type of a concept was just so impressive that at the end of it it really does look like a giant eagle. So, listeners, if you are interested, please have a look. I'm sure it's on the Hess website and I'm sure it's probably on the Bunjil Place website. Please have a look at it. It is an amazing sort of concept and very, very much a masterpiece of timber. And so Hess has been around for a while. You mentioned and you've got some great skills. You got in at the ground What makes Hess a different supplier to someone else that might be supplying glulaminated structures or mass timber structures around the world?Rensteph:
Well, i would say that we basically, as I just mentioned, we started to develop really new stuff in the glulam timber world, and a specialty that we developed where we started earlier, was the 3D glulam timber, which is not only the geometry at the end it's also the production process that comes with it. This process is a very special idea that we created and it was used also for different other timber projects that you mentioned in your podcast already with other companies where we provided, for example, the 3D glulam timber parts which have then been later CNC machined with the other companies. So this process is something. We also sometimes rearranged our production machines in a way that we could make that work. For example, we did the King Abdullah Center in Saudi Arabia, where we have really 24-meter-long glulam beams with. They are made from spruce and oak. The outer face of that beam, the outer surface, is oak, european oak, the core is spruce And the whole thing is just rotating by 90 degrees, not only a few degrees. It's rotating along the longitudinal axis and it's rotating by 90 degrees, which is really amazing. If you look at that geometry you would think that thing is going to crack or is going to fall apart, but it's really a big kind of I would call it really the most complicated parts that we've ever done. And in order to do this, we had to rebuild our glulam presses and do it in a way that this project could have been manufactured. And that is a unique thing, i would think, because at that time years ago, we have been a really small company and really developed our production together with the project, and that's what we did very often. Talking about the other jobs, like Cité Musicale in Paris, a live music concert building with a sphere which is also now a website So this was This is a unique selling point, definitely where we have a lot of experience. When we have new projects, we have a lot of experience that we can use to offer to the client And we have been experimenting with a lot of different timbers pieces. We know Baubuche very well. We started nine or 10 years together with Reif Poymeier, to develop that product. He was in our company very often. We started to develop the Baubuche products. We have manufactured a lot of Baubuche glulam beams, so we all know Baubuche is a diva. It's not easy to deal with Baubuche, so you have to know what you're doing, and so we used wide oak Acoya. We do a lot of projects with Acoya. At the moment we do the Google project in London, a big, big building. It's more of a facade kind of structure that we do, but it's a lot of Acoya that's going in there. Western Red Cedar, different species, so that's unique I guess for HES And I don't think that so that many companies that could provide that experience, because we have done a lot of jobs with different situations.Paul:
And the timber species. Mixing the timber species is becoming more of a common theme. So when we're looking at CLT, generally there's homogenous layers. The cross lamella and the longitudinal lamella are the same species. But even in Australia at XLam, we didn't necessarily use different species, but we used different types of material and we had to get the aspect ratio correctly for rolling shear and a number of other facets. When you're using different species, do you have a testing laboratory that you use, or do you use some methodology that allows you to test it on a smaller scale before you put the structure in?Rensteph:
We actually do a lot of testing with the universities. I mean just maybe to mention a project in Australia, the International House, sydney. The beams that are used there have big penetrations and openings for ducts and cables and everything. So what we did is we put in the middle of the beam we put an upright baubuchle lamella and glued on the sides spruce beams. So it's a hybrid kind of setup. That was tested at the University of Stuttgart with Dr Eicher, full-scale test, so full height, the right length of the beam, and it was amazing how much moment resistance and how much stress this beam could take. It was an idea in order to offer the client and the architect an option to say look, you can put in big penetrations in your beam, which usually is an issue for glue-lamp. And this veneer setup of the baubuchle is just increasing the strength and reinforcing the whole beam quite nicely. And the failure is totally different to a standard glue-lamp beam because it starts when you put on the force. It's deflecting down, it's starting to cracking but it's building up again another resistance after the first lamellas are cracking. That's it. Duc tile behavior, sort of ductile behavior for that kind of beam, is really good because it's a good failure mode. It's just that one crack and failing. It's going up and up and then of course in the end it's failing, but it's a good behavior also. So that was used several times actually to set up for Australian jobs. Also other companies have used it and that's how we usually work when it comes to really complicated kind of hybrid beams. Another example is Citea Musical where we used Rashid O'Roban actually was the architect from Japan and you know the culture in Japan is not to use and mix steel and timber. It needs to be a really clear kind of mix, just spruce. So if you look at the facade it's a big building and he was saying, look, i don't want to see any steel in the connections. And we were saying, oh, this is, we don't think this is possible. But in the end what we did is we just put in some like a baubuche system that is connecting each spruce beam with each other and there is no steel in the nodes, in the main connections, there is no steel. So this is a really true and system that Shigo O'Roban was looking for. That was also done at the university to test to make sure that this connection works. The small testing is done in our company, i mean the preliminary stuff. I mean we sometimes just try out different species and the glues and the press and the stress that we need for the pressure. So that's done in the company. But in the end, when it comes to the projects, we have to do it with scientific kind of background and make sure we do it right.Paul:
And part of the ethos of this podcast is actually to support people to enable them to do projects. When you look at testing significant testing you have small testing in your plant. You have significant testing at universities. How does this economically work for a client? Are they investing in this project or is HES investing in the project and sort of distributing the costs across the two parties so that there's an agreement to move forward? How does that economic pathway work from a testing perspective, please?Rensteph:
It changed actually a lot as well. If we go back into the past, let's say the last seven or eight years, it was more of a critical point to explain to the client look, we don't actually know if it's going to work, if, for example, white oak, you don't know how to glue together white oak because it's totally different to the other oak types that you know. And so what we did was just some internal preliminary testing of how we could send the lamellas, which type of sanding we use, which glue, and in the end it was difficult to get the costs covered by the client. It worked out, but it was difficult. Nowadays it's the PCSA kind of business where we do the preliminary service and testing for timber and different setups. It's a separate contract that we are on agreement that we are able to do with the client because we're explaining. If we do so, then you have the insurance. It will not only about the technical possibility but also for the costs later on. It's very, really important. So nowadays it's getting better and better. So we have agreements where we are able to do a preliminary design and testing And especially when the projects are pretty big, then it's likely that you have such an agreement.Paul:
And I agree with you The ethos that manufacturers are worked. With Exlam we actually had a fee-for-service scenario at the front end to help customers, enable them to do it. The testing was part of that pre-services agreement And then as the project got developed, of course, as a lead-in to the project proper didn't always guarantee you would win the tender, but the significant intelligence was wrapped in that pre-services agreement, the pre-construction agreement, and I think this is actually probably one of the best ways for people to invest in the project as true partners, because one of the main things that wraps around timber as a construction ethos is actually collaboration, and without that trust, without that collaboration, without moving together forward, the projects just simply wouldn't be feasible. You have been doing this for a long time. I know because I've experienced it. What's the secret? Is it the psychology of the contract that's important there? Is it the trust between the partners, or is it a bit of both, or is it something else?Rensteph:
You mean to be able to agree on such a.Paul:
Yeah, for someone to take a punt on HES, right? Your brand and reputation is part of this as well, right?Rensteph:
Well, yeah, i mean we always say that HES alone cannot make the project. And working out well The clients and the knowledge of the clients is really important, and also being capable of dealing with a project like CITI MoZiKal or it's really complicated stuff. So we as timber experts, we just We can explain what the difficulties are to the client, but in the end the client also has to cooperate with us in a way that we all get out of the job the way we want it. And that's, i think, also one of the important points when it comes to the challenges on the project understanding okay, who are you dealing with and are they going with you. And also the contracts are important. The CITI MoZiKal job, for example, this music concert hall in Paris, that's something where the architect said it's like an experimental kind of project. So what does that mean? You know that means, okay, we have to obviously try out something, we have to develop something. We don't really know if it works out at every single point, but this is something he mentioned all the time It's an experimental kind of project, but the contract is different to that. So I think that is something I would like to. I would appreciate if that could change a little bit to appreciate that the main contractor and the subcontractors are developing something and that could should somehow be considered an agreement and contract, and at the moment this is a little bit difficult. That's my opinion.Paul:
And Nolig, i agree with you And I think what's actually happening and maybe you can confirm this but around the world at the moment the projects seem to be more adventurous. They want to push the envelope more and more And people want to try and transform this very versatile material and push it to its limits, because that, in essence, is part of architecture. You know, we rate the tallest building in the world. Now we're pushing for the tallest timber. You know holistic timber building, now it's hybrids, but then along with that you've got different geometries and pushing the boundaries of the geometries itself. But somehow the contracting has actually stayed very much a legacy document. It doesn't accommodate for BIM, it doesn't accommodate for risk, it doesn't accommodate for distribution of costs and associated engineering innovation or feats right. So I agree And I think that's a challenge to anyone that's listening to the podcast that sits in the construction world These are some of the things that could transform that. I guess manufacturers like Hess are saying that if we have this better mechanism for development, we can achieve these amazing results, and it's generally the architect or developer driving that. So I agree with you. Let's talk a little bit more about some other significant projects in the world. I'm very privileged to have one of your staff members working here in Australia, tyson, and he tells me that there is one of the largest beams being distributed via a break bulk to our shores. If it hasn't already happened, it's going to happen. What else is happening around the world for you?Rensteph:
Yeah, actually the project that you mentioned is Mount Gambia's big convention creation centers. Yeah, this is a break bulk transport to Australia with 41 meter long beams, so I think those are the longest beams so far that have been delivered to Australia. I would think, yeah, so this is like there's a swimming pool in that building and it's straight beams and of course, that was pretty exciting to do such a transport. We actually wanted to use our has limitless system but due to the COVID situation in Australia, we just had to cancel that and come up with an alternative. But yeah, what other projects? I mean we are at the moment just really close by. Here in Germany We are doing a nice concert music building that has just been finished. So that is also a free form kind of roof system that we installed and developed also together with the architects. That's also something we would like to do a little bit more. I mean, we have not done so many jobs all the time in Germany And at the moment this is developing quite good. We have some interesting jobs coming up in Germany and doing in Germany And this music Kascheitz Forum is the name that's from a professional, well-known musician, and it's a place where the from all over the world. The cellists I hope that's the right translation and wording Cellists yeah, they come from Japan and they come to this place, which is called to Frankfurt here, And they come to this place to basically develop their musical skills and also young students can learn how to play the instruments. And that's all happening here in a small town called Kronberg, and we are pretty proud that we finished this job just now. Yeah, we have worked in the United States, have done a big fabrication hall in South Carolina, also straight beams with 36 meters span, but we used the HES limitless system, so we were using US workers to put together the system with supervisors from HES. And yeah, i mean, in what else have we done? I mean, one of the most interesting or amazing jobs is the Citi musical concept building. Because of the reasons that I just mentioned already no steel in the connections. Every single beam is a 3D kind of blue-land beam manufactured with a special lamella that is considering the geometry of the beam, so the timbre fibers are following actually the geometry of the beam, so you don't have any cut to the fiber, which is not having an impact on the strength and the resistance of the beam. That's actually the specialty that we developed to make the beams work more efficient, because we don't have much waste on a 3D beam and that has been used to system many times. Yeah, and so that's yeah, we are. We actually, when we talk about the market and maybe the countries that are interesting and it's just the projects are popping up, just like many years ago, the Diwan Tower in Dubai, yeah, where you know, at that time we had maybe 60 people working for us and so a small company And the architect came from Australia, by the way, and Ken McBride Ken McBride.Paul:
Yeah, ken McBride, he's everywhere, and you know? just another testament to the Australian architects. And hello, ken, if you're listening, because I think you're a Marvel mate and it sounds like Hess thinks you too, and so does Ren Steff. So there you go.Rensteph:
Yeah, ken is a. I've not seen him for a long while, but we had a great time in Dubai and he came up with this canopy kind of freeform geometry which is similar to the Banjo place looking at the beams and the setup. So, yeah, we started in Dubai not knowing much about Dubai, and we came to this job and the client came over and we explained to him the philosophy of Hess, saying, okay, we would like to provide really high-end quality to a timber structure. And they went with us to a swimming pool structure where we also provided a nice freeform roof in Germany, and they touched the beams and looked at the beams and we explained look, all the surfaces are sanded. It's not CNC machine, it's sanded surfaces. And they right away then said to us okay, let's do the one job you know in Germany. So you know it's very often the project pops up and we don't really think much about having a strategy for a market. It's more about a project and no matter where it is. You know, if it's South Korea, for example, we do it in South Korea. If it's I don't know somewhere else, then we would also do it. But this is how this was developed over the years and the projects came up somewhere and we just thought about the project itself and then created a solution for the client. Yeah, the Hess Limitless Joint is actually a patent that we developed in order to provide a solution when it comes to long beams that you need to transport somewhere in the world. Yeah, so a 40-meter long beam can be delivered to Australia, as we just heard, but it's, of course, cost-wise quite a topic. So we have an option to produce short beams, up to 12 meters, for example, send them to the construction site and then put them together in a way that this final beam it could be 100 meters long, 120 meters long, it doesn't matter, because the short piece is just like a puzzle. You put it together And we are not using any steel. The joint is not visible and the whole beam has more bending strength than a standard beam you would usually use, which means, due to this joint system, we are increasing the bending strength of the beam. So this couldn't add up to get you GL38 or GL40 even. And due to fire, you know, if you fire resistance, it's not an issue because there's no steel. Visually, no impact. The architects are happy. We sent our own team over to put the beams together and cost-wise it's interesting. Of course it doesn't make sense for two beams, but if it's a bigger structure then of course we have done it several times, as for the United States and many other cases.Paul:
And are details of that available on your website?Rensteph:
Yes, of course.Paul:
So anyone who wants to have a look at that can certainly go and do some research on that And look. I think it's a remarkable system because, as you said, it provides this reach that well, is limitless, i guess, based on your break-bought capacity on a ship, and it has all its advantages and I think it's really important for people to be aware of that. Let's take a different sort of tact. at the moment, what do you think the demand for HES services is going to be and thereby virtue products in the sort of 12 to 18 months after COVID? Some people are reporting projects have stalled, some said they've accelerated. What does it sort of look like for HES and where do you think it's going to go the next 12 to 18 months?Rensteph:
Well, we had just looking back a little bit. The last year we have really completed our projects but they have been moving forth and back all the time the big jobs. We just finished a big terminal in Southampton for the ferry cruise company and this job was moving back and forth. But we were happy to then finally send the last trucks back in December and the roof is now installed and complete And so for us it was okay. But it was difficult to move around the big jobs all the time. I mean, we have a big logistics chain and a lot of processes going on, so it's difficult to move the jobs around. And I think at the moment the demand we have a lot of inquiries, we have a lot of jobs coming up. It's actually quite. We don't have enough capacity to deal with all the jobs And we had to say two or three times no already the last weeks just because the timing and the program that the client was looking for is just not feasible. So I think it's you know that we will have a lot of inquiries still for the next year, so I'm sure And when are you opening your plant in Australia?Paul:
Now you tell me We welcome you with open arms. You've already got one in here and I think the gateway to Asia right.Rensteph:
So we have Tyson. So we're happy to have Tyson in the team and that's already great help because I mean my Marcus Kolinsky, the also the second managing director from the companies. He did a lot of trips to Australia and it's just time consuming and it's just not really something you can do all the time. So Tyson is there and we are happy to do the project in Australia And yeah, but good question for you.Paul:
It's all right, red Steph, there's always one that throws a bit of a curly one in there, so we've run out of time. However, I'd like to give you a last opportunity to anything else you'd like to tell us about HES and, in particular, how can people get in contact with you and start a project?Rensteph:
Well, I mean, first of all, I think and that's also the reason why I joined this interview I think you know what this podcast said to do is great, because people hear more about Timber and our passion all the time is to move the boundaries. We would like to show the world what is possible, And this also does blue malema and all those great companies that are pushing the boundaries. You know, being really trying to doing risky stuff as well, yeah, doing stuff the first time. So we are happy that we are part of this and that we have this nice grown wooden material and show people what we can do with it. That's the driving force here for Fahez And I think if people are interested to work with us I mean, the website itself shows what we are doing. We are also very creative. We also like to change existing structures if they are on steel or concrete or whatever into timber. That's something where I think we are also really good at. So if someone is looking at a timber structure is not sure how to do it because it's the original design is different, It's maybe steel or something else. I think we are a good partner to do it And, yeah, we have a lot of experience with the things that are just explained, And so I guess that is a good starting point to come together with new clients.Paul:
And we're hearing that you know, whilst you don't have immediate capacity for projects right now, one of the things that guests often tell me is early engagement is really important, right? So if you're in concept stage or working drawing stage of your project, get engaged now so you don't miss your slot when it comes to manufacturing at some point down the track if there's pressures on the capacity for the plant to produce the project. So I think that would be true for you also, right?Rensteph:
That's a good point, paul, because the projects that we are doing are running sometimes three, four, five years And as it's always important to really start early with we talked about the PCSA pre-construction kind of agreements and stuff it's really important to not develop something that later on is maybe an issue for a CNC machine or something. So I think that's a good point And early engagement, early getting together, is really important for the big projects.Paul:
And if people have a 3D concept, a rivet or solidworks or something like that, they can use that to come to you with concepts and you can feed into that, either through IFC or something like that, right And DWGs or whatever, and provide that sensibility to you, right.Rensteph:
Yeah, that's. I mean we work with all different types of software products all the time. Also, with the NASLAHA group we have opportunities because they use some different CAD systems. So we work with whatever is needed, but of course IFC files and 3D. I mean we are used to work with a 3D file Brilliant.Paul:
Well, thank you so much for your time. It's been an absolute pleasure And, yeah, look, please come back on the show. If there's something exciting and new, please get in contact, let us know what's going on. Even if it's a snippet in the weekly update, we'll certainly make sure that we get the news out there. And, yeah, thanks so much for your time on the podcast.Rensteph:
Yeah, thanks, paul. It was a pleasure to talk to you and meeting you the first time and wish you all the best for your podcast And certainly we will speak again. Thanks, bye, bye, bye, bye.