Work on The Cube in Utrecht progressing faster thanks to timber-frame construction

On behalf of construction company Van Wijnen, Machiels Building Solutions (MBS) is producing sustainable timber-frame façades for The Cube in Utrecht (Netherlands), a project involving 639 student housing units and public facilities. Timber-frame construction means that the building can be wind-, water- and air-tight quicker, so the interior finishing work can begin sooner. What's more, the end result fits perfectly with the city's Healthy Urban Living approach.

MBS is supplying 12,000 m² of ready-to-use timber-frame façade elements, which we manufacture efficiently and in optimal industrial conditions, including the brick slips, exterior joinery and aluminium or timber cladding. For all the aluminium components, we are working with Dutch façade builder Blitta, who are experts in this field.

Faster thanks to timber-frame construction
Work on The Cube is moving faster thanks to timber-frame construction. There are three reasons for this, explains Tom Robyns, Commercial Director at MBS: "Dry construction allows for smoother and more precise installation. The façades are prepared with millimetre precision in the best possible conditions. That's because the manufacturing process takes place indoors, which means it isn't adversely affected by the elements. Also, producing the façade panels in optimal conditions reduces the on-site failure costs. What's more, once the timber-frame components have been installed, the building, which is 49.5 m high, is immediately wind-, water- and air-tight, and therefore the interior finishing and installation of services can begin right away."

Compliant with Dutch law
The Netherlands applies different rules to Belgium, especially with regard to building regulations. Other issues also come into play. In 2019, the Dutch Council of State ruled that the country's policy on nitrogen emissions was in breach of EU law and had to be halted, prompting fears that billions of euros could be lost in the construction sector. In light of this, MBS carefully examined all the rules in order to come up with a suitable solution for this complex and challenging building: "In the US, Canada and Scandinavia, 90% of buildings are made of wood. In the Netherlands, some contractors introduced timber-frame construction in the 1970s, and a decade later the technology began to be used in Belgium. Timber-frame construction firms are therefore relatively common on the Dutch market. But our MBS system, in which prefab panels are installed without any scaffolding, gives us a unique advantage over timber-frame builders who don't prefabricate industrially."

Timber-frame construction is the future
Timber-frame construction is on the up right now. Driven by the nitrogen issue and the trend towards industrial construction, demand for our efficient and sustainable alternative is rising sharply. As a result, timber-frame construction has great growth potential worldwide, whether for façade construction, housebuilding or holiday parks. But the technique is also gaining ground in Belgium, as demonstrated by projects like Doktoren (a tower block in Antwerp's Eilandje neighbourhood, which we are building completely scaffold-free, with aluminium cladding and exterior joinery) and the one in Julius Vuylstekelaan (a completely scaffold-free renovation, featuring fibre-cement cladding and exterior joinery, also in Antwerp).

> Discover more examples of timber-frame façade construction