An example of an innovative project in The Netherlands

Wood has a permanent role in the building sector. However, the right choice of wood is often underestimated so that the wood is often used incorrectly or inappropriately. Every type of wood has its owown characteristics that should be used to their greatest advantage. At the same time, the most suitable wood species should be chosen for a specific application

Wood is one of the major materials used in the new building constructed for the Institute of Forestry and Nature Research (Alterra) in Wageningen, The Netherlands. At the explicit request of Alterra, much of the wood used in the building originates from native tree species from sustainably managed forests. The building was designed by the German architect Stefan Behnisch to appear like a spine whose segments lend cohesion to a series of internal and external gardens. As soon as you walk inside, you can see and feel that research about nature takes place.

Although wood is a renewable resource, attention should be paid not to use wood that originates from carelessly exploited forests. Preferably, wood should be chosen from sustainably managed forests. Transport costs should also be taken into consideration. It is not always necessary to import wood from destinations far away as there is usually a suitable alternative closer by. The process of obtaining a wood product is also important. When there is a choice between chemically impregnated wood and wood with a high natural durability, then the latter is the preferable choice because of its environmental advantages.

The wooden frame units of the external walls are made of durable and strong robinia wood. These small-strip robinia pieces were laminated by glueing together pieces of wood which were individually too small to be useful for carpentry purposes. Units in the more sheltered situations facing the indoor gardens are constructed from the slightly less durable larch. The interior door frames are made from beech or, where fire safety imposes higher standards, from oak. All of the wooden parts were made from small-strip laminate and are protected from moisture and grime by a water-based varnish.

Those parts with which people frequently come into contact, such as doors, handrails and desk tops, are also made of wood. The wood grain stimulates the tactile sense due to wood's low thermal conductivity which always makes it feel warm to the touch. The desks are topped with laminated beechwood which is impregnated with a vegetable oil.

The building project philosophy considers wood as a sustainable product. Wood has been chosen because it is a renewable resource, can be recycled and is energy efficient. Wood is thus a material that has a lot of advantages for the building sector but for the users too; the choice of wood should become the rule and not the exeption. Researchers who areIt is part of the closed-cycle utilisation system for raw materials.

Alterra building with robinia window frames


Impregnated spruce bevelsiding 

Larch interrior panelling

Internal garden in Alterra building





European oak

Spruce (impregnated)




- small strip laminated for windows and doors - (exterior)

- flooring and windows - (interior)

- windows and doors, banisters, solid strips for flooring - (interior)

- windows, stairs- (interior)

- bevelsiding - (exterior)

- movable panels and veneer on plywood for window sills - (interior)