The wood workers fear of university

Anton Kraler teaches and researches as an associate professor in the field of wood construction at the University of Innsbruck. A former master carpenter, he has never lost touch with his trade and works on numerous innovative projects. A conversation about improving sound insulation for multi-storey wood construction as well as pioneering facade project for thermal redevelopment.

Mr Kraler, you began your career as a carpenter's apprentice and made your way to a teaching position at the university via master school, the HTL (secondary technical school) and architectural studies. You became a member of the University of Innsbruck's newly founded chair in wood construction. How would you describe your work? 
Our chair has three main areas of focus: design, sound and fire protection. My specialist area tends to be sound insulation. Here, we research ways to de- couple components and design new means of connection, which requires close cooperation with structural engineers and noise insulation planners. Recently, however, I have also become increasingly active in the field of fire protection. 

Your dissertation was about "Sealing and sound insulation in wooden buildings". What were your findings? 
It was about quality-enhancing measures relating to sealing and soundproofing, since these areas are most frequently affected by irregularities, yet there was practically no research on this subject at the time. We inspected several buildings, which had been inhabited for several years, in terms of sealing and sound insulation. The specific background was that, at Schützenstrasse 57 in Innsbruck, we were tasked with building the first four-storey wood construction in the Tyrolean state capital. The exciting thing was that the ceiling construction of the building was only 34 centimetres thick and we had to try to assemble the component layers in a way that complied with the strict Austrian noise protection criteria. This was a major challenge and led to a series of investigations. Back then, multi-storey wood construction simply had a very bad reputation in terms of sound insulation. Why was wood considered to be so poor in this regard? The problem people were using the same materials and layers as for concrete construction. Obviously, you can't do this if you only have one-fifth of the weight. In the meantime, much of what we found out ten years ago has become standard practice. For example, the use of gravel filling instead of a light-insulating layer. 

To what extent does your work focus on actual practice? 
My work has been primarily experimental in recent years. At first, we had to take away the wood construction companies' fear of the university. Their industry tends to contain small or medium-sized companies, which have grown slowly, rather than large industrial enterprises. In order to convey the message that the wood workers' ideas are very important to our research, we
had to visit many firms and host networking events and training sessions. 

You can read the whole article in THE ISOCELLER 03