Hospital building completely from wood



What was long considered unimaginable is now reality: hospital buildings made entirely of wood. Right next to the Cantonal Hospital of Fribourg, a former convent of the Catholic Church was converted into a psychiatric hospital and expanded with two new buildings made of wood.

The Freiburg Mental Health Network (RFSM) is a medical and psychosocial competence center. It cares for its patients in outpatient and inpatient treatments in three areas: for children and adolescents, for adults and for the elderly. This new clinic will be able to treat the German-speaking inhabitants of the canton of Fribourg, who until now had to go to Marsens or the canton of Berne for treatment of their concerns. A German-run facility has been lacking in the canton until now. The conversion will be carried out in three stages: First, the existing buildings were renovated. The two wooden buildings F and G extend the building complex.


Floor plan of the Freiburg Mental Health Network (RFSM). Buildings A to E have been renovated. Building F is a hospital building made of wood, and office complex G is built almost entirely of Swiss wood. Source: LZA Architects

Fire protection/basics for hospitals in timber construction 

Wood is a safe building material. Also in terms of fire protection. The new generation of fire protection regulations BSV 2015 allows new possibilities for timber construction. Since the introduction of the current fire safety regulations, all buildings may be constructed of wood - regardless of their use. In short, wood is normalizing as a building material without special regulation. The fire protection standard describes two standard concepts: 

  • Structural concept: fire protection concept with mainly structural measures 
  • Extinguishing system concept: Fire protection concept with predominantly technical measures 

The requirements for the construction and the building components result from the chosen concept. The new buildings G and F were constructed according to the structural concept. For building F, this means that each room is a separate fire compartment. A patient must be protected from a fire in the neighboring room and its smoke development for 60 minutes. The load-bearing components must be designed as an encapsulated construction. This means that the outermost layer must be made of a building material that does not contribute to the fire, such as gypsum fiberboard.


Three details from building F. Left: The supporting structure and the floor slab are designed as encapsulated components. Sound insulation is ensured with elastically bonded fill. This means that concrete can be dispensed with completely. Center: The encapsulated columns rest on a steel girder. This supports the encapsulated floor slab. This allows all exterior and interior walls to be non-load-bearing. Right: The elevator shaft of the four-story building is also a wooden structure.

Swiss wood 

Wood is a renewable raw material that requires only solar energy and water for its production. Harvesting and processing require very little energy, and the material also stores the greenhouse gas CO₂. Wood from Switzerland performs even better: Local wood is not transported far, which reduces the gray energy it contains. Building G was certified with the Swiss Wood label.

The RFSM conversion is presented in detail in the current Wood Bulletin (in German). 



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Timbatec Timber Construction Engineers Switzerland Ltd.

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