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Professor Gerhard Fink relies on wood as a construction material

Gerhard Fink started as Assistant Professor of wooden structures at Aalto University. He feels highly motivated by the new position.
Aalto University

“The position gives me the opportunity to carry out interesting research projects. I am looking forward to my teaching responsibilities and in particular the collaboration with master students during their master thesis”, Fink says.

Fink knows that the use of timber as a structural building material has many advantages also compared to other building materials.

Naturally grown wood is a CO2-neutral building material and its efficient ratio between strength and weight is high. It gives the possibility to prefabricate structures before assembling.  But wood has also some weak points: the material properties are variable, wood is flammable and has to be protected properly against humidity.

“Timber is a safe material for constructions, also against fire load. However, to ensure safety over the expected lifetime the structure has to be designed properly”, Fink says.

“One of the main tasks is to educate structural engineers in a way that they are interested and motivated to design with timber.”

Potential to new products

Finks professorship goes on for the beginning of 2016 to the end of 2019. He plans to move permanently to Finland in spring 2016. In the first months he will be at Aalto mainly for individual meetings.

Fink says, the contact with the Finnish timber sector – forestry, sawmills, manufactures of engineered wood products and construction companies – is one of his first main challenges when starting the new job.

At Aalto University Fink´s research will focus on the reliability of engineered wood products and timber structures. He will also concentrate on such aspects as timber grading and the quantitative assessment of existing timber structures.

“The full potential of timber and engineered wood products is not jet achieved. There is still possibility to develop new and innovative products and systems and improve existing ones.”

As a natural grown material the structural properties of solid timber and engineered wood product have a large variability. Thus, to ensure structural safety, the design of timber structures is concerned to large partial safety factors.

“One of my research goals is to reduce the uncertainties of the material properties of engineered wood products. Products with more reliable material properties can be used more efficient.”

Gerhard Fink has worked at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich (ETH Zürich) since 2009, first as research assistant and later as post-doctoral researcher. He has also worked as a lecturer in the field of Wood and Wood Composite.

Since 2015 he has worked, as a scientific employee and project leader, at the Structural Engineering Research Laboratory at Empa, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology.

He completed his doctoral degree at ETH Zürich in 2014. The topic of the dissertation was Influence of varying material properties on the load-bearing capacity of glued laminated timber.

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