Austrian company revolutionises construction in Zanzibar
It started out as a humble family sawmill and became one of the world’s biggest and ambitious timber manufacturers – now active in Zanzibar.
The Binderholz company, founded in the idyllic green hills of Austria, has become one of the partnering firms in Fumba Town, constructing timber houses exclusively with local Zanzibari and Tanzanian workers. “It was amazing to see how quickly the team on the Fumba construction side adapted to use our timber products”, remarked Binderholz engineer Wolfgang Hebenstreit when he recently came here to supervise the first assembly of a new timber house
6300 employees worldwide
The company is considered ‘the Mercedes of wood producers’ worldwide, its history is unique. It was 70 years ago, when Franz Binder senior turned his passion for wood into a profession, opening a tiny sawmill business in the mountains of Austria. Today, in the third generation, his company has become the leading European wood company, with its headquarters still in the town of Fuegen in Austria but with 60 other production sites and 6,300 employees in Europe and the US, all sharing the founder’s passion for wood. It has taken over firms in Finland, Florida, Britain and Latvia and built hundreds of residential, public and commercial buildings all over the world from Singapore to Cuba, among them amazing structures like a water park the size of 63 football fields in Germany. How could a family-owned company grow so vastly? For one, wood has a renaissance. With growing environmental awareness all over the world, the oldest building material in the world has turned into the construction material of the future. “And we stand for a sustainable, intelligent use of the raw material wood and act according to the zero waste principle”, engineer Hebenstreit explained.
60 million people in Dar?
This includes the entire value chain from the cultivation of seedlings and forest management to timber harvesting and processing in the sawmills, from simple shelves and planks for the do-it-yourself sector to affordable housing. Contrary to what one may think, although the wood industry is immensely growing, forests are not diminishing. Austria has more forest than 30 years ago, and wood reserves grow by four million cubic metres every year, statistics say. Waste wood at Binderholz is processed into densified biofuels, green electricity and pressboard pallets. “We re-utilise 100 percent of the renewable raw material wood”, Hebenstreit explained. “It is all about responsibility for mother earth”, Fumba Town developer Sebastian Dietzold said. “With huge urbanisation in Africa, and Dar es Salaam expected to have an incredible 60 million inhabitants by 2100, we cannot continue to build only with concrete”, he added. Today in Africa 56 million homes are lacking. Building with timber may jump-start a forest industry in Tanzania, it is hoped. There is already an agroforestry area twice the size of New York near Iringa.