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Wood-Mizer’s German 'eco-office'
Committed to environmentalism, Wood-Mizer has created an ecological setting at a brand new German centre.
Just what does 'to love nature' mean?
If it reflects your own values then thoughts about taking care of nature become instinctual and fulfilment follows.
Certainly, from its beginnings Wood-Mizer's environmental concern has been demonstrated as rather more than its familiar slogan. Wood-Mizer continually puts such ideas into practice. The narrow band blade technology of wood cutting is a case in point, distinguishing itself with unbeaten economy. The narrow cut of about two millimetres permits more valuable lumber and less sawdust from each log. Result: we use less wood to get the same quantity of boards and more trees stay standing in the forests.
Furthermore, there are many European examples of Wood-Mizer owners basing their business on the renovation of old timbers. Ancient boards and beams get a second life and end customers get considerable pleasure. Subsequent generations will savour satisfaction from not only saving resources but also of preserving the artifacts of their forbears.
With this in mind it is worth looking at Wood-Mizer's German branch and the building and restoration practices which went into it…
Wood-Mizer in Germany
In 2009 Wood-Mizer GmbH, located in the small village of Schletau, celebrated its 15th anniversary. Klaus Longmuss has managed it since 1994.
As a young man Klaus worked as a woodcutter in Sweden and after marrying Kirsten the couple settled in Germany in the ancient house built by Kirsten’s great grandfather Heinrich Brusch in the late 19th century. Already experienced in wood and the processing of it, he bought a Wood-Mizer mobile sawmill and began his own contract sawing service.
The Longmuss family grew alongside their business. Klaus and Kirsten now have four daughters, Mara 21 and Enya 18 are students studying respectively, economics and psychology at university. Josi 15 and Zoe 11, are stil l at school.
In 1994 Wood-Mizer asked Klaus to head the company’s German branch and since then many of the company's innovations have been tried and tested there. The first European Re-Sharp centre that provides Wood-Mizer sawmillers with properly sharpened and set blades started at Schletau. The agents network that operates in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Holland and Denmark was initiated there. Sawmill sales grew to 300 units per year and the branch soon needed more space.
Historic house renovated
In summer 2005 Klaus's Wood-Mizer branch bought the old building next to the Longmuss house.
"This is a typical 1860 farmhouse. The exterior is in the characteristic Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony) style which we all admire", explains Klaus.
"Our own house and many in the vicinity are similar.
"So we wanted to preserve the heritage it represents, a sentiment much appreciated by the villagers", he adds.
The old, timbered house is made from bricks, with cross bars. As in many nineteenth century farmhouses, animals lived on the ground floor with the household above.
150 years later Klaus faced quite a task. The exterior of the building had to remain the same whilst restored and the office interior needed to meet modern communications and comfort requirements.
"The renovation and refit took 2-1/2 years. It was fascinating: creating the project, discussing the details and then carefully converting our ideas into reality," Klaus explains.
Sometimes the project demanded novel solutions. One cross arm on the façade was disfigured and sadly had to be replaced with a new one. But in an example of Wood-Mizer's aim of perfection, our German colleagues did not simply remove the offending beam and put a new one in its place.
"We decided to maintain the beam's curved form," says Klaus.
"It is possible to make a precise replica when cutting a beam on a Wood-Mizer sawmill.
"So we set Sven Jacobs from our staff and carpenter Frank Bittkowski on the job."
The façade was painstakingly dismantled, all fractures were numbered and the new cross bar was cut to the required dimensions before being manually stressed into the original curved shape.
A faded inscription in Gothic script on the rotted eaves of the building prayed that it should be preserved f rom fire.
To preserve the prayer, Kirsten replicated the script on her computer and her father, Walter Nordquist 76, a former cabinet maker cut the letters by hand - one word per day. Much impressed, Klaus comments:
"The highest praise came from our customers when viewing the 'new' office building. They thought that we simply restored and painted the old prayer since it barely differs from the 19th century original.
"Also we kept the old flooring at the office entrance", adds Klaus.
About 20 square metres of 150-years-old mosaic tiles lovingly and painstakingly were restored. The handmade tiles are typical examples of the decorative art of Lower Saxony.
The inside office space is thoroughly modern and Klaus explains:
"We gathered together all the staff and discussed the layout we needed to make it as comfortable as possible. After all, the office is where many people spend most of their days."
"We agreed that on the one hand space needed to be open to facilitate the free passage of information. We are all in the same business and it's crucial that we all know and understand customers’ requests when they come in.
"On the other hand, we’d like individuals to have their own space. Thus, we decided that glass panels would enclose each office.
"So we learned how we could combine two, almost conflicting philosophies in our working environment", Klaus concludes.
By the office entrance, an ornamental pond contributes to a pleasant atmosphere and a link to nature.
"I am happy to lead people, Klaus further adds. It provides me with an understanding of where their strengths lie and leads me to be able to create conditions which are most conducive to their work and wellbeing."
The eco technologies
The next door building serves as a repair shop with four sawmill bays.
Particular attention has been paid to the workshop roof. Solar panels provide a modern ecological solution to electricity generation. The German government encourages enterprises to invest in such projects but they are costly. However, under German regulations local energy generating companies must buy the solar electricity from the investors at a price fixed for 20 years. Over this time, the investment is paid off and profit generated.
‘I have always been interested in alternative ecological solutions. The new office building gave us a chance to install solar panels on the south-side of the sloping roof, avoiding shade. The panels are permanently open", Klaus explains.
Indeed, Wood-Mizer GmbH invested 80.000 euros in 150 square metres of solar panels which generate up to 120 kilowatts per hour each day. Annual productivity of the solar panels is about 18.000 kilowatt/hour while the branch's annual consumption is about 20.000 kilowatt-hour. Heating the total 600m² office, storage and workshop space is achieved with an 80kW central, wood-burning furnace, partly supplied from own lumber and slaps and partly bought from local forest owners.
With the office reconstruction complete, Klaus Longmuss sums up by confessing:
‘Some of my favourite aspects of my job are projects like this. I love to work in a team to create something new, endeavouring to do our best and at last seeing the fruits of our enterprise."
This eco office in Germany is another demonstration of Wood-Mizer's consideration for the environment and protective attitude to natural resources in its different operations around the world.
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