News from the Wolf Group - Rebuilding L’Aquila with safe, earthquake-proof housing

In the small hours of 6 April 2009 an earthquake lasting 20 seconds and with a magnitude of 5.9 on the Richter scale struck Italy, with the city of L’Aquila in the central Abruzzo region at its epicentre. More than 300 people died, over 1,500 were injured and around 65,000 inhabitants had to leave their homes. The Wolf Group was one of the companies to assist in the rapid reconstruction of L’Aquila through the provision of safe, comfortable housing. Read more about the largest and arguably most emotive project that the Wolf Group has ever undertake.

Italy has a long history of earthquakes and in seismic-belt areas like the Apennine Mountains they are by no means exceptional:  A major earthquake in L’Aquila in 1703 decimated the city and killed 5,000 people.

Despite months of foreshocks leading up to April 2009, many had chosen to stay in their homes after receiving assurances from the Italian National Commission for the Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks.

When disaster struck, the scale of destruction caused by the earthquake surprised experts and prompted discourse on Italy’s anti-seismic building standards. Many of the collapsed buildings were medieval or centuries old, but of great concern were the more ‘modern’ buildings that incurred huge damage, despite Italy’s adoption of anti-seismic building standards in Italy in 1984.

How best to re-build L’Aquila caused heated political and technical debate but the critical onus was to provide adequate homes for the tens of thousands of people left homeless before the onset of winter.  Emergency aid from the Italian Government and International Red Cross had provided temporary shelter with tented camps and field kitchens for around 40,000. However with cold mountain air and dropping overnight temperatures, many were forced to leave their tents and seek shelter in abandoned vehicles. Winter with its relentless bite was on its way.

As news of the disaster and the untenable plight of so many spread, the world took notice. Barak Obama, George Clooney and Pope Benedict all rallied support. And a certain Kurt Schöpfer of Wolf Haus Italy also took a keen interest - convinced that the research and development that Wolf Group had undertaken into the design and construction of earthquake-safe housing could provide a rapid, safe and sustainable solution.


513 new homes in less than six months




The initial phase of construction included the provision of 21, three-storey buildings, comprising 513 apartments, with a condition that the last of these homes should be handed over on a turnkey basis by 15th December.  Using sophisticated prefabrication methods for the construction was clearly going to be key to the project’s success.

Securing the €44.5M contact, the Wolf Group commenced work on site at the beginning of July and with such a challenging project size and restricted timescale, sought collaboration Group-wide, with particular input from its Italian, Austrian, Hungarian, Polish and German teams.

The first 100 units were completed in 67 days, 8 days ahead of an already tight schedule. And thanks to the incredible teamwork, energy and commitment of all involved, all 513 apartments were delivered on time, providing L’Aquila residents with warm, comfortable and crucially, safe homes.




Despite harsh working conditions for the Wolf Group team and extremely tight schedules, many of the workers were so moved by the gratitude shown to them by local residents that, after fulfilling the housing contract, they wanted to do more for them - particularly the children who were most vulnerable and had had to endure so much.


Building hope and trust in the future




The Wolf Group, along with its partners, donated and built a nursery school for L’Aquila.  “I am proud to work for a company that takes its social responsibility so seriously,” said Schöpfer, who instigated the project, “rather than hang about talking, it gets busy and does something.

“The children are the future of a community and when the children are doing well and have order and structured learning in their days this gives their parents new strength for facing the challenges of the future.”

On 10th October, 75 young children were invited to take part in the foundation-laying ceremony for their new school. Once again, the initiative captured hearts and minds far and wide. AC Milan, Italy’s most famous football team, were so impressed by the project that they helped fund the addition of a multi-purpose sport centre for the school and local community.


Standard setting for seismic belt area construction

 The type of construction used in the Wolf Haus apartments was new to this part of Italy, highlighting how to rebuild in a safe, environmentally-sound way and providing a point of reference for the performance of specialised timber frame buildings in earthquake-prone areas.




The Wolf Group had undertaken full-scale testing of its four-storey designs at the European Centre for Training and Research in Earthquake Engineering, where construction methods were successfully tested to over four times the requirements of the local building code, over twice the force of the L’Aquila earthquake and even over 1.5 times the force of the Kobe quake in Japan of 7.2 on the Richter scale.


Watch the 15 min video of the project produced by Wolf Haus in Austria >


See the building designs undergo testing >



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