Wood construction is expected to double in the coming years

Illustrative drawing of Goliathin Salmi wooden apartment building by Lunden Architechts

Illustrative drawing of Goliathin Salmi wooden apartment building by Lunden Architechts

Construction companies’ growing interest in the use of wood, partnership between product suppliers and builders, and wood construction’s technical capabilities and weather protection were the main themes at a wood-construction seminar organised by Koskisen Oy’s Housing Industry. As the size of buildings made of wood continues to grow, Koskisen Oy’s Housing Industry has taken a major leap from being a product supplier to providing full-scope deliveries, from project management to engineering and installation.

“Based on customer feedback we have received, it’s fair to say that wood construction has overcome its teething problems and wood is ready to be used not only in public projects, but also in privately financed production. We have a technically ready concept for wood construction that can be cost-effectively reproduced from one site to the next. This also includes early partnership with the construction company. Depending on the project, we are involved in both the project and structural engineering phases,” says Petri Lento, Director of Koskisen Housing Industry.

Wood construction will double

Matti Mikkola, Managing Director of the Federation of the Finnish Woodworking Industries and a speaker at the seminar, believes that wood construction will double in the coming years. “The share of wood used in construction is increasing the most in public construction, which can be seen especially in the construction of wood schools and day-care centres. Currently, as much as 10 to 15 per cent of public buildings are being made of wood, and for school buildings, the share is as high as 18 per cent,” he points out.

“The growth of wood construction is a consequence of the development of product management and the increase in wood construction process knowledge. We have knowledgeable companies manufacturing wood construction components who are bringing to the market technically ready solutions and a real alternative to traditional construction,” Mikkola adds. 

The worksite of the wooden apartment building. Constructor Rakennus-Salama Oy.

The worksite of the wooden apartment building. Constructor Rakennus-Salama Oy.

Confidence through partnerships

Jori Salama, the Managing Director of Rakennus-Salama, a construction company that is currently building two wood apartment buildings in Turku, considers the wooden components for apartment buildings to be technically sound, high-quality and competitive products. “For example, with wood elements, sound insulation and fire safety matters are resolved. The positive surprises that we have seen in wood construction are the speed of construction and the cleanliness of the construction site. And with pre-fabricated elements delivered to the site ready to be installed, safety at the construction site has also considerably improved,” he stresses.

“The biggest challenge has been resolving engineering bottlenecks,” he adds. “This requires partnership between the product supplier, the client and the builder right from the start. For us, it is important to have a ready wood construction concept where any issues related to structural engineering have been resolved.”

Salama points out that industrial construction demands a well-functioning system that can be reproduced from project to project. “With the major need for and great potential to develop building construction processes, wood component suppliers have a good opportunity to join the mainstream of construction technology with their new solutions and innovations.”    

Appeal of wood in public projects

YIT-Talo Oy’s Design Director Matti Varstala considers wood construction to have strong appeal especially in public construction. “Concerns over health and the quality of indoor air in public buildings is currently steering decision-making in public construction projects,” he says.

“Environmental impacts are increasingly being taken into account in construction, which is reflected, for instance, in the dialogue on the opportunities of low-carbon wood construction to respond to these ecological challenges,” says Varstala.

Varstala, who heads engineering for the Imatra wooden school life-cycle project, considers it essential to have wood construction expertise involved in the engineering team right from the start of a project. “This makes it possible to gain overall control in the project and get the maximum benefit from using prefabricates. In a large school project, the biggest challenges relate to reconciling the overall objective and the acoustics. Weather protection during construction is also a part of the overall project management,” explains Varstala.

Wood’s technical potential and competitiveness have improved

Mika Airaksela, Managing Director of the construction company Rakennusliike Reponen, has experience working on eight wood apartment buildings and some 400 dwellings in co-operation with Koskisen. “Until now, the engineering costs of wood construction have been 50% higher than in concrete construction, so resolving bottlenecks in wood construction engineering and developing industrially reproduceable solutions has been crucial,” he stresses.

“From the perspective of a construction company, it is good that we can get the full package, including structural engineering, from the wood component supplier. This close partnership improves wood’s competitiveness and further speeds up the construction,” he says.

According to Airaksela, in realised projects, the carbon footprint of wood buildings during the construction phase has been 30 per cent smaller than traditional construction: “The difference diminishes in life-cycle comparisons, but this is due to factors other than wood, including heating.”

“We are currently in the planning stage for the construction of a wood building with 300 flats in the capital city area in the next few years, which proves that the technical potential and reliability, not to mention competitiveness, of wood construction have improved,” says Airaksela.

Construction companies’ interest in wood solutions on the rise

Lento sees a change in attitude towards wood construction also in construction companies, as they increasingly enquire about alternative solutions. “There is now a receptiveness towards the use of wood, with growing interest in alternative solutions and production methods. The interest in wood is increasing as attitudes change and there is a willingness for renewal,” he says.

According to Lento, the idea behind the service package offered by the company is to lower the threshold for building with wood as much as possible. “Only successful construction projects will build trust in wood construction. If the builder does not have to think about structural engineering, measurements and installing weather protection, we can minimise the risks. We have proof that the warranty repairs carried out in the wood apartment buildings have been similar to those carried out in buildings that used traditional methods,” Lento concludes.