Is Finland’s Wood City the way forward for constructing?

Maddy Savage

It smells like a lush pine forest within the lunch room of a brand new higher secondary faculty in Helsinki, however there isn’t any scented air freshener.

Instead, many of the five-storey constructing has been constructed out of wooden.

The faculty will not be accomplished till subsequent 12 months, though easy wood panels already line most of the inside partitions. Wood has additionally been utilized in load-bearing constructions, to assist the ceilings between the flooring, and as cladding on the outside.

“It’s a more sustainable choice,” says Miimu Airaksinen, an engineer and vice chairman of growth at SRV, the Finnish development firm behind the varsity.

“But we’re also working with wood because wood is a nice material, people appreciate and like wood and the design of wood.”

The venture is a part of a rising development within the Finnish constructing trade. Developers are more and more swapping out extra mainstream supplies like concrete and metal, in favour of wooden. It’s linked to the nation’s formidable efforts to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035 and grow to be Europe’s main round financial system.

With three-quarters of land in Finland coated by forests, wooden is a available materials right here, though it does must be strengthened to be used in mid-rise and tall buildings.

Maddy Savage

In Finland, the place indifferent wood villas and summer time cottages are frequent, there may be much less public concern about fires than there may be in elements of the world which might be much less used to utilizing wooden as a development materials.

However, SRV nonetheless faces questions on flammability, particularly in taller buildings. There is loads of proof that CLT performs properly in fires although, says Ms Airaksinen, since it’s designed to resist excessive warmth ranges and might be slower to break down in comparison with concrete.

At the higher faculty development web site, Ms Airaksinen’s crew are busy slicing up slabs of engineered wooden referred to as CLT (cross-laminated timber) which is produced by bonding collectively layers of wood panels at proper angles. “You’re making the wood stiffer, so that makes the wood much stronger,” she explains.

Engineered wooden like CLT has a spread of environmental advantages, together with being a lot lighter than many constructing supplies, so much less heavy equipment and vitality is required throughout development. Buildings will also be faster to finish since there is no such thing as a drying part as there may be with concrete.

Plus, wood buildings truly take away extra carbon dioxide from the ambiance than they emit; they will maintain in carbon that’s absorbed from the ambiance by bushes for 5 to 6 many years. By distinction, metal and concrete go away huge carbon footprints.

“It can really help us with climate change,” says Ali Amiri, a sustainable buildings researcher at Aalto University near Helsinki, and a former civil engineer.

“If we go through the comparison with wooden buildings and other buildings like concrete or steel or even brick buildings, [wood has] something like 20 to even 30% lower greenhouse gas emissions. So this is very good news.”

Maddy Savage

According to his crew’s analysis, if 80% of latest residential buildings in Europe had been made from wooden they might retailer as much as 55 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a 12 months. That is equal to almost half the yearly emissions made by the continent’s cement trade.

Engineered woods like CLT have been utilized in Europe because the 1990s, however they’ve had a resurgence in Finland due to a government-backed wood-building programme designed to make sure 45% of public buildings use wooden as a key materials by 2025. Developers can apply for grants and get assist with duties resembling procurement and threat communication. “I think every company [here] is doing wooden buildings today,” says Ms Airaksinen. “The pressure is on for sustainability.”

At the higher secondary faculty, gypsum board, which is constituted of limestone and never flammable, is used so as to add an additional layer of safety on the inside partitions on greater flooring. “We need to take fire safety seriously,” says Ms Airaksinen. “We also did a lot of simulation about evacuation and durability in case there will be a fire.”

The wood development is catching on within the personal sector too. Data from the Federation of the Finnish Woodworking Industries suggests it’s already a key materials in 4% of flats and 16% of business buildings.

Maddy Savage

In Helsinki metropolis centre there’s even a brand new neighbourhood, Wood City, with a whole bunch of latest wood flats.

It can be home to the headquarters of Finnish gaming large Supercell, the place enormous carved wood characters and dramatic curved panels make for an impactful reception space, and wooden traces the partitions of eight storeys of open-plan workplace area, cafes and even nap rooms.

Cybersecurity firm WithSafe is within the strategy of constructing a brand new workplace subsequent door, in collaboration with SRV and Stora Enso, a significant Finnish producer of engineered wooden.

And, maybe least surprisingly, in a rustic the place individuals famously love getting sweaty, one among Helsinki’s hottest leisure sights is a big wood sauna and restaurant advanced. Opened in 2016, the Löyly advanced has gained a number of world awards for its hanging wood cloak-like construction, which permits guests to climb up its sloping roof.

Maddy Savage

Environmental marketing campaign teams resembling WWF have raised issues that rising the development of wood buildings may put an excessive amount of stress on the planet’s forests.

“From a climate perspective it is a good way to store carbon, but on the other hand we are increasing the overall level of consumption of natural resources,” says Mai Suominen, a number one forest knowledgeable for WWF. “Because obviously we do need other wood-based products as well, such as paper or packing material, [and] if we plan to increase other production, we are increasing the level of cutting.”

Finland’s wooden manufacturing corporations have dedicated to replanting logged areas in a delicate and sustainable means. However, Ms Suominen argues that there’s nonetheless a threat of decrease biodiversity if manufacturing ramps up in future, which may have an effect on each animals and people.

“Then the forest processes, at some point they collapse and they are not as flexible to responding to changing environmental conditions caused by climate change. We will face more rainfall, more drought and insect outbreaks.”

Maddy Savage

Sustainability knowledgeable Nani Pajunen from the Finnish Innovation Fund, Sitra, agrees it is crucial that development companies in Finland and past do not merely soar on the bandwagon of the wood buildings development in an effort to seem greener.

She argues it’s extra necessary that companies make broad assessments of the carbon footprint of their manufacturing processes, and the totally different life cycle potentials of supplies.

For instance, different current improvements designed to enhance sustainability within the sector, resembling recyclable concrete and metal, may be extra sturdy than wooden in large-scale tasks resembling very tall house blocks, public venues or bridges.

“It’s not a black and white question of which [materials] are wrong and right,” she argues. “It’s about the attitude. You have to think, if you are an engineer in the construction sector, how to use materials in a more sustainable way.”

Despite the environmental issues, the wood buildings sector is rising, with different Nordic international locations, Germany, Canada and the US particularly ramping up their manufacturing within the final couple of years.

Market analysis firm Fortune Business Insights lately valued the CLT market at $806m (£715m) and predicted progress of 14% by 2028.

In the wake of the Ukraine battle pushing up the worldwide price of metal and vitality, Mr Amiri says his analysis crew has additionally seen a spike in enquiries from companies and decision-makers from all over the world.

While Mr Amiri predicts wood constructing development will “definitely increase” in Europe and North America within the coming years, he factors out that constructing with engineered wooden for multi-storey tasks continues to be “a bit more expensive” than utilizing extra frequent supplies. This, he argues, would possibly make it more durable to steer international locations with entry to low-cost concrete and metal to change route.

Back amongst the forklift vans and diggers persevering with to rework SRV’s faculty development web site, Ms Airaksinen says she envisages the wood constructing sector rising in tandem with the event of latest low-carbon supplies.

“We are focusing on building sustainable buildings and lifecycle wise buildings,” she says. “That’s the future.”