Wood construction on the rise – Sweco responds to the trend

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Wood construction on the rise – Sweco responds to the trend

2 September 2020
Eco-friendliness and aesthetics increase the popularity of wood construction. Sweco has a long history and strong, versatile competence in wood construction – that is why embracing the growing demand comes naturally to Sweco.

Whether you are working in an office in Helsinki, looking for a home in Jyväskylä or driving your kids to school in Imatra, one thing in your environment has changed significantly: wooden buildings have popped up all around you. Impressive wood construction projects – such as the Supercell headquarters in the Wood City block in Jätkäsaari in Helsinki, the award-winning Puukuokka residential building in Jyväskylä and the Mansikkala wooden school in Imatra – indicate that using wood in construction is fast becoming a real trend. 

Sweco’s Wood Technology Manager Hannes Tähtinen and Department Manager Maija Tiainen have also noticed how popular wood construction has become. 

“We have received an increased number of queries from customers interested in wood construction. During the last few years, the eco-friendliness and financial benefits of wood construction have really hit home. Building permits will soon include a section on carbon calculation, meaning that this is a very topical issue,“ Tiainen says. 

Wood construction is ecological, aesthetic and cost-efficient 

There are many reasons why wood construction has become trendy. The most important factor has to do with the future of humanity: wood construction is climate-friendly. Wood is a renewable resource, but it is also a carbon sink: depending on the structure type, one square metre of wooden wall corresponds to 50 kilograms of carbon storage. The amount of carbon stored is multifold compared to the emissions caused by manufacturing wood products. In the future, wood construction will become a necessity, if we want growth according to sustainable development principles. 

In the past, the enthusiasm to build with wood may have been somewhat suppressed by the notion that wood construction is costly. Today, however, wood may even be the most affordable material, especially as it is light, which reduces transportation costs and emissions, for example. Installation is quick and accurate. 

“The speed of wood construction comes as a surprise to many people. Large elements can be hoisted into place quite easily, and the coating, drying and joint grouting typical of concrete construction, for example, do not take up time,” Tiainen says. 

Wood construction also has well-being benefits going for it. In recent years, wood has been selected as the building material for many schools due to its positive effects on indoor air quality and the calming yet impressive visuals it provides. Sweco has also been involved in numerous wooden school projects. 

Innovation through multisectoral cooperation and experience 

”Wood construction is in Sweco’s blood. Ever since the late 90s, we have been among the very first operators in Finnish wooden high-rise residential building projects and worked on wood construction daily ever since. We have comprehensive expertise,” Hannes Tähtinen says.  

Indeed, Sweco’s structural wood engineering department is the largest in Finland and has excellent command of wood structure systems from space element structures to solid wood construction. Our expertise is enhanced through our comprehensive cooperation with both internal Sweco partners as well as our customers and industry interest groups.  

We also value the international dimension: Sweco constructs wooden buildings in Finland and abroad, and shares its lessons learned with all Sweco countries. Sweco’s participation in the Growth and Development from Wood Aid Scheme of the Ministry of the Environment aimed at promoting ecological wood use is a good example of multisectoral cooperation. 

Our past experiences also allow us to look into the future. That is why Sweco aims at harnessing cutting edge technology for the use of wood construction. Intelligent data modelling makes wood construction design smooth and efficient for all parties involved. With the help of the SmartDrawings tool developed by Sweco, 3D data models can be easily examined in the cloud service – even in the middle of the work site on your mobile phone. 

“The will and ability to pioneer are strong with Sweco,” Tähtinen sums up. 

Best results through hybrid construction 

Despite the many benefits of wood construction, Tähtinen and Tiainen stress that it does not occur in a vacuum. Often, the best results are achieved through cooperation and combining different construction materials. 

“Sweco’s comprehensive expertise guarantees that our wood construction department is also able to utilise our concrete and steel construction expertise. Together, we can make great strides in the field,” Tähtinen says. 

Hybrid construction utilising diversified experts is also climate-friendly. When low-emission wood products are used to replace other materials, the end result is eco-friendly. Replacing a concrete wall with wood reduces carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 110 kilograms. Functional combinations of materials also allow for finding the best product for each situation in terms of features – which in turn leads to creating sturdier and more innovative buildings. 

“Wood is a versatile material. If in the future, an architect envisions a wooden sky scraper, it is undoubtedly quite possible. We are very well-equipped to respond to this trend,” Tiainen says.