Building with Wood

A city view with wooden architecture.

Case - Published 4.7.2014

In the old days, whole towns were constructed from wood in Scandinavia. Since the 19th century onwards, there have been significant advances in fire safety and wood construction techniques, and today there are a number of large-scale wood construction projects under way across Finland. The Wood City quarter depicted in the image will be constructed in the Jätkäsaari district of Helsinki in 2014–2016.

The fire-technical design of wooden apartment blocks and the associated regulations are very strict in Finland. One fire-safe construction material is cross-laminated timber (CLT). In the event of fire, this type of massive wood will become charred but will not burn, and its behaviour in fire is highly predictable. Thanks to sound fire safety design, wooden apartment buildings are extremely safe today.

Attitudes towards wood construction are are increasingly positive as a result of an increased focus on ecological issues. Wood is the only renewable construction material that can be used in the load-bearing structures of large-scale projects. The carbon footprint of massive wood framed buildings is very small, as growing trees sequestrate carbon from the atmosphere and carbon is stored in wooden structures for a long period of time.

A number of construction projects for wooden apartment buildings are currently in progress around Finland. For example, in the Jätkäsaari district of Helsinki, 8-storey apartment buildings are under construction. Another 8-storey apartment building is being constructed in Jyväskylä, and in early 2014, a 6-storey wooden building was completed in Seinäjoki. The construction material used in these projects is a modular system which is composed of CLT spatial elements supplied by Stora Enso and very quick to install. The modules are finished to include internal cladding materials, and as they are manufactured in a dry factory and installed very quickly, the structures are not exposed to weather. Thanks to the short construction time, the buildings can be put to use quicker than normally.

According to a 2012 questionnaire study on wooden multi-storey buildings (Puukerrostalotutkimus 2012), over 100,000 Finns are considering moving into a wooden apartment building. Wooden buildings are considered homely, and they have good acoustic properties and air humidity. Timber-framed rooms can also provide other benefits. In research conducted by Austrians, pine vapours were found to have beneficial properties for people. Spending time in a wood-constructed room has been found to regulate blood pressure. These extracts evaporate both from living coniferous trees and from timber products – including the walls of wooden houses.

Text and photos are from the info cards in the presentation briefcase on the Finnish forest sector. The idea of a briefcase with various kinds of samples to present this diverse sector came from the young people themselves. The briefcase has been handed out at visits to upper secondary schools.

More information on the briefcase and visits: vilma.issakainen(@) and anne.kettunen(@)


Read next article: Food packaging »