May 4, 2018

Five for Friday: Wooden construction and design

Finnish wood exports are building on their success abroad.
Finnish wood exports are building on their success abroad.
Julia Bushueva

Given the fact that 75 per cent of Finland’s land area is covered by forest, it is no wonder that its green gold has been exported around the world in various shapes and sizes.

Recently, Finnfacts organised a media tour for Chinese journalists, together with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, to showcase what Finland is made of in wooden construction and design.

During the tour, journalists got to see how wood has been used in various types of public buildings such as churches, kindergartens, apartments, cafes, saunas and a concert hall.

As Finnish wood expertise is attracting growing interest in China, these companies provided shining examples of how Finns have embraced their ‘green gold’.

Stora Enso

Stora Enso is the forerunner in wood modular construction and offers advanced engineered wood products such as LVL (laminated veneer lumber) and CLT (cross-laminated timber). As the global biggest supplier of CLT, Stora Enso believes in the future of wood for the construction business.

“Growing population, global warming, urbanisation, digitalisation, changing lifestyle and eco-awareness all make the demand for sustainable business bigger than ever,” says Sami Typpö, business development manager of building solutions from Stora Enso Wood Products.

With the principle “nothing goes wasted”, by-products of the sawing process can be used to produce pellets that serve as a source of sustainable energy. Furthermore, the company’s environmentally friendly, non-toxic, wood-based adhesive that bonds single-layer panels together, Lineo, was just awarded last month as the “bio-based product of the year“.

Honkarakenne

Founded in 1958 by five brothers residing in the forest with the shared dream of having everyone in the world living in Finnish log houses, Honkarakenne became the world’s first industrial manufacturer of log homes.

“Finnish pines are the building materials with best qualities. They are organic and natural, dense and strong. All our wood comes from PEFC-certified forests, so they are also 100 per cent renewable,” says Sanna Huovinen, marketing director of Honkarakenne. “They are like naturally breathing walls that can absorb and release moisture and heat. Logs keep indoor air quality at an optimal level, and according to research they also create a stress-reducing environment.”

Only renewable energy is used during Honkarakenne’s production process, in which all surplus materials and waste are harnessed as energy. Until now over 85 000 log structures have been built worldwide in the shape of log cabins, restaurants, holiday resorts etc., including a three million-euro order from Kenya in 2015. Honkarakenne’s upcoming projects include 35 log-built daycare centres in Finland and a ski resort in China.

Lunawood

Being one of the first companies to develop thermowood as an innovative wood treatment method sometime in the 1990s means that this company is a global market leader. The thermal modification of timber makes it durable with superior weather endurance.

“Therefore, it can be used outside without any equipment, for any weather conditions, which is very special for a wood product,” says sales director Janne Heikkinen. “Besides, there are no chemicals used during the production process, only heat and steam used for producing thermowood, so no resin will seep out – even in a heated sauna.”

Combining solid quality, decorative possibilities and Nordic design, Lunawood Thermowood has appealed to customers in over 40 countries. “The prime quality of Lunawood Thermowood can be shown from the fact that even though Russia has its own big wood business, they still buy thermowood from us,” says Heikkinen.

Siparila

Named after a little village where the founder’s grandfather was born, this company is a leading wood interior decoration and exterior cladding provider. It only uses PEFC-certified wood and was the first company in Finland to be granted a certificate for priming and top-coating panels.

Its topcoat wood siding combines wood processing and specific paint technology. All panels are pre-painted at the factory, which increases building efficiency and leaves no odour on site.

One popular interior panel product line, Pala, enables users to decorate their interior wall by gluing the desired shapes and pieces to the wall with adhesive, as a do-it-yourself concept. “Anyone who doesn’t have special skills and experience in this can easily do it,” assures company CEO Juha Sojakka.

Helin & Co. Architects

Finnish architects continue to showcase how wood can be used in combination with other materials to create architecturally impressive, yet human-centred spaces and environments.

One prominent example of utilising this abundant resource is Helin & Co. Architects.

“Wood has always been the main building material in Finland, as we haven’t had much choice, so we have a long heritage of using it in all kinds of buildings,” says Totti Helin, design director of the company. “Wood is sustainable and renewable, and when taking care of forests properly, we have an endless supply of materials.”

Helin & Co. Architects’ extensive portfolio includes both small and big-scale projects, from a shed on the Turku Archipelago to the awarded modular offices Finnforest.

Several other contemporary architect offices have also demonstrated their exceptional skills in dealing with wood, such as Oopeaa that won a prize last year in the US, JKMM which designed Viikki church and Think Corner of the University of Helsinki, and K2S which designed Helsinki’s award-winning wooden chapel of silence.

Text: Tu Tsui-Shan

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